Platja de pals – Playing in a Broccoli Forest

Golf Platja de pals , on the Costa Brava in Spain, is a beautiful golf course built by the legendary designer, F.W. Hawtree. Built out of a Mediterranean Pine forest planted 70 years ago, Platja de pals lies on a unique piece of land.

Each hole is framed by mature sea pines with huge canopies on top of tall trees trunks. It’s like some psychedelic dream in which you’re playing golf in a forest of broccoli sprouts.costa brava golf press trip landmark media 130515 019
Hawtree did a remarkable job with his design. There are some very imaginative holes and fairways that dogleg left and right. Many of the greens are hidden from the tee with the treat of finding where Hawtree has put the green. The front nine is narrow, reminding one of bowling alleys from the tee. As the bordering pine’s canopies have matured, their spread has narrowed the fairways in the air. In fact, hole #11 has two massive pines whose treetops have converged to the point you have to carry over the top of them. Luckily, with the elevated tee and having the green several meters below the tee makes it easier. I’m sure that the smart guys out there have said you could go under them? Uh, no. Hawtree has placed three bunkers directly in front of the green with faces that look like waves that any surfer would love to rip turns on. It’s a great hole, scenic and a high playability factor.

Unfortunately, while the course runs parallel with the Pals beach, the coastline is not visible from course. The pines are the dominant view. While Hawtree has a clever design and the course has some exciting holes, the pines have created a similarity to the holes which makes no hole stand out from another, *except #11*.

For the non-golfers in the group, there are some fun bike trails running through the forest and the coastline. There is also the mediaeval city of Pals just a few kilometers from the course. The ancient city looms on the hilltop overlooking the modern town below. Plenty of photo ops for the interested.

Bro-Balsta Golf Club

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OK, easy call, I know. This is the course where Annika Sörenstam decided to take up golf as a junior. The rest, as they say is history. Sörenstam is arguably the best woman golfer ever, but is without argument the most successful professional golfer that Sweden has ever produced. But the reason for the inclusion of Bro-Balsta is not the course’s famous protégé. Famed Swedish course designer, Peter Nordwall, designed Bro-Balsta. Nordwall’s principle in designing with environmental concerns is showcased as Bro-Balsta is naturally placed in beautiful surroundings. Another characteristic of the 18-hole course are the large undulating greens. Based on the greens found on the famous links in Scotland, their size allows less maintenanceto hold their quality, as well as leading to putts that are as long and twisting as the roller coaster at your local amusement park.

Did You Know? 

Annika Sörenstam birdied the final hole to win the 2006 Scandinavian TPC title by a stroke from Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa at Bro-Balsta Golf Club, her home course where she had played since age 12. Sörenstam closed out her defense with a flawless eight-under-par 65, to equal the course record. It would be the last time she would win as a professional in Sweden.

 

Overview of Golf Play in Sweden

Sweden is one of the best countries to play golf. The season, generally, runs between May and October.

Sweden has many excellent golfing venues, some of them are world class golf courses by architects like Robert Trent Jones II, Jack Nicklaus and Kyle Phillips and native Swedish designers like Nordwell, Nordstrom, Linne and Chamberlain.

Swedish golf courses are a treat for golfers. Swedish golf courses will not only give you a challenging game, they also represent the countryside in which they reside as if Nature shaped the golf course through eons of ice, wind and snow and the human designers decided where to grow the grass for the greens and tees. Swedish golf courses not only give you a good game but many, many are scenic walks as well. A number border on environmental and wildlife reserves.

Facts on Golfing in Sweden

• Number of golf courses: Of the 31,000 golf courses around the globe, 450 are located in Sweden.

• Number of golf clubs: 482

• The population of Sweden is about 9.4 million people.

• Number of Swedish golfers: about 491,401 registered golfers.

• Of all Swedes who play golf, about a third are women.

• 20 percent of Swedish golfers are at or under the age of 20.

• Around six percent of all Swedes play golf, the highest percentage in Europe.

According to a survey done by the Swedish Golf Federation in 2010, exercise and health was reported by no less than 76.3 percent of all Swedish golfers when asked why they play golf. Socializing with family and friends got a 67.6 percent response.

Noteworthy was that only 27 percent of the survey participants mentioned the competitive element, thus emphasizing that golf is a very social sport in Sweden. Swedish golfers take their game very seriously, however. Most Swedish golfers walk their course, pulling a buggy and they don’t dawdle. Golf carts are becoming more available and are treated as motor vehicles by the Swedish government.

Any member of a recognized golf organization can play at any course in Sweden although there may be local handicap restrictions. A golfer needs to be of a certain playing skill, usually acknowledged to be a handicap of no higher than 36. Don’t be surprised if you are paired with Swedish golfers when they ask what is your handicap or how many points you scored for your last round. Swedes play Stableford Golf with full handicaps. ( 1 point for a bogey, 2 for a par, 3 for a birdie, 4 for an eagle and 5 if you bag an albatross. Lycka Till (good luck) with that. Anything worse than a bogey, pick up to keep the group moving.

