Golfweek Raters - - to boldly go where no one has gone

Golfweek Raters - - to boldly go where no one has gone

Raters

Golfweek Raters - - to boldly go where no one has gone

A special team of Golfweek’s Best course raters were on an 8-day trip through Denmark & Sweden in August 2018.  Golfweek Rater Jonathan Cummings weighed in on the trip.

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. . . okay, okay, that’s already taken. But after 20 years of canvassing courses in the United States, Golfweek panelists have recently been branching out abroad, enjoying first-ever international outings to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, China, Portugal, Spain, and France.

Now add Denmark and Sweden to that list.

Jet-lagged raters, arriving at the town center Nyhavn 71 Hotel – our home for the next seven days — were met with closed streets lined with 150,000 spectators for the all-day Copenhagen Ironman.  The best of the triathletes swam, biked and ran over a roughly eight-hour period crossing the finish line adjacent to the hotel in mid-afternoon.   Others of the 2,600 participants at the back of the pack were still crossing the line late into the evening making it, for them, a 16-hour event.

The raters all agreed never to complain again about a five-hour round.

First up on the golfing itinerary was the Masters Course at Barseback.   Up early, our coach collected us at the hotel and motored us under and over the Oresund – the sea lane between Denmark and Sweden and for centuries a maritime shortcut from the Baltic to the North Sea.  After an hour or so drive through bucolic southern Sweden farmland we arrived at the resort.

The Barseback, a Ture Bruce design, was the worthy host to several Scandinavian Masters, a Solheim Cup and many Swedish Opens.  It’s also the home club of Swedish great Henrik Stenson.  Barseback features smaller greens and understated bunkering with the majority of the holes playing through tight forested corridors.

It is a very pleasant walk through Barseback’s parkland setting and three seaside holes; but the day can be long if you are not hitting it straight.

Back to Copenhagen and our first evening venturing forth.

To say Copenhagen is charming and inviting is an understatement. It reminds you of both Paris and Venice, although more intimate and less touristy than either.  Denmark’s capital city, Copenhagen houses elaborate palaces, scenic canals, historic breweries, spectacular amusement parks, castles and even the country’s glorious crown jewels.

Add to this the excellent restaurant scene and shopping districts, the lovely green-space area parks, all within walking distance, and it’s easy to see why Copenhagen is often thought of as the smallest of the large European cities.

Next up for golf was The Scandinavian Club.  The New and Old courses, both designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., survey a rolling tract, heavily wooded in places, with water in the form of creeks, ponds, and small lakes, featured on a number of holes.  The New, slightly easier than The Old, has several stand-out par-5 holes, including the cape 12th and the double forced carry 18th.

The Old boasts memorable holes including the sixth, a tribute to the 18th at Augusta and the wonderful short No. 8 requiring a three-quarter wedge tee-ball to a well–contoured green.  The Old has a few head scratchers, too, including the sinuous second with its stern target and the impossible fourth, brutally long with a, you-must-be-kidding, small pond fronting the green.  It is a par-5 masquerading as a par-4 for all but the most elite players.  Also, the 14th, a 220-yard par-3 all over water to the stingiest of targets, may be asking too much of a player.

The clubhouse at the Scan Club is also quite memorable.  With church-like airy gables and constructed of layered blue shale, the structure is strikingly beautiful, more petite cathedral than clubhouse.

Recognized as one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the world, Copenhagen boasts a cutting-edge new trash incinerator that generates primary electricity for the city.  The problem is Copenhagen doesn’t produce enough trash!  The incinerator runs at some 60% capacity.

Import trash?  Don’t laugh, it’s been considered.

Back over to Sweden and north to Tylosand found the raters at Halmstad Golf.  A bustling in-town club with a pair of quality courses, Halmstad traces its roots to the 1930s when a 9-hole golf course was laid out on a military training ground.  A full 18 was completed in the 1960s (subsequently called The North) and since then Halmstad has enjoyed broad acclaim, hosting both the Scandinavian PGA and Solheim Cup.

A woodland setting, the theme of many of The North’s holes is playing out of shoots of trees to doglegs (only one of the North’s holes is straight).  The highly-ranked North surveys ravines, brooks, long and plateau greens and a nice variety of strategic bunkering.

