Recollections of Ryder

On his way to the 2014 Ryder Cup, Sweden’s Pierre Fulke remembers the 2002 Ryder Cup.

Pierre Fulke was a member of the 2002 European Ryder Cup team. That year he and two other Swedes, Niclas Fasth and Jesper Parnevik, helped to win the Cup for Europe, 15½ to 12½.

Pierre Fulke Fulke Golf DesignPierre won three times on the European Tour. In 1999, he won the Lancome Trophy. His most successful season was 2000, when he won the Scottish PGA Championship and the Volvo Masters. That year he was #12 on the Order of Merit.

I was lucky to get a hold of the busy Mr. Fulke just before his leaving for Gleneagles. Talking to Pierre is a real pleasure and I’m happy to share his memories with you.

I asked Pierre how was he contacted about making the European team? He said, in actuality, he knew a year before the matches. Readers will remember that the Twin Towers attack on 9/11 was just two weeks before that year’s Ryder Cup. They postponed the 2001 event and it was re-scheduled for 2002.

There is one special memory that Pierre keeps from the 2002 Ryder Cup. “Sam Torrance was my Captain for that Cup. One day I received a letter from Sam. It was a handwritten note from him welcoming me to the team. I was so moved by Sam’s gesture that I framed the note and it hangs on my wall. I usually don’t have thoughts of the Cup but I do look at that note at least once a week.”

The 2002 European Team had a great cast of characters: Thomas Bjørn (On the 2014 team)
Darren Clarke
Sergio Garcia (On the 2014 team)
Padrig Harrington (2014 Vice Captain)
Bernard Langer
Paul McGinley (the 2014 European Captain)
Colin Montgomerie
Phillip Price and Lee Westwood (On the 2014 team).
Add three Swedes named Niclas Fasth, Pierre Fulke and Jesper Parnevik. I wondered what the locker room and team meetings were like?

“Well, both Sam and Mark James (VC) were from the old school of players and were as coaches, as well. Sam worked on our hearts and emotions. Sam didn’t talk tactics with us. He said we need to go out there and play the best we ever played.”

Pierre teamed with Phillip Price of Wales. What was he like as a playing partner? “Phil was…not unsure…but a shy guy. We didn’t play the first day but would be the first off for Saturday’s Foursomes. We were going against Mickelson and David Toms. The night before I said to Phil we should form a plan for the game, you know, like who should tee off first on hole #1? Price speaks up and says, ‘Pierre, there will be no way that I will tee off first tomorrow.’ That’s why it was me first off in that match.

Pierre paused a bit, then said, “During the match, Phil was asking my opinion on almost all his shots. I said to him, ‘Phil, look, I trust you. You don’t have to ask me about shots all the time.’ But it was obvious that it helped him, so I just gave my thoughts when he asked.”

“We lost that match, 2 and 1. Phillip Price was nothing if not a fierce competitor. I think the way he went out on Sunday and beat Mickelson (3 and 2 in singles) gives you a good indicator of how tough he was.”

The story of Price and the first tee led me to ask Pierre about how he felt walking to the first tee of his first match in a Ryder Cup?

“Sam Torrance did something that was thoughtful as well as smart. He would walk us to the first tee. He helped to keep our heads focused on the match. That walk was the best and at the same time scariest walks I have ever taken on a golf course. The intensity of the emotional energy is almost tangible. You’re so nervous, it’s a wonder you can get it off the tee. Luckily for me, I hit it straight down the middle. I made a tough putt on 18 on Sunday to get a half against Davis Love. They were the first and last best shots of my life.”

Was there someone you would have liked to partner with that weekend? “I would have liked to play with Colin Montgomery. He’s one of the best Ryder Cup players ever, of course. During the season, he would always come up to me and ask how things were going and if I needed anything. He was making sure I knew that we were on the same team. That’s not a well known side of Colin. He sometimes gives the wrong perception to the fans.”

The 2002 Ryder Cup was the first after the Battle of Brookline. It was at Brookline that Justin Leonard sank that remarkable putt. It caused a spontaneous celebration of the American players.

Unfortunately, José María Olazábel still had a chance to halve the hole. He missed the putt after a long delay. It tainted the final win by the American team with cries of unsportsmanlike play. I asked Pierre if there was any extra tension between the teams because of that celebration?

