It is generally accepted that the first Open played on the European continent was the French Open in 1906, won by Arnaud Massey at La Boulie. Not so, according to at least one historian of the Fanø Golf Club.
The claim is that the Fanø course architect, Prestwick professional Robert Dunlop, won their inaugural Open (played to mark the opening of the course) five years earlier, in 1901.
As there was no national golf association in existence at that time in Denmark, perhaps the assertion that this club Open was also a national championship is stretching things a little too far!
William Keppie, from North Berwick, expanded the course to an 18-hole layout in 1930 – one year before the Danish Golf Union came into being – so it’s no surprise with these design influences that some think Fanø resembles an old fashioned Scottish links (even if there are no bunkers in play anywhere on the course).
In 2001, four fairways were combined to form two holes and five new holes (7 to 11) were brought into play.
Measuring a shade less than 5,600 yards, the out-and-back layout is routed in, around and over the sand hills that fashion the landscape on this part of Fanø Island. If you are a modern golfer who abhors blind tee and approach shots, bump-and-runs to contoured greens, back-to-back par threes and short par fours – eight of them under 315 yards – then Fanø is certainly not the place for you!
If, however, you are a golfing romantic who does not mind the occasional walk on the wild side then this throwback-in-time course might just be worth the extra effort to pay a visit.
Having played Fanø numerous times I still find it very exciting. After playing it in late April I was surprised by the awful state og the course, but that didn't take any of the joy out of this magnificent course. The renewal of the mats from which you hit your tee-shot has definitely made the course even better. And despite having played it before I can't wait to come back again.