Average Green Fees:

SEK 400 ($56) near metro areas

SEK 300 ($42) in rural areas
**Tee Time Reservations**

You can book golf tee times through your travel agent, the hotel you are staying at or directly to the golf course you wish to play. When you go online directly to the club, you need to ignore the booking service labeled something like “LOGGA IN TILL MIN GOLF.” That is a service for Swedish registered golfers. You need to go directly to desk or send an e-mail to the course VD (General Manager).

Members of recognized golf organizations can usually play at any course in Sweden although there may be local handicap restrictions. A golfer needs to be of a certain playing skill, usually acknowledged to be a handicap of no higher than 36.

How Swedes Play Golf

Öppen Golf, or Open Golf is the Swedish system of golf created in 1983. The intention of the system is to make Swedish golfers more competitive in international tournament play.

Previously, Sweden used the same system as elsewhere where amateurs played in amateur tournaments and professionals in professional tournaments, and rarely in the same event. the consensus in Sweden is that way was not the best way for Swedes to improve. Why not let the best players meet in the same tournament in order to sharpen the competitive edge among the best.

Open golf was implemented by the Swedish Golf Federation and the Swedish PGA in the winter of 1983. Starting the following summer, all Swedish golf events were declared open to all, provided that handicap requirements were met. Needless to say, amateurs still cannot accept prizes above the limits of amateur status. However, the issue is not monetary gain but the level of competition.

There is no question this decision has played an important part in the success of Swedish golf in the competitive world of international golf. However, in countries that look at golf as a recreation first and a competitive sport second, the thoughts of the SGF, who say they wonder no other country has followed this easy step to encourage higher playing standards, may be a topic of debate.

Don’t be surprised if you are asked what your handicap is or what you scored on your last round in bogey golf (with HDC, you score three for birdie, two for par, one for bogey, 0 for double bogey or higher). They are direct results of Open Golf .

The Weather

Take some time to make sure that you know what to expect from Sweden when it comes to the weather. A little bit of foreknowledge can help you in what you need to pack and what you need to be ready for.

In the first place, you will find that Sweden manages to enjoy a fairly temperate climate for many months out of the year, thanks to its proximity to the Gulf Stream. In the northern, mountainous areas of Sweden there is a more Arctic atmosphere and for about six weeks you can enjoy the Midnight Sun in the far North. Though I mentioned Arctic, most days are still warm enough for shirt sleeves, but always have a jacket or sweater.

While you will not see the midnight sun phenomenon in southern Sweden during the summer, the days are quite long, with dark that lasting around five or six hours. In the south of Sweden the summer can last upwards to four months.

Remember that you will deal with rain, even during the summer months. You should bring along a set of warm clothes. The weather can change with unexpected rapidity, and it is always in your best interests to be prepared. Consider what your personal needs are and how much time you are going to be spending outdoors.

Make sure that you prepare for your trip if you include large cities like Stockholm. The city is a very popular tourist’s destination and the best hotel options will go fast. On the other hand, also remember that you can book your hotel room and secure it with no effective delay when you go online. Make sure that when you come to visit this beautiful city and the rest of Sweden that you are going to have a great place to stay.

If you pick Sweden as your next golfing destination I know you won’t be disappointed. Find out why a small country like Sweden has produced some of the best golfers, male and female, to ever play on the world stage of golf. Between golf rounds you will experience the history and culture of a country who helped to shape the world. Sweden has everything to satisfy golfers and non-golfers alike.

Gene Oberto / Swedish Golf Online

 

No Tiger…No Golf

The Masters offered a peek at what golf will look like once Woods fully fades out of contention—and with golf participation dropping and no “next Tiger” solidly in place, the outlook is grim.  - Jake Simpson, The Atlantic

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A quote from a piece that paints a grim picture for golf after Tiger is (finally) no longer a factor in  competition. Unless there is some one on the horizon, or players like McIlroy step up (a lot).

In addition, the Masters’ TV audience was down significantly. The 2014 Masters got a 7.8 rating for Sunday’s final round, meaning that just 7.8 percent of television viewers were watching. Over the full weekend, the Masters saw its smallest TV audience since 1993.

So we have a simple question to ask: Will you be more likely or less likely to watch golf without Tiger?