The downhill par-4 t12thh with its fronting creek, and the par-3s as a collection are the most memorable.  The 16th hole, requiring a heroic carry over a closely guarding crossing creek, may be the most famous hole in Sweden.

On the ride back to town our coach driver opted to take the ferry affording raters great views approaching Copenhagen.

Someone said, “Life in Copenhagen is lived in the saddle of a bicycle.”  This couldn’t be more true as it seems everybody is biking.  There are more bikes than the three quarters of a million people in Copenhagen.

The International Cycling Union named Copenhagen the first official Bike City in the world and from 2008-2011 ranked Copenhagen the world’s top cycling city. Other cities are said to be undergoing “copenhagenization” when employing the Danish bike culture model.  Everyone from street people to the famous bike the Copenhagen streets.  Even the crown prince and his wife and children can be seen out biking.

The next day called for a quick bus ride back over the Oresund to a small Swedish peninsula looking back to Copenhagen and a club called Falsterbo – a well-regarded classical layout, perennially boasting top-100 European creds.

Here, the raters found a mostly open links-like seaside course.  Falsterbo features targets sternly protected by revetted bunkers and small often hidden ponds, some no bigger than bunkers.  An easy and enjoyable walk the routing leads a player inland before wending its way to the sea for the finishing series.  Like many similar links courses, wind is a big factor at Falsterbo – not too hard in light breezes but a whole different ballgame in a healthy wind.

The short drivable (if you’re Tiger) par-4s at 7 and 13, which play in opposite directions, are both quality and fun holes. The island par-3 11th with a good crossing wind is daunting, demanding a tee shot that defines fright.

Returning to town after golf the raters branched out to continue exploring Copenhagen.  One of the more colorful areas of inner Copenhagen is Freetown Chistiania.  Once a military installation, these 85 acres are car-free, lined with 19th century warehouses, many graffiti covered, compact ivied row-houses, outdoor bars, green spaces and hole-in-the-wall bistros.  A highly trendy and popular area, the roughly 1,000 residents host nearly a million visitors annually.  The government is deciding the future of Christiania but for now, the local constables turn a blind eye to the activities of the many open cannabis stands that line the narrow streets.  Photography is forbidden in Christiania.

Next up for golf was Great Northern, a Nicklaus design opened just last year.  Located well west of Copenhagen on Funen – the third largest of Denmark’s 406 islands, the raters enjoyed a scenic 2-hour ride culminating in the 8-mile crossing on the colossal Storebelt bridge.

An impressive and very upscale club, the Northern boasts well-appointed underground hobbit-like cabins, a state-of-the-art practice facility and a posh ultra-modern clubhouse complete with professional reception staff and an infinity pool flowing outside to a waterfall.

The course does not disappoint, either.  An open heathland layout, the holes on the western portion rise 120 feet affording spectacular views. As with many Nicklaus designs, most holes are sternly protected with ample bunkering, angled greens and pinched entryways, usually requiring aerial rather than ground attacks. Water comes into play often, especially at the very difficult fifth (water closely guarding the entire right), the sixth (water closely guarding the entire left), the forced carry par-3s at nine and 17 and the do-or-die island par-5 18th.

A ProV or two from a number of raters’ bags did not make the bus ride back to Copenhagen.

In a city where 15 different restaurants boast 18 Michelin stars, Copenhagen is fast overtaking its larger more famous European neighbors for dining.

The raters were enthusiastic participants.

From the open-air cafes to the fresh stands and markets offering “street food” to the fine dining alternatives, the choices were nearly endless.  Raters enjoyed frikadeller (meat balls), karbonader (breaded pork patties) and medisterpølse (fried sausage), all once considered peasant food but now musts when sampling the food of Denmark.  And breakfasts would not be breakfasts without coffee (the Danes consume more coffee per capita than any other country in the world) and fine bread and, oh, maybe a Danish or

two.

Copenhagen, with its world-wide renown, could hardly be called a city “where no man has gone before,” but Golfweek raters are more than happy to have “boldly gone there.”

 

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