When I told a friend I was going to play the North course at Halmstad, he said: « Be very careful, it is a forest course so make sure you take many balls with you! » In fact, I was surprised in many ways by the Halmstad club and course.
First, access to the course is via a coastal road near the Kattegat sea, and the parking lot of the club is less than 200 meters from the coast. However, it could be 200 kms, because there is no hint of any sea around the north course, it is definitely nothing but forest. In fact, most of the time you cannot see any hole other than the one you are playing, so it is almost as if you were alone for your round.
Alone, you are not, at least not when we played Halmstad. We had a 7.17 tee time on a weekday, so we thought we would be about the first flight off. Not quite: the charming young lady at the reception desk told us that the course was booked solid from 6.00 am until dark that day. Obviously a very popular golf destination for Swedes and golftrotters alike!
Teeing up at the first hole, we felt that despite this being a forest course, the trees did not seem to be a problem at all, and this impression was confirmed throughout the round: the fairways seem wide and comfortable, with enough room to let you hit somewhat off the intended