The project of creating another golf course in the Värmdö part of the Stockholm archipelago got started when architect Tomas Hagman purchased the Fågelbro property in 1984. Just like nearby Wemdö G&CC, established in 1966, the idea was to create a country club, where it would be just as natural to arrive by boat as by car and which would be about more than golf. This is why Fågelbro has tennis, padel and squash courts, a heated swimming pool and a large stable in addition to the golf course.
However, by the time the course was ready, in 1991, Sweden was in a full-scale real estate and financial crisis, which subsequently brought down more currencies than the Swedish one (Brits of a certain age might remember the fruitless defence of sterling in 1992) so there was some time before all memberships were taken up and all the green houses by the adjacent marina were sold. Today, however, Fågelbro is flourishing with many well-to-do members with weekend houses in the vicinity. Like all Swedish courses it is also open to visitors, although often very busy during the Swedish summer holiday period 10 July – 10 August.
The rocky landscape of the Stockholm archipelago is evident when you walk up to the first elevated tee and consider the semi-blind tee shot on this short par four. On the following holes you will realise that finding the fairway and navigating the quick greens is key to building a score here. Sometimes being below the hole is the only safe way to make a par. You will probably also remember the 8th green which is surrounded by sand. Whether you will like that bit of the design is another matter.
The back nine is laid out on lower-lying land, some of it a former inlet of the Baltic Sea which post-ice age uplift had transformed into wetland. Drainage required water hazards and those in the line of play on holes 10, 14, 15 and 16 swallow many shots, especially from higher handicappers and first-time visitors, who have yet to learn to play safely or with precision on these holes. Some of these fairways also have a springy feel to them, courtesy of the Styrofoam construction used to overcome the marshy ground. It is said that the 10th hole alone cost as much to build as the entire course at Mälarö which was built at the same time.
The original layout from 1991 has had one notable change. The 11th was shortened from a par five to a par four, no doubt for safety reasons as wayward drives not only threatened play on the adjacent par three (which used to be played as the 11th, but is now the 17th) but also players on the 10th tee. The result is a slightly awkward walk before the home hole takes you back to the clubhouse and the double green shared with the 9th.
I am not fond of water in the line of play. If you add a number of other forced carries you have a design that is far away from what I prefer. But, hey, if you do not mind hitting three irons in succession to get onto the 16th green in regulation, you will probably like it a bit more than I do.
Courtesy of friends who are or have been members I have played this layout some ten times since it opened in 1991. It is normally in very good condition and the ground staff has a larger than average budget and do a very good job, so despite my reservations about the design I’d rather play here than at the majority of courses in the Stockholm area.
I also think that the course is more suited to match-play, when the water on the back nine adds tension just when the game is about to be decided. You just pick up and move to the next hole if you put a ball in the water...unless of course your opponent loses nerve and does the same!
If you are new to the Stockholm area, do remember that getting to the course from central Stockholm can take anything from 35 minutes to more than an hour in rush hour traffic, so make sure you allow enough time.