“I don’t remember any hard feelings, but I wasn’t at Brookline. It’s possible that the players who were there had some resentment, but it was not noticeable. It was a different feeling then because the Europeans played the European Tour and the Americans played the PGA tour. We didn’t see each other too much. Now, many Europeans live in the States and they play on the American tour. Now every one knows each other and the rivalry is not as definitive as it once was.”

Asked if he had any thoughts on the outcome of this Ryder Cup, Pierre had no hesitation in answering. “I have no idea,” he said. “What I do know is that there will be fantastic golf no matter what team wins. It will be close on Sunday after almost three days of outstanding matches. The cliché is true. In match play, anything can happen.”

So, Pierre, what are you up to now? “In 2007 I retired from competitive golf. I was proud of my career, but I just felt that I wasn’t treating golf the same. I hung up my clubs and haven’t touched them since.”

“I started doing the TV commentating. It was daunting at first, but now I do about 12 to 15 matches a year. I’ll be doing this year’s Ryder Cup. I would like to pursue the TV work more in the future.”

Pierre also has a golf course design company. His philosophy is to develop courses that are playable and interesting. He looks to design courses that have no Fulke signature. He looks to adapt his courses to the terrain. “When you walk off my courses, you should have no idea who designed the golf course.” After chatting on the concepts of Donald Ross and Allister MacKenzie, I said thanks and goodbye to Pierre.

Like I said earlier, Pierre is quite the storyteller. For a guy who says he “…rarely thinks about the experience,” he sure remembered a lot.

Pierre Fulke will be bringing you commentary live from Gleneagles for the entire 2014 Ryder Cup on the Golf Channel. Check local listing for times and channel.


Barsebäck GK

Bars_18_travelcaddie.jpgBarsebäck Golf Club is a 36-hole golf resort. Barsebäck has hosted the Solheim Cup, the Scandinavian Masters and Annika Sörenstam’s Scandinavian TPC. It has two championship golf courses, the Masters and the Donald Steel, each with a different disposition.

The Donald Steel Course emphasizes Steel’s philosophy of minimal earth movement. He allows the golfer to wind through the natural surroundings. This course is not just pleasant to play, though. Steel compliments his designs with the shape of his greens. It is the subtle undulation that makes the Donald Ross greens so interesting. And frustrating.

The Masters Course is the course that has hosted all the competitions written of earlier. This unusual layout starts in the forest turns and drops to four holes of seaside golf with all the attributes of links play.

After the beach holes, you then climb back up to the forest. The back nine offers you the par four number 17, with its wind swept trees behind the green framing the view of the sea. You might want to have your camera ready to capture the Master Course’s signature hole.

The final hole makes for an exciting finish with its enticing risk versus reward decision. Can you carry the trees on the right to cut the dogleg? Only you will be able to decide. Back in his day, Jack Nicklaus called Barsebäck one of his favorite places to play.

 


Sommaro GK

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It is not uncommon to see golfers walking or riding their bikes to play golf at Sommaro GK. Located about five minutes from downtown Karlstad, Sommaro is a true Swedish public golf course in Sweden. Sommaro began as a driving range. Sommaro then added an executive course. It now boasts a twelve-hole links style course with all the character and challenge of Scotland without the firth. It is a rare course in Sweden as you do not need a tee time to play. At Sommaro, you go at the next available opening. You can choose your course based on your schedule. Don’t have time for 18? Play 9 or the executive course or bang balls on the driving range. Sommaro’s concept is that everyone should be able to play golf when and how they want. Not quite the way it’s done in Sweden usually.

Did You Know?
Sommaro Golf Club sits on the former land of the Karlstad Airport. A new airport moved further away from the city. The property went from plans to be a Jack Nicklaus designed golf course or a housing tract to, finally, a business park. None of those plans came to fruition and the land lay empty for years. The tarmacs still remain and this is the only golf course in Sweden that has an airport control tower on top of its clubhouse. One of the owners has a vacation house in South Africa, near the town of George. George is famous for its links style golf course. Designed by PGA Hall of Fame golfer, Gary Player, it is also built on land that was a former airport.


Mölle GK

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Mölle Golf Club sits on the peninsula that forms Sweden’s westernmost point. Located inside the Kullenbergs Natural Preserve, theMölle Golf Club began in 1943. With war ships cruising back and forth below it’s cliffs, twenty five golfers began playing at Mölle. It is the highlight of Sweden’s neutality policy or the craziness of golfers.