Tiger is not on the TV event. Will you be

View Results

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As Unexpected as it is Unprecedented

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In a piece in The New York Times, “The Increasing Allure of Faraway Fairways,” Mike Hughes, the chief executive of the National Golf Course Owners Association says, “If familiarity breeds contempt, then nonfamiliarity breeds mystique and the more isolated you become, the more you buy into it. People going that far for golf focus on the golf exclusively and leave their cellphones and e-mails behind. They’re also usually playing spectacular golf courses.” With the success of golf courses like BandonDunes, Cabot Lakes and Barnbougle Dunes it seems that remote and excellent golf courses are the movement in golf today. It be almost ridiculous to mention remoteness and Florida in the same sentence. If there is any place in the world where golf is anything but remote, it would be Florida.

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Nothing in Florida compares to Streamsong

However, the Mosaic Company and the design teams of Ben Crenshaw/Bill Coore and Tom Doak did just that. On a remote stretch between Tampa and Orlando a former phosphate mining operation has changed everything you knew about Florida golf. In April 2012, about eight months before Streamsongs’ official opening, I had the pleasure to visit this most amazing project. The back story to [Streamsong](http://www.streamsongresort.com) is almost as amazing as the golf course itself. If anything has been shown the golf course designers Ben Crenshaw/Bill Coore and Tom Doak that if the golf course is special enough, golfers will come to play it, no matter how tough it may seem to get there. These two firms have been recognized as builders of golf courses where strategic golf is rewarded on traditionally designed holes. They create golf courses with great artistry. Their shared visions at Bandon Dunes, on Oregon’s southwest Pacific coast, and at Barnbougle in Tasmania, have gained universal applause from peers and players alike. The press has given these courses exceptional rankings in the annual “best of” golf course polls. Amazingly, while these courses have shared a similar space and philosophy, there has never been a collaboration between the two design teams of Coore/Crenshaw and Doak. For most European golfers, a trip to destinations like Southern Oregon and Tasmania are long treks. The likelihood that an average vacationing Swedish golfer would travel to these spectacular courses would be slim to none. Discovering that the designers of Bandon Dunes and Barnbougle were going to team up to collaborate on the design of 36 holes somewhere in Florida was very exciting, indeed. Swedes already flock to Florida year round to enjoy the weather, beaches, theme parks and golf. Just halfway between Tampa and Orlando, they can experience and enjoy 36 holes designed by two of the finest design teams currently working in the world. I met with Tom Sunnarborg, VP of Land Development from The Mosaic Company, on a sunny, warm and breezy morning at the Streamsong Resort site. Tom is the Mosaic point man on the Streamsong project and he is very (rightfully) proud of the project. Tom and I found we share an allegiance to the Florida Gators. So after a few minutes of “Go Gators” commiserating, we hopped into a golf cart and began our tour. First, Tom gave me a little background. He said Florida provides 75 percent of the phosphorous used by US farmers and about 25 percent of world production. Phosphate deposits in Florida are among the richest and most accessible in the world. The [Mosaic Company](http://www.mosaicco.com/index.htm) is the world’s leading producer and marketer of concentrated phosphate. They own 253,000 acres in Florida. The site for the Streamsong Resort is on land recovered by Mosaic from a former phosphate mine operation. While the mining operation to remove the phosphate causes a disruption to the environment of the land, the reclamation efforts developed over the past 30 years have been so successful that thousands of acres are donated to local governments for parks for recreation and habitats for wildlife. Researchers have identified many species of animals on reclaimed phosphate mines land including the threatened scrub jay. Much of this restoration has been done on Mosaic property. The area in Central Florida where phosphate is found is known as Bone Valley because deposits often contain fossils of prehistoric creatures including mastodons, saber-tooth tigers and teeth from 40-foot sharks. Tom related the story of Rick Mack, a Mosaic Vice President. Rick is a golfer and thought the property in Florida would be ideal for a resort golf course. The property’s reclaimed sand would be a perfect base to establish fairways and greens, while the combination of indigenous and man-made terrain would provide a spectacular stage for playing world class golf. His idea was so vivid he convinced a board of mining executives to share his vision. “My goal is to make this property instantly recognizable,” said Mack. “It’s going to put you in a place that’s on par with some of the best destinations in the United States.” Streamsong’s site is unique, as the mining activities have created dramatic landforms that the architects knew would make for great golf holes. “The property is naturally conducive to uncovering great golf holes,” said Ben Crenshaw. “It is spectacular, and has its own inherent character that translated into two memorable courses.” Tom Doak concurred, saying: “This is such a good piece of land for golf. The variety of contours created by the mining process is unique for a project in Florida, or anywhere in the Southeast.” Both teams have enjoyed the collaboration. Bill Coore said, “Being able to work alongside Tom Doak and our good friends at Renaissance Golf Design to simultaneously create the two courses made this a very special project indeed.” That’s what the forward thinkers at The Mosaic Company hoped would happen on the former Florida phosphate mine that sits 20 miles from the nearest city, Lakeland, about