My golf journey continues. Where am I now? Sweden! How did I get here? Well...this part of the month-long trip wasn't initially planned. Our journey to the far off Faroe Islands required a one day stopover in Copenhagen and when my girlfriend told me about this, I, of course, thought to myself, "one day in Copenhagen? Hmmm...let's see what golf courses are in the area!"
Sure enough, I came across quite a gem...right across the bridge... on a peninsula jutting out from the coast of Sweden into the Baltic Sea: Falsterbo Golf Klubb.
After a short flight from Paris we landed in Copenhagen at 2pm. I quickly picked up the rental car, dropped my girlfriend off at the hotel so she could explore Copenhagen, and hit the road for the hour and a half drive to Falsterbo, praying I would make my 4pm tee-time (which I did not - I ended up getting there at 4:30pm ).
All of this knowing I would have to cross an international border to get to Sweden, drive back to Copenhagen early evening and catch a 6am flight the next morning! I was ready for it, though. Anything for the game of golf!
Falsterbo is located at the southern most tip of Sweden. Getting there meant crossing the The Øresund bridge and tunnel system. An engineering marvel that connects the Danish capital of Copenhagen to the Swedish city of Malmö. Unfortunately no one told me that crossing this bridge meant a 90 euro toll! I had never heard of such an excessive toll before. All that kept going through my head was, "This course had better be worth it!".
Not much is written about Falsterbo GK other than its ranking on many international lists claiming it to be one of the best links courses outside of the British Isles.
The road there was calming and picturesque, with kind of a Hamptons feel to it - with many families vacationing in the region. The closer I got, the closer I began to see multiple horse trailers. It turns out this area is famous for its summer equestrian festival: The Falsterbro Horse Festival.
Just down the road from Falsterbro Golf Klubb lives a number of other truly great courses like the lesser known Flommens Golf Club and Ljunghusens Golf Club.
My first impression upon pulling into the parking lot was, "This looks like a first class summer camp." Kids and parents were everywhere, practicing and playing golf. I could really sense that this was a family club and the spirit was not that of a super snobby private club but more of a family gathering.
My contact was the club's president, a sophisticated, James Bond-ish Swedish gentleman. I learned from him that Falsterbo GK is home to more than a few "Royal and Ancient" members. In fact, it has the most R&A members of any club in the world outside of the British Isles. Now my interest was peaked - why would so many people from the home of golf come here in the summer months over anywhere else in the world? I would soon find out.
After a short warm up on the range and putting green, it was off to the first tee. I was paired with two middle-aged Swedish gentlemen who come every summer for the equestrian festival and to play some golf. This meant I would be getting a member's tour of the course which can be very helpful on a linksland course due to the subtle variations a relatively flat course can create.
The first hole had me questioning this course's high international ranking. When I looked down the first fairway it was completely burned out and brown. Not a blade of green grass was visible and the first hole looked wide open and flat as a pancake. Had I just made a huge mistake by coming to this course? Maybe this was all hype and a great place to escape in the summer but the golf would be average at best. Once the initial shock of the fast and firm conditions subsided and the fact that the greens were green and really smooth, I decided to hold my judgement until I saw a few more holes.
Sure enough, once I arrived at the par 3 second I began to see what all the hype was about. The 1st hole was an anomaly, not accurately reflecting the style of the rest of the course. The par 3 was surrounded by a mine field of pot bunkers, a burn in front and a green with more humps and bumps than the sea during a storm.
The firm conditions meant that getting to the par 5s in two wasn’t going to be a problem at all; at least not the down wind holes. Lucky for me the day I played it was about 70 degrees and only a light breeze. After a missed eagle and a tap in birdie I was feeling pretty good at -1 par.
You can really see in these pictures the rumpled ground that is everywhere at Falsterbo GK. This is certainly what the Scots and English both must love so much about this course. It has a simple charm with endless possibilities once the ball hits the ground. This is one course you will certainly never have the same lie twice!
Unfortunately the next hole was the number 1 rated handicap and I didn’t fair so well. Water protects the entire right side from the tee box to the green. The left side is no peach either with some seriously menacing bunkers ready to catch any drives that aren’t struck perfectly.
My drive landed in the fairway bunker, leaving me about 200 yards left with danger everywhere. With uncertainty about clearing the riveted bunker, I decided to lay up to around 60 yards and missed my putt for par, sending me back to even par.
