This week, The Nordea Masters comes back to Stockholm and the Bro Hoff Slot Golf Club for the first time since 2013. The last winner of European Tour event at Bro Hoff was Miko Ilonen. Other Bro Hof winners are Lee Westwood, Alex Noren and Richard.S. Johnson.
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson will start as the favorite as golf’s #6 ranked player in the world. Stenson was in good form earlier this season but in recent starts his game has fallen off. He played the Nordea Masters well in the last few years but not at this venue. Bro Hof will put a question over anyone’s chances this week. Watch hole 17, it’s an island green where golf rounds are saved or sunk in the drink.
Lee Westwood won here three years ago and is playing well in recent weeks. Last week, he was 15th at Wentworth and a Top Ten in the Irish Open. It was his runner-up finish at the Masters that indicates this could be his week.
Another Swede, a two-time winner of this event, is Alexander Noren. He is the defending champion and has recorded two other good finishes at Bro Hof. Noren showed glimpses of that winning form at times this season and, given his liking for the event and the venue, he could be a factor.
Rikard Karlberg was the runner-up last week at Wentworth and did finish 4th in this event when it was last played at Bro Hof. Karlberg also finished 10 at the Ireland Open two weeks ago so he could be in the hunt.
Australia’s Scott Hend will be carrying a little scar tissue from last week’s horror show finish at the BMW Open. He was the leader going into the final round but his 6 over 78 ended that story.
The Nordea Masters begins Thursday, June 2 and the final round is Sunday, June 5. You never know in Sweden, but the weather prognosticators are calling for good weather. Stenson and Westwood will be paired for Day 1 and Day 2.
Masters Thoughts At The Turn
Augusta National should be a lesson for every golf course,everywhere. Like its ancient uncle, the Old Course at St.Andrews, it takes apart a golfer’s game and makes every stroke important. Both accomplish this without any rough. There is no need to toughen up golf courses with knee fescue and narrow fairways. Both are risk and reward tracks with big rewards for the great shot and severe penalties for the ill struck ball. If golf wants to shorten playing time, shorten the rough.
Jordan Speith experienced the Augusta trait of leveling the playing field during his second round. Mis-fires and long putts for pars were his undoing on Friday. Still, he maintains the lead because no one mounted a charge at him. If he does not win this Masters it will be because he allowed unforced errors to allow the field to get close.
I watch the amateur, Bryson DeChambeau, with more than a curious eye. The young man, who won both the NCAA Men’s Individual crown and the men’s US Amateur last summer, remained an amateur for the chance to play at Augusta. Not only has he made the cut but until a disastrous triple on his 36th hole was one stroke off the lead. What makes me more than just a curious bystander is his approach to the game. DeChambeau uses clubs all the same length with a baseball grip and single plane swing. Last season I became a disciple of “Golf för Vuxna,” the Swedish swing thoughts of Sacke Frondelius. Bryson DeChambeau is the example of what you can accomplish by simplifying your golf swing.
Finally, how painful is it to watch Phil Mickelson play golf? The once poster boy for short game magic, aa well as getting better with age, looked like a poor imitation of his former self. During Friday’s round he took two to get out of a bunker as well as many mis-struck chips and pitches. All of those shots were ones he was once able to pull off blindfolded.
What was really painful was seeing one of the great “feel” putters of all time reduced to using the claw grip for assistance. It was no help as he missed putt after putt from distances he used to never seem to worry about.
It’s a lack of putting accuracy that sends great players down the road to retirement.
Speaking of retirement, while the fans were respectful and gave him many standing ovations, didn’t it seem as if Tom Watson’s final round at the Masters was ignored by the golf press? A storied career treated like an afterthought. If we were in Scotland, it would have been a National holiday.
Watson was glad to leave the Masters on his own terms.
“I’m grateful for the fact that they allow the past champions to pick the time they say no mas to retire,” he said. “I think that’s really a good thing. I know a few years back, there was some talk about maybe setting an age for retirement, but it didn’t work. I think we know when it’s time to say no mas, and let us make the call. That’s what makes the Masters unique compared to all the other tournaments, all the other majors. It allows the players to make the call. I still think that’s a very special thing about this tournament.”
One of the very special things about this tournament was you, Tom Watson.
So, The Season Begins…
I played golf last Monday, my first round of the year. No big deal for most golfers but it was for me. I’ll speak to that a bit later.
In the last few months, I have been stuck in a golf dissatisfaction. The game has changed and I’m not sure it’s for the better. More attention is paid to the money list than the leader board. Many golfers on the professional level are content to just cruise through the season staying in the Top 25, earning a nice living, if pulling in €4 to 5 million or more is just a nice living.