halfway between Orlando and Tampa. Remote is an understatement for this remarkable golf site. The only sound I heard was the wind and the occasional grass cutting machine. It’s a shock to the senses to play golf in this kind of peace. The Streamsong site is 16,000 acres large, with 4,000 acres being the initial size of the golf courses, clubhouse, nature trails, bass fishing lakes and a hotel with conference center, restaurant and retail area. Streamsong’s facilities include 140 guest rooms in the main resort building, five four-bedroom villas, bars,restaurants and a spa. The clubhouse also offers 12 guest rooms, a steakhouse and bar. Everything about this project has been thought through. Streamsong’s architecture will feature a timeless design that embraces the surrounding landscape. The main resort building will be constructed with natural materials of stone, wood and glass. The buildings are situated to take full advantage of water views, Florida breezes and the open vistas highlighting the sunrise and sunset. Relatively small and subtle, the resort’s intention is to treat arriving guests and players as if it was their first time on the property. The course designers have utilized the available space with varied elevations, natural bunkering and the available water hazards. The walks from green to tee are not extreme, fairways are wide and accepting and the rough is irrigated and cut down. Not only can the course be walked, with the exception of a few holes, you could play the course on the ground. Site lines and backdrops are nothing less than dazzling. The mining operation moved tremendous amounts of earth, scooping out material the size of several autos. The reclamation has created massive dunes and elevations which, just on this initial ride, I found jaw dropping. Tom said there will be no memberships at Streamsong. It will be strictly a resort format, setting the bar of hospitality minimally at the highest standards. Unlike some golf courses, hosting competitions at Streamsong will not be a motivating factor, a refreshing change from the “Championship” yardage behemoths that have been overtaking golf’s mindset for the last number of years. While some may question the remoteness of the location, Streamsong has every intention of making this an ideal retreat for vacationers and conference attendees both. With 12,000 acres still available to the development, any necessary expansions or additions to enhance customer satisfaction can be incorporated. But to me, the remoteness is what will set Streamsong apart. How effective can the removal of external influences be on your game as well as your conference? Both need concentration for success and you can venture that the effect of serenity will be soothingly successful. With no ambient lighting from nearby development, the stargazing could be what Hernando DeSoto’s army must have experienced when they camped on the Streamsong grounds in 1539 during their adventure into the New World. Now, your campground to stargaze the galaxy will be on the roof of a luxury hotel. Most importantly, Mosaic’s goal with Streamsong “…is to create a destination that celebrates the land’s heritage and offers a view of natural Florida that isn’t found at the high-rise coastal hotels and theme park resorts commonly visited by travelers to the state,” said The Mosaic Company President and CEO, Jim Prokopanko. In addition to being a destination for business and leisure travelers, Streamsong has helped boost the local economy by adding hundreds of jobs during construction, and there will be more than 200 permanent positions once the resort is completed and operating. In addition, it is projected that Streamsong will generate extensive property and hotel bed taxes and will present the potential for future business and residential investments in the area. This “multiplier effect” on other local businesses and economic development opportunities is expected to boost the county’s tax base, bring tourist revenue and encourage the smart growth strategies that can be achieved when a large piece of land is planned as one development. While the opportunity to play a future famous golf course may be the draw, the real significance of this project is what it may be showing golf’s future. Rather than be called another example of how golf overextends its welcome due to its environmental impact, Streamsong is demonstrating how environmental sustainability and economic growth can work together. We believe that for the many Swedish golfers who visit Florida every year, to not put Streamsong on your list of places to MUST play would be, in a sense, their loss. Luckily, you can start making your plans to visit now.

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Golf Courses

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About SGO

Swedish Golf Online is different from other Swedish golf sites is that everything you find on this site will be in English. Swedish Golf Online will relate to you my enthusiasm for golfing in Sweden and other places where we travel.

250 km above the Arctic Circle, 7th hole. The par 3 is 129 m  long and 70 m down!

250 km above the Arctic Circle, 7th hole. The par 3 is 129 m long and 70 m down!

Sweden has the second largest golf community in Europe yet the country is a comparative secret to golf tourists and visitors. Swedish Golf Online thinks that Sweden is the best kept secret in golf and that’s an honor that Sweden should not have. One goal of this site is to show Sweden as a golf destination you will want to come and experience. Hence the use of English text to reach the broadest spectrum of golfing travelers.

We hope that every post is with a Swedish point of view, however, if the story is important enough that it will affect the game of golf, SGO will join in the conversation.

Swedish Golf Online invites you to be part of this . If you have a favorite golf course, a place to stay or where to enjoy a great meal, we want you to let people know about it. If you’re a golf or travel writer with stories about golf and travel in Sweden, we welcome your input.

Hit ‘em straight,

Gene Oberto

Managing Editor

Swedish Golf Online