Sweden Golf -Solheim Cup

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Sweden Golf Like In Canada

By Scott A. Sumner
    Travelling farther afield to play golf was something I have looked forward to and last week I had the opportunity to take a quick trip to Sweden. Usually my trips are 2 or 3 hours on a plane but getting to Sweden involved the 1 1/2 hour flight to Toronto, 7 1/2 hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany and then a 2 hour flight to Copenhagen, Denmark. It was then we had a two hour bus drive to the Halland area of Sweden. This whole journey with a 6 hour time change,  meant I was up almost 24 hours. The travel was worth it and seeing the European landscape was
very interesting .I learnt much about another part of our planet.

    Traveling by small and then large buses to Holland with Frederik, our full trip driver, showed me a very agricultural part of Sweden. The long underground bridge from Denmark to Sweden is quite an engineering feat. Arriving in our first hotel, Hotel Halland, I was ready to sleep and our host Markus suggested I do that which was great. Staying in  the nicely renovated Hotel Halland showed me some unique European features like placing your hotel key card in a switch in the room to allow the usage of electricity. This meant you had to take your card
out when you left so the electricity would have to be shut off. Europe seems to be much more advanced than we are in North America in terms of energy conversation and going green.
   After a good rest and nice breakfast it was off to the Kungsbacka GK and a site visit with golf carts, known here as buggies. Incidently the usage of buggies seems to be much more prevelant in Europe now than before.
   Our first golf was at the Forsgardens GK where we played 9 holes and then had lunch and a presentation by Clubmanager Jeanette Hallgren. The   1600 players that golf this course are it’s owners which is quite prevelant in Sweden. Their season is late April or  perhaps mid March til November each year and there are 12,000 guest player rounds  not counting the 1600 members rounds.“ The cows eat the balls so you take them out of the fenced area on one
of our holes.” smiled Jeanette Hallgren.

    English was spoken almost all the time  in Sweden which was good for me. My fellow golf writers and tour operators were from Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Russia, Holland, Austria, England, Norway and Costa Rica which made for many interesting accents! They all spoke more than 1 language which is more than most North Americans.
     Our accommodation one night was at the Ugglarp Camping och Stugby in their lodges or cottages. A beautiful BBQ was held on the beach that evening which reminds me of home in Canada except we were on the ocean.
    More golf at the Backavattnets GK was fun with another traditional well renovated hotel as our place to rest that night- Varbergs Stadshotell.  A very interesting part of our trip was a site visit to Hotel Tylosand owned in part by the lead singer of the Swedish band Roxette. The Hotel Tylosand displays art throughout and has a elaborate   spa recently built at a cost of $45 million swedish krona or $7 million dollars. In this hotel is a  night club full of Roxette’s gold
and platinum records.
  Our last day was a special visit to the Halmsted GK  which will host the 2007 Solheim Cup on September 14 to 16th. It was here that I had a great match with Ola  Sollerhed with region Halland, a 7 handicap. It was a  18 hole match play with Team Canada- me winning over Team Sweden- Ola on the 18th green with the final putt. That night we stayed at the Grand Hotel Halmstad and had a great dinner at the Halmstad GK.

   The Solheim Cup is a huge event and this year will be held at the Halmsted GK North course with over 90,000 spectators expected. “ The Ladies European Tour  is more used to private owned golf courses for this event but we have 2000 members who own our course and every
decision has to be run through the members at a once a year meeting with decisions carried out by management.” smiled Mats Malmberg, General Manager Halmstad Golfclub. “ Juniors pay an  annual fee and can golf as much as they want. We have 320 juniors and 1000 juniors on a waiting list to get in. When there is a birth the parents register them   immediately and when they are 11 or 12 they can join. We started the future club so the waiting list juniors can practice Sunday nights. We get 50 or 60 players of 6 to 8 year old out then. If we find some
interesting talent we can bring in 3 to 5 players as members each year.”
   The cost to join the Hamstad GK is $2600 Swedish Krona which means you can  play as much as you want and some do up to  200 rounds annually.  The entrance fee is 3 times the yearly fee  of $2600 Krona  and there is a waiting list of 30 years. 7 Kronas are worth 1 Cdn
dollar. The club staff includes the club manager, course head, professionals, financial, back office, reception and 20  people on the courses.  On a full day about 60 people  are on the course working in total. The pro shop and restaurant and driving range are leased by
private interests.
    “ We focus on golf with competitions for our members and we bring in money from other places. We have 94 companies as corporate  members who can play golf with out disturbing the members. Hamsted GK has been ranked as Sweden’s best course many times and is in  Golf Digest’s Top 100 outside of the USA ranked 67th,” noted Malmberg. “ In the future we
know the competition is getting tougher with new grasses on greens.  If you try to build  a new green it may not be as good as the old one. We keep these greens as good as we can which are very good for most of the time. For a completion like the Solheim Cup we will make the greens
   “ The golf play now is a more normal curve. When we want to borrow money from the banks they all stand in line because there is no risk. A large tournament now and then like the Solheim keeps the interest up.  The  cost of 18  on the North Course is $600 Krona,  $500 on South. If you want to play 36 it is $900,” noted Malmberg. “ We are looking for a level of play so the members can play and not be upset.  Last year we had 12,500 to 14,000 guest rounds with  our membership playing 60,000 on both courses. The south course was open almost all year round even with some snow in the bunkers but normally it is the middle of March to
November.  We adjust our green fees to how the course condition is in the early season.”
    “The captain of the European Team for the Solheim Cup has set the course up long at 6100 meter’s which is longer than the men’s course. Preparations for the Solheim Cup  have been going on for  2 1/2 years, mostly  on the course. The rain is making it difficult as we want to
show the course in the perfect condition. It is the ladies European Tour who  are running the event, we are just hosting club. They have many people working already and we have  650 and 700 volunteers managed by us,” stated Malmberg. “  90% of the tickets are  already sold for 
about 30,000 per day.  For the Solheim Cup  it is  important to make money for the European Ladies Tour. The press people will number 300 journalists. Parking for spectators will be on the other side of 12th hole on a camping area. The Solheim Cup will  be seen in more than 200 countries and 300 million households.”
    My trip home this time included the bus ride back to Copenhagen, a flight to London and then Toronto and Thunder Bay. We left our hotel in Sweden at 8:30 pm and I was in my house at 11:30 pm, the same day having travelled over 5000 miles that day, with the help of a 6 hour
time change. If you can get the chance to play golf in Sweden you will enjoy yourself. It is well worth the travel to experience a new part of our world. Visit www.halland.se and www.golfjoytravel.se for more information.

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