Golf news has become who is involved in the latest war of words on Twitter. The golfer’s love life is a priority. Tiger, Rory and Dustin, more words written on Jason Duffer for his divorce than ever for his golf. Arnie’s Army wasn’t formed because of his personal life. It became that way because of the way it was described when he hitched up his pants and went to work for come from behind wins in the 1960 Masters and the US Open.
The golf ball is juiced, the golf clubs are rocket launchers and no sooner do you buy a new set of these gee-whiz clubs, than a new and “better” set arrives. You would think golf clubs were manufactured in Silicon Valley. The tournament schedule just runs one after another, until only the Majors become meaningful, except that most people can’t tell you who won the British Open or the PGA.
Which brings us to my golf round last week. I had spent a month in Spain and hadn’t played one round. It just seemed, I don’t know, unimportant. Finally, Eva threatened drastic measures and dragged me to the first tee.
When I bent over, placing the tee in the ground and the golf ball upon the tee, it all came back. All the reasons I play this game came rushing back, filling my soul making no room for all the silly stories and bad vibes that golf had become. I was home.
Why this was important is that it reminded me that I don’t play this game for the gossip or the latest trends. To quote George C. Scott in *Patton,* “I love it. … God help me, I do love it so.”
Golf Shots of the Month-November 2015
Thanks to the European Tour
Another Lost Opportunity
Last month, I was at St. Leon-Roc for the 2015 Solheim Cup. I had the pleasure of talking to Björn Örås, who was also in attendance. There was little doubt that Mr. Örås was doing some last minute lobbying to bring the 2019 Solheim Cup to Bro Hof Slott in Stockholm.
At the Annika Invitational at Bro Bålsta, Club Manager Patrik Wester was hoping for Bro Hof to get the Solheim. It would mean that Bro Bålsta would be hosting the Junior Solheim in 2019.
Today it was announced that both Swedish golf clubs would not be hosting either event.
The Ladies European Tour announced that the 2019 Solheim Cup would be held at Gleneagles Golf Club in Perthshire, Scotland. Gleneagles hosted the 2014 Ryder Cup. I just visited the Perthshire region and I can tell you that Gleneagles is located in one of the more scenic areas of Scotland and has many golf courses to play while attending the Solheim event. Take it from me, why wait? The area and its golf is that good!
Ivan Khodabakhsh, chief executive of Ladies European Tour said: “I want to congratulate the Scotland bid team for their work. It was an extremely close decision and our heartfelt thanks go to our friends from Sweden for their hugely impressive bid. The Bro Hof Slott Golf Club is one of Europe’s very finest courses and we look forward to working with them in the future.”
Commenting on the news that the Ladies European Tour’s Board voted in favor of Scotland, The Right Honorable Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland MSP, said: “The outstanding success of 2014 still looms large in the memory and I am delighted that Gleneagles and Scotland will once again play host to a major international team golf event. It will help cement Scotland’s reputation as the Home of Golf and the perfect stage for major golf events and help inspire a new generation of children to take up the game invented in their home country.”
Once again, Bro Hof Slott is denied the opportunity to host a golfing international event of the highest calibre. The failed bid for the 2018 Ryder Cup went to France. Why has Bro Hof Slott and Sweden lately become the bridesmaid and never the bride when it comes to these major events?
One reason may be found in this fact. Scotland’s bid, which was led by the EventScotland team within VisitScotland’s Events Directorate and backed by The Scottish Government, was submitted in August and received huge support from stars across the golfing, sporting and media spectrum. The local area around Gleneagles is also supportive as the locals realize the importance of major golf event’s positive impact on the local economy.
It seems that unless the Swedish government, Visit Sweden and the Swedish corporate community realize the value of hosting international sporting events, Swedish golf will continue to be on the outside looking in.
A video posted by European Tour (@europeantour) on
“The most important shot is the next one.”
Why Is This Necessary?
IMHO Suzann did nothing wrong. Want to save this from ever happening again? Putt everything out until the hole is decided. Otherwise, let’s grow up out there. It’s only a game.
What Does Einstein Say About Match Play?
You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.
– Albert E.
After yesterday’s dismal display of putting by both Solheim teams, i was going to delve into whether what I notice on TV can be backed by stats-that woman professional golfers do not putt as well as their male counterparts. I was all prepared to that until today’s episode of “As The Golf Ball Turns”.
As you may remember in yesterday’s episode, Juli accused Annika of being unfaithful with Rules. Annika denied that she had any intentions of bending Rules and her friend, Carin, said that Juli didn’t have all the facts.
In today’s episode, Suzann, Charlie, Brittany and Alison were all playing a nice 18 games of “Mother May I”. In the 17th game, Alison picked up her ball without saying, “Mother, may I pick up the ball?” Suzann said to Alison that she didn’t ask and, by the rules, that means she and Charlie win the game.