The scarcity of land and a its classic design, Mölle is a riot of tight fairways and small greens. Because of its location you never seem to have a flat lie at Mölle. When you reach the #8 tee, walk to the back of the tee box. You will see a panorama of the Öresund and Denmark that will make you wish you brought the camera.

Did You Know?
That you can walk to the brightest lighthouse in Sweden from the parking lot of the golf course. The lighthouse sits 78.5 meters above sea level. The light reaches 50 kilometers away. The Kullegårdens Wardhus is a great place to stay and is only 50 meters from the first tee. If you can’t stay, at least enjoy this classic Swedish reastaurant. It may also be the only golf club I had to pay to enter to pay to play. There is an entry fee to enter the Kullabergs Natural Preserve.


Halmstad GK (North Course)

halmstadAbout three blocks from the dazzling sunsets of the Tylösand beach in a quiet neighborhood, lay 36 holes of golf at Halmstad. The South Course is a good test and picturesque. The legendary North Course is the most honored course in Sweden, suitable for the world’s elite golfers. Halmstad (North) hosted the 2007 Solheim Cup. This golf course only gets better the more you play it. You will appreciate the classic English style of design. Winding through the woods and streams of the seaside, the North Course stands out as Sweden’s example of Swedish golf at its best.


Did You Know?

The Tylösand Hotel is co-owned by Halmstad native son, Per Gessle of Roxette. In Bettans Bar, the hotel bar closest to the beach, there is loads of Roxette’s memorabilia lining the walls.


Bro Hof Slott

Bro Hof Slott

If crushed marble in the sand traps sounds a little indulgent for a regular golf course, you would be right. Bro Hof Slott is no ordinary golf course. Owner Björn Öras went to golf course designers, top players and course caretakers around the world. He asked one question, “If you could build your ideal golf course, what features would you add?” After collecting his answers, he didn’t agonize over choices. He added them all into his original design. Bro Hof Slott is world class in every aspect. It’s playability, challenge, design, scenic beauty, and cultural and environmental preservation are excellent. In comparison with its peers in Europe and the United States, Bro Hof Slott is a world-class bargain. Golf Digest rates this the #1 course in Sweden.

Did You Know?

Bro Hof traded 35 hectares of meadows for the community nature sanctuary for access the Lake Mälaren shoreline. It also restored and maintains the area. The Rococo restoration of the castle at Bro Hof returned the namesake to its former spleandor.


Falsterbo GK

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A perennial favorite on Swedish golf’s Top 10 lists. The genius of Falsterbo is in its simplicity. A wonderful links course that sits on the point of Skåne where the North Sea and Öresund meet. I have been there when it was hot and sunny or with a howling gale coming in off the sea, and that was all before reaching the #17 tee. Falsterbo has not changed much in over 80 years. It looks simple, but believe me, bring your “A” game.

 

Did You Know 

The course is located in a natural preservation area and is frequently visited by bird watchers since the Falsterbo peninsula is the last stop for many migratory birds. Golfers must halt their game to allow the non-golfers to pass.


Björklidens GK

Situated 250 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, Björklidens GK is just about as exotic as golfing in Sweden gets. Nestled between Sweden’s northern mountains and surrounded by breathtaking views over Lake Torneträsk.

bjorklidenFor five weeks a year the Arctic landscape, the magic of the midnight sun and golf collide at Björklidens Golf Club. It is a treat that all golfers should experience. The course design makes as little environmental intrusion as possible. Hand carts and motor carts are unavailable and balls hit off the fairway can not recovered.

Björklidens is short, the fairways are narrow and the greens are small. That does not mean the course is easier or less interesting than other golf courses. There are two sets of tees on every hole for 18 holes to not repeat. The fairway and the green placements allow the player enjoy the dramatic scenery. The fifth, sixth and seventh holes are definitely among the most scenic in the world.

Björklidens is not easy to get to and a robust challenge to play. But every golfer owes it to his self to tee off at midnight under the broad daylight of the midnight sun.

Did You Know?
Once, travelers between North America and Scandinavia would arrive by boat to Narvik, Norway. Narvik has an ice-free harbor in the winter. The train from Narvik to Stockholm stopped at Björkliden along the way. The travelers would get out to stretch their legs and the native Lapps would sell the trainfolk native handcrafts. One favorite item was to have a souvenir photo taken swinging a golf club with a Laplander in full costume posing as a caddy. As the Americans would pay for their items in American currency, the locals dubbed the train the “Dollar Train”.


Bro-Balsta Golf Club

brobalsta-1024x678OK, 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