Tee it Up Sweden - Golf in the Midnight Sun
Tee it Up! It's midnight!
By Peter Hellman
Whether you wish to or not, at Bjorklidens Golf Club, which happens to be the northern most golf course in Sweden you, can play 24 hours per day during June and July. You might ask, is this heaven for insomniacs and extreme golfers or is this just a golf novelty in an otherwise uninteresting place to play golf?
I traveled to Sweden in July 2007 for my family reunion. The family gathers every ten years at the family farm owned by a cousin and located in Halsingland about two hours north of Stockholm. We have done so since 1947. Of the 400 living decedents, 250 showed up for a weekend of music, family stories, food, and coffee and catching up. And, though I didn't play golf on this trip, I need to share with some of the secrets of golf in Sweden. As a Swede I am probably a bit partial, but I will try to convince you with facts that Sweden is great for golf.
It is fair to ask how a country known for snow, reindeer, skiing, hockey players and pretty blondes can also be home to Annika Sorenstam, Jesper Parnivik and Henrik Stenson and more golf courses per capita than any other country? In short, the Swedes are crazy about golf. Currently, there are over 450 golf courses in Sweden and 500,000 golfers out a population of about 9 million. That's about 6% of the population.
The growth of golf in Sweden is fairly recent. The first club wasn't started until 1902 and by 1940 there were but 22 clubs and 3,200 members in the entire country. Until the 1960's the golfing society was small and exclusively private. Aside from greater prosperity and more free time, there are other reasons golf has flourished in Sweden.
One is that golf in Sweden is considered a family sport. Twenty percent of all active golfers are juniors and about 33% are women (world's highest). It is not unusual to see an entire family on the course. A second reason may be that Swedes love the outdoors (particularly summertime) and sports and golf combines the two perfectly.
What does all this mean to you? Simply, it's a golf destination you should consider. Among the 450 courses are many outstanding ones. Most are parkland/woodland type courses surrounded by birch, spruce and pine. Rocky outcroppings and water are common courses hazards. There are plenty of lakes, rivers and streams that add beauty and challenge. You will even find a few links courses along the coast.
Golf Digest lists five courses as some of Europe's best. These are Baresback Golf Club host to the Solhiem Cup in 2003 and Halmstad Golf Club host to the Solhiem Cup in September 2007. Other top courses include Lyunghusen Golf Club the oldest club in Sweden, Falsterbro Golf Club a links course and Visby Golf Club located on the historically significant island of Gotland.
Though there are no public courses in Sweden, all but one welcomes visitors. Language is not a problem. Unlike other European golf destinations such as France, Italy or Portugal, virtually all Swedes speak English. Your dollar will also go further in Sweden. The Krona, Sweden's currency, is one of the few European currencies to lose value against the dollar. Green fees are also lower. Courses around the major cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo average about $60 per round. Outside the cities, expect to pay about $45. Compare this to a round at Kingsbarns in Scotland at $325 or Old Head in Ireland at a whooping $525 per round.
Sweden is also easy to get to. From Copenhagen, you will find 70 great courses 2 to 3 hours away by car. Personally, I prefer to start my trip in Stockholm. This Venice of the north built on a group of islands is truly one of the most beautiful cities in the world and well worth your visit.
Whether the novelty and bragging rights of playing golf after midnight, the open access to all but one of Sweden's finest courses or the value for your dollar, Sweden is a good choice. Come see what produced Annika Sorenstam, Jesper Parnevik and Tiger Woods' pretty wife Elin. They are part of the Swedish secret we now share. Skol!