“But, you said that I could,” said Alison. “Did not,” replied Suzann. “You did, too!” cried Alison. “Did not!” “You did!” “Didn’t…”
Back and forth they went. It was getting loud, so the Park Ranger had to come over and explain what the rules of Mother, May I say. Alison, to her horror, found out that the rules say that she, indeed, had lost the 17th game. Eventually, Brittany and Allison lost the game and felt very bad.
Charlie, who is a very nice girl, felt so sad for her friends that she cried and cried about how she had won.
Suzann’s aunt, Auntie Carin, said that the Rules are the Rules. True, Auntie Carin, but sometimes it’s how you play the game.
Swedish Success Stories
Caroline Hedwall and Anna Nordqvist are not the only Swedish duo having success at this year’s Solheim Cup. While the two golfers are taking the center stage, there are other Swedes who are making this international event a big success.
Looking at the European Team, the countries of England, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden have two players representing them in the 2015 Solheim competition. It helps both players to have a teammate who speaks her language and is familiar with her customs.
The golf course is not the only place where countrymen work together. Sweden has companies representing their products and, two of them represent the big and small facets of Swedish products for golf.
The first is Abacus Sportswear. The slogan of Abacus Sportswear is “You Can Count On Us” and, indeed, the European Solheim Team players will be doing just that. Abacus is the clothing supplier for the Euros, and they will be wearing everything Abacus for the entire tournament.
Abacus Sportswear was founded in 1991. Abacus markets golf apparel that combines function, design and quality. Their mission is to make functional and as a pioneer of high-performance stretch waterproof fabrics, Abacus produces smart, technical clothing which combines Swedish design with quality and functionality, befitting the active golfer.
Talking with Chris Mattsson, Abacus Sportswear Chief Designer, she told me that Abacus was delivering to the European Team the latest in Abacus line of rain gear. The rain jacket that the European team will be wearing is the company’s Pitch Extreme StretchLite60K™ Jacket. The jacket is the lightest, most breathable waterproof garment Abacus Sportswear has ever developed. In addition, it can stretch to almost twice its original size. It fits like a second skin and, really, you could put this on before your round in any weather and be comfortable no matter what happens on the golf course. Sounds great but we’ll all have to wait for the 2016 season before we can don this new technology.
You would think that there would be no opportunity for a little guy to be able to participate in this world wide event. However, like the little engine that could, a small jewelry company from Stockholm, Sweden has beaten the odds and has done just that. Nordic fields is showcasing their exclusive Solheim Cup collection.
Nordic fields began five years ago that founder, Eva Waitzfelder, had in finding jewelry about golf that would work as not just as fine jewelry but as a memory of her round at some of the world’s finest golf courses. Like the band, U2, she couldn’t find what she was looking for. Out of that frustration, Nordic fields was started.
Starting with a fine jewelry line called, “On The Green,” a collection of rings, earrings and pendants with a motif that will remind golfers of a ball sitting on a putting green. From there Eva has developed a way of taking any digital image and infusing it into anodized aluminum. With this process, Nordic fields has successfully developed jewelry for museums, corperations, charities and, now, the Solheim Cup.
To become an Official Supplier to the Solheim Cup you have to be approved by a variety of organizations, but it all starts with a company called Kitbag. Kitbag is a sports retailer that works behind the scenes of events like the Solheim Cup in merchandizing and selling souvenir and logo clothing and other items. Like many relationships, especially ones that work well, the meeting of Nordic fields and Kitbag was a case of one company looking for a solution and the other having the answer.
Kitbag was looking for a product that was different from the norm. Of course, every major golf event has the standard keepsake fare like t-shirts, mugs, golf balls and other items but the Kitbag buyers needed something…else.
A phone call from a jewelry manufacturer in Sweden sounded interesting and after receiving some samples and seeing the Nordic fields website, the Kitbag buyers asked for a meeting. Kitbag “got” Eva’s concept and saw her logo jewelry as an alternative to smearing face paint on your cheeks.
Kitbag has enjoyed its relationship with Nordic fields. There’s a lot of effort and detail and according to Kitbag, Nordic fields has gone above and beyond expectations. Of course, all the hard work and good conceptual ideas all comes down to the brutal reality of bottom line sales. Kitbag is very happy with sales so far. Plus, the big days of sales are yet to come.
Is there a potential to take the Nordic fields concept into other sports? Well, like Nordic fields, this is Kitbag’s first Solheim Cup. They got here by being the sports retailer for the Ryder Cup and teams in the English Premier League.
I think we can say that the Nordic fields future is so bright, Eva may need shades.
Creating Value for Your Members
Johan Hinton, Hintons Golf AB photo thanks to golf.se
When Swedish sports star Sven Tumba picked up a golf club in the mid-60s, golf in Sweden took off like a Saturn rocket with boosters. Almost overnight, golf in Sweden went from a dalliance of the posh to a sport for the middle class.
