By Henrik Berezin,
Malmö, Sweden (June 11, 2004) -- On a cool but comfortable autumn morning at the southwestern tip of Sweden, when a crisp chill still hangs in the air and the sky canopies the meandering coastline, there is no better place in the country to play golf.
In this area, right across from Denmark, some of the best golf courses in Sweden are lined up within less than an hour drive of each other. It also has the most favorable climate in the country, which enables people to play earlier in the spring and later in the fall than up north. Most of the courses along the seaboard, in fact, hardly ever have to deal with snow, which makes for play almost year around. Coincidentally, this is where the best courses in the area are located.
The newly built bridge connecting Sweden with continental Europe enables people to get from the international airport in Copenhagen, Denmark to Malmö, Sweden across the sound of Öresund in less than half an hour. Prior to last year, the only way to get across was by boat. The 5-mile long bridge, completed in the summer of 2000, has had a great deal of traffic since it opened, with an average of 10,000 cars per day. It is also the highest construction in Sweden with the central pillars reaching as high as 600 feet over the water line.
Located just 15 minutes north of Malmö is Barsebäck, mostly famous for its nuclear power plant, but to many golfers, just as famous for its spectacular golf. While Halmstad's North course should be regarded as the best in Sweden, Barsebäck must be regarded as the best 36-hole layout. This Golf & Country Club offers two terrific championship courses - the Old Course and the New Course. The first nine holes were completed in 1969 and one year later Barsebäck had 18 holes. An additional nine were added in 1981, and finally, in 1989, the entire 36-hole complex was completed.
Both tracks feature perfectly manicured fairways and generous, fairly undulating greens most of which are well guarded by hazards in a very traditional,natural looking way. The huge, majestic pine trees framing most of the holes on the Old Courses creates the feeling of each hole being played in its own separate world.
While the New Course is a phenomenal complement to the Old Course, it's not quite as renowned, probably because of the bigger diversity of the Old Course. Holes 11 through 14 on the Old Course are pure links holes, reminiscent to the Scottish courses, right along the beach adjacent to the sound of Öresund.
If the wind hasn't been a factor so far in your round, it will once you reach these holes, where calm days are as rare as sub-par rounds from the back-tees.
The course, used during the Scandinavian Masters, Sweden's only European Tour event, played here every other year, is a composite of 11 holes from the old course and 7 holes from the new course. This "course" is available to the public only one week every two years, which is the week after the tournament. The tour players praise the course every time they play it and rank it among the best courses they play all year. If it were up to the players, the Scandinavian Masters would be played here every year. Unfortunately, the Swedish Golf Federation has decided that it should alternate between courses in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö, even if none of the courses in the other two regions come close to measuring up to Barsebäck.
Making our way up the coast, just a 10-minute drive from Barsebäck, we find another 36-hole layout named Landskrona Golfklubb. While not as famous, it's definitely worth a visit, especially since it's normally in the same marvelous shape as Barsebäck. Just like Barsebäck, it has a few holes along the ocean with spectacular views of Denmark and the island of Ven, located in the middle of the sound. Ven is a popular place for many tourists to relax and have fun. They enjoy the beaches, bike trails and historic landmarks such as the old observatory where Tycho Brahe, the famous 16th century astronomer, conducted his research. The island also features a little nine-hole golf course, in case you don't get enough of it on the mainland.
Helsingborg, the city located another 10-minute drive up the coast from Landskrona on highway E6, is a beautiful city with a handfull of golf courses in its vicinity. The two most worth playing are Rya G. K. And Vasatorps G. K.. Rya, just 5 miles south of the city, is an old traditional style course built in the early 1930's. The best thing about this course is the great mix and variation. Nine holes are played right next to the ocean and the rest among trees and meadows with significant elevation changes. As golf carts are not used on Swedish golf courses, being in good physical shape can be very helpful. On Rya there are several walks, especially in between holes, that will really test your stamina.
Rya's signature hole is the 16th, a gorgeous par 3 of 175 yards with Öresund in the background. It's rapid drop in elevation usually makes it play much shorter than the yardage; however, the gusting winds coming in from the ocean can make for a very difficult club selection. Basically the hole requires anything between a 3-wood and a 9-iron, depending on the conditions on a particular day. That's part of what makes it such a great hole.
Vasatorp G.K. is just a few miles north of Helsingborg and features a 36-hole layout. The first 18 have been around since the 1970's and have hosted the Scandinavian Enterprise Open, the European Tour event preceding the Scandinavian Masters. While only played here three times from 1978-1980, the SEO still produced three notable winners: Greg Norman, Seve Ballesteros and Sandy Lyle, while still infants in their respective careers. Nine more holes were added in 1982 and just a couple of years ago, an additional nine were created to complete the 36-hole layout.
The best thing about visiting Vasatorp, other than getting to play two fun and challenging courses with lots of dogleg holes and tree-lined fairways, is the great practice facilities. There are also big putting greens and lots of places to practice your short game as well.
The fifth and final course I'd like to tell you about separates itself from the previous four as it's not along the highway and therefore not as accessible. But rest assured, once you get there you won't regret the time and effort spent getting there. At the very tip of the peninsula "Kullaberg", about a 20-minute drive north of Helsingborg is Mölle, a little village famous for its spectacular scenery and many tourists in the summer time. Mölle Golfklubb is located in a natural preservation area in the hills above the village. Because of its location out on the tip of the pointy peninsula, it's virtually surrounded by water, which makes for dramatic ocean views on many holes.
Mölle is often regarded as the course with the best and fastest greens in the country. It's not uncommon for a ball to roll as far as 12 feet when measured on the stimpmeter, unprecedented among Swedish greens. The course in general is fairly short, partly because there isn't much space to allow any lengthening of holes but also because changes made to the course in general are frowned upon since it's in a natural preservation area.
Other things to do besides golf around Mölle are mountain climbing, hiking in caves, scuba diving, or just walking around looking at the old buildings in the village, which are quite unique.
Swedish Golf Courses to Play
Barsebäck G.C.C. 246 55 Löddeköpinge Phone: 046-776230 www.golf.se/barsebackgcc/
Landskrona G.K Erikstorp 261 61 Landskrona 0418-446260 www.golf.se/landskronagk/
Rya G.K. PL 5500 255 92 Helsingborg 042-220182 www.rya-gk.com
Vasatorp G.K. Box 130 35 250 13 Helsingborg 042-235058 www.golf.se/vasatorpsgk/
Mölle G.K. Box 44 260 42 Mölle 042-347520 www.mollegk.m.se
Places to Stay
Marina Plaza Kungstorget 6 251 10 Helsingborg 042-192100 www.marinaplaza.elite.se
Radisson SAS Stortorget 8 251 11 Helsingborg 042-380400 www.radisson.com
Grand Hotel Mölle Box 31 260 42 Mölle 042-362230 www.grand-molle.se