The island of Öland in the Baltic is not only the home for 26,000 permanent residents but also a summer paradise for many more, including the Swedish royal family, whose summer residence, Solliden, is located not far north of Ekerum.
Långe Jan is a 1990 creation, named after the lighthouse at the southern end of the island. Peter Nordwall’s trademark style with large, undulating greens is still in evidence today and any golfer escaping with less than 36 putts has probably had an above average day on the greens.
Originally conceived as a heathland course, Långe Jan changed significantly in 2014, when the fertile topsoil was removed next to the fairways and replaced by large sandy waste areas with native vegetation, in a similar change to that made on Pinehurst’s No. 2 course. Långe Erik, the other course at the resort, still retains the original style with wispy rough and fairway bunkers.
Most leading courses in Sweden are still operated by traditional member clubs, but Ekerum is one of the exceptions. The ability to not just play golf but also eat, drink and socialise in numbers on site is not available in many places in Sweden. It is therefore perhaps not surprising that the owners of Skistar (the proprietors of most leading Swedish ski resorts) are also the owners of Ekerum since 2007. The resort targets both the corporate market for conferences and the growing number of informal golfing societies, but there are also many members who live on Öland permanently or have a summer house in the vicinity.
Öland or Gotland? Both these islands in the Baltic are well-established holiday destinations with their respective (mainly Swedish) fan clubs.
It is not only a choice for the family holiday, however, but also where to go for that long week-end break with your golf buddies.
At Ekerum, everything is on site: the golf, the drinks at the bar, the food. You can drive straight there without having to worry about catching a ferry or a plane and there are two courses on site to choose from, so it is not surprising that quite a few groups make that choice.
So, what about the quality of the golf itself?
Well, comparing Långe Jan (marketed as the best course at Ekerum) to Visby's course at Kronholmen is like comparing a decent bottle of Prosecco with a good vintage champagne: both can add fizz to the occasion, but I am pretty sure 10 out of 10 connoisseurs will prefer the latter.
Now, if your group sets its golfing expectations reasonably, I am sure most can still enjoy this parkland stroll (heathland is a misnomer, judging by what I found underfoot). However, it helps a lot if you like the challenge of putting on very large and undulated greens and do not mind that the rough and the fairway bunkers have been replaced by large sandy waste areas.
Personally, I am very conscious of the fact that we played here the day after playing at Kristianstad, which probably made me see the shortcomings of the course more clearly. Never taste the Prosecco just after that vintage fizz....