Golf became so popular that over 500 golf clubs were started and golf players grew to almost 600,000 in four decades. The sport was so in demand that there were waiting lists for membership at many clubs. As club members became share holders in the club, like in any bull market share (membership) prices went through the roof.
Around 2005, golf in Sweden had something happen that never happened before. The Golf Federation of Sweden saw membership and rounds of golf drop for the first time since the Tumba effect. Forty years of meteoric growth came to a screeching halt.
A variety of reasons were given and still are given ten years later: too expensive, too long to play, too hard to learn and the explosion of internet and video games sabatoged people from playing golf. There were panels, discussion groups and consultants discussing the problem, but no solution has been found. Sweden finally was part of the world wide problem of fewer golfers playing.
Golf clubs in Sweden, for years insulated from this global slowdown, now saw themselves in a dilemma. While costs of operations grew, income from membership fees and daily green fees was shrinking. Many clubs opted to get out of the membership share holding formula and looked for other ways to increase income. One common way was to cut back on costs, including course upkeep.
Another idea was to offer low membership fees that gave golfers their necessary SGF membership. These “mail order” clubs increased membership (some to a couple of thousand ) to raise the golf club’s gross.
Around 2010, if my memory serves me, there began loose associations of local golf courses uniting to offer members of one club the opportunity to play at another for a limited amount of rounds. Then, club packaging began where, under one membership fee, you had membership privliges at the sister clubs involved.
In 2014, a group was formed in Stockholm that took the multiple golf course membership to a new level. Calling itself, Unipeg (“peg”is Swedish for tee) the company has a vertical marketing plan. The plan is that a Unipeg member would be able to, for instance, purchase clothing and equipment, book golfing trips, or lessons within Unipeg. To make this plan work they needed members so they began to take over operations of golf courses in the Stockholm area at a furious rate. This rapid growth gave Unipeg over 22 000 active members and players. In addition to games on 17 courses in the Stockholm area.
At about the same time, the Kalfors GK, a very successful family run golf operation in the area just south of Stockholm, had a slightly different approach. Because of their success, Kalfors needed more golf holes to meet the increasing demand. In a mutual decision, there was a merger between the two clubs, forming the group, Golf South STHLM. Members from each separate club are now members of this new union, giving the players 72 golf holes to play. The bonus is that these golf courses are the #1 & 2 golf courses rated for the area.
Last month, another family operator, the Rönnebäck Golf Club, acquired the floundering Malmö City golf club. They will operate under the banner of Hintons Golf AB.
Well, how has this trend worked for these organizations? We asked Pelle Sättare, CEO of Golf South STHLM and Johan Hinton of Hinton Golf about that.
Golf South, in acquiring Vidbynäs GK, helped a successful company get better. Golf South was quick to point out that there would be no acquisitions after Vidbynäs as the Unipeg model was not what they are after. Sättare explains, “Golf South Stockholm is the result of a vision that created southern Stockholm’s best and most affordable golf experience. We decided to allow our members access to all that Kallfors and Vidbynäs offer, all for a single membership fee. We now offer 72 holes on the region’s two highest ranked courses, Vidbynäs South Course (#1) and Kallfors 18-hole course (#2).”
So, how’s that working out for you? “Very well,” said Pelle. ” Membership increased by a net 25%. Rounds played went up by 32%. While income from daily fees remained fairly flat, membership rounds played was increased.” The operation side of the golf courses was merged under the Golf South umbrella but, for the time being, maintenance is being handled by the individual golf courses.
Johan Hinton, from Hintons AB just made the merger with Malmö City, so we asked him what was his reasoning for making the move? “It started this past March. We contacted Malmö City and they were open to the idea. It wasn’t long before the deal was made.”
So, are you aiming to become the Unipeg of the Malmö area? “That’s my goal,” said Johan, “It just made a better economic picture for both clubs, members and golfers of the area.”
Hinton continued, “We feel we can now offer a better product at Malmö and Ronneback. A better product means more golfers and more golfers means an increase in capital. Is it a risk? Sure, but it’s one that makes sense to me.”
Hintons Golf will now offer three courses for one membership fee. In the immediate works are to improve the clubhouse, parking lot and driving range at Malmö City. “By doing this, it will have a positive effect on Malmö’s members. All our members now get more golf for their money.” Hintons Golf AB oversees the management of both clubs, while each club still supports its own men and women players clubs.
As for Unipeg, after a whirlwind pre-season, they’ve been quietly instituting and ironing out the mechanics of getting 17 different clubs on the same page. They closed the downtown retail store for the summer. However, on September 3, 2015, they are hosting a day long event with golf for their business and supplier friends. I can only guess, but I would think there will be some important information about their direction coming out of that gathering.