When it debuted in the summer of 2005 (following an exhibition match between Henrik Stenson and Louise Stahle) the 18-hole layout at Elisefarm Golf Club was the first Hawtree golf design in Sweden since Martin's grandfather completed the Old Course at Båstad back in 1929 with partner J.H. Taylor.
Owned by Lars Ingesson and Ingrid Linné, Elisefarm is a resort rather than a traditional golf club. Plans to develop a second course have since been abandoned; the owners instead have focused on developing the resort to create an appealing destination where there’s more than just golf on offer.
The designers, Martin Hawtree and his then associate Caspar Grauballe, laid out the course in two loops of returning nines. Trees border much of the perimeter of the course and the design makes intelligent use of the gently rolling landscape that features a few stands of mature trees, large ponds and a stream. Regular views of Ringsjön, one of the few large lakes in Skåne, are also on offer.
Holes to note include the 4th, a medium length par four where the landing area for a well-struck drive is pinched by a pond to the left and bunkers to the right. Another hole not quickly forgotten is the par five 12th where the approach shot is the course's only forced carry over water. Even if the hole is reachable in two for long hitters, the percentage shot is probably a lay-up, especially if the wind is blowing, as it often is here. For higher handicappers, this shot, with water short, long and to the left, is probably not the most relaxing moment of the round.
The finishing hole is a relatively short par four, but the entrance to the green is quite narrow, with trees on both sides and water behind, so the drive needs to find the fairway. This hole can play devious mind games with ambitious birdie-seeking golfers.
The visuals on the back nine in particular will change significantly if the planned housing development goes ahead.
Elisefarm has firm fescue greens with enough variety and undulations to keep you interested and challenge your putting skills throughout the round. If the rest of the course had the same standard, I would not hesitate a second to rate it among the top 10 courses in Sweden.
Unfortunately, the bunkering, while pretty, tends to threaten ordinary tee shots while too many good tee shots can clear them. I had been warned about this beforehand from friends who had visited (and who had liked the course for the rest by the way). The two best golfers in our fourball did not visit a single fairway bunker during the round, while less than perfect shots from our highest handicapped lady golfer regularly found sand from the tee, not what I would wish for design-wise.
Agronomy is also a bit of a question mark. Preferred lies were in operation when we visited in early May, although this was probably also due to a colder than average April and significant rain the preceding days. The greens still rolled true, but it was clear that the fairways are not built on sandy ground. I had been warned that the course is a slow starter in spring compared to others in the region, which indicates clay soil and no sand-capping, so the next visit will be in summer or early autumn.
Elisefarm markets its spa and its gastronomy as much as the golf and it also showed in the guest crowd when we visited. Women and couples were in the majority both in the restaurant and on the course, a major difference from the middle-age fraternity groups normally dominating golf resorts in Sweden.
Overall, I would rate Elisefarm higher as a resort higher than its golf on a stand-alone basis, so the verdict (four balls) is for the course only and assumes normal conditioning from June onwards.