I tend to like the fact that no collar or rough is slowing down or stopping balls from going into the water. My feeling is if you're going to have a hazard it may as well be in play. This forces you to steer clear and aim more toward the bunkers on the left. This is a real pick-your-poison type of challenge. I walked away with a bogey but still felt like I came out ahead.
On the par 3 sixth I took a tough bogey, as club selection is paramount. I went right over the stick but a strong bounce had me staring at a tough downhill bunker shot that I failed to get up and down.
The 7th hole is a fantastic par 4 dogleg that brings you right in front of the clubhouse.
Club selection is imperative on your second shot with a bombing range of bunkers surrounding the green.
After a routine par I was told this would be my last chance to grab a snack from the clubhouse as the 9th hole doesn’t finish at the clubhouse.
Inside the clubhouse I found a nice selection of sandwiches. I chose the one seen here and oh man was it tasty. In fact it might have been the best at-the-turn snack I had the entire trip!
The course opened in 1909 and originally was only 9 holes until it was expanded a few years later into an 18 hole course. It wasn't until Doctor Gunnar Bauer in the 1930s put the final design on the course that it began to receive the acclaim that it certainly deserves. Over the years a few design teams have touched up the course here and there but its original design has stood the test of time.
Once we reached the 9th hole green the two gentleman I was playing with called it quits. The rest of the day was family time, they explained with a smile. We shook hands and I gave them each a copy of my book, Peaceful-Golf: A Journey Into the Unknown. The 9th hole is your last opportunity to exit the course before you head out closer to the sea and the back nine, which I consider even better than the front.
The 10th is a great driving hole with a row of very deep bunkers down the left. Fortunately I avoided the danger but ended up with my only 3 putt of the day on the tricky green.
2 of the par 3s so far had water somewhere around the green and the 11th was no different. Considering you are hitting directly toward the sea, club selection is paramount to staying dry with strong winds a common occurrence.
Behind the 12th tee you get a great view of the continuous small beach cabanas along the coast. These little fishing huts are used as changing rooms for beach goers during the summer.
The picture below should give you an idea of just how close to the water you are at all times. The sand is only a few feet from the tee! This is the epitome of a seaside links course.
Holes 13-18 head out to the southern most part of the course and what I would consider the best stretch of holes. 13 is a challenging drive as I can attest to because I ended up behind one of the few trees on the course.
After more than one hack behind the trees and too many putts to count, I walked off the 13th with a snowman *8* and lost any hope of shooting under par for the day. Luckily the course was just heating up and my snowman troubles just melted away.
The 14th hole is the most visually beautiful hole with the lighthouse right in front of you. The lighthouse is certainly an iconic feature of Falsterbo and is always in view from most holes.
15 was my favorite par 5 with a narrow fairway that was one of the straightest holes on the course.
16 takes you to the furthest point south and it feels like you have reached the end of the world. As a giant storm envelopes the peninsula that Falsterbro is built upon, a magnificent rainbow forms, making for a beautiful walk to the clubhouse.
The 17th and 18th holes run along the edge of the water with a tall set of dunes all down the right side. The naturalness of the dunes is undeniable and makes for a sensational finish to the day.
The 18th green is nearly surrounded by the indigenous dunes!
Feeling the luck from the rainbow I was able to sink a well timed birdie to finish the day. Falsterbo Golf Klubb is certainly a course that will be on my Top 100 for a long time to come, and in my heart even longer.
The course, though seemingly easy, was anything but. It's not often I shoot a 76, but when I do it's usually in Sweden at the Falsterbo Golf Klubb!
As I packed up my clubs and headed to my car I was passed by these three young ladies who just spent the day enjoying the links as much as I had. With ice cream in one hand and clubs on their backs, they were headed home with a smile after a long day...as was I. It was good to see that the spirit of the game burns bright here in Sweden.
As I drove back to Copenhagen, I was left pondering the course I just played. I was taken on a roller coaster of emotions with what originally seemed like a flat, boring course, only to be thrilled to the wildest heights by deep bunkers, rolling greens and a snowman on the card. And how about that rainbow?! Falsterbo Golf Klubb proves that a big name architect is not always needed to have a truly great golf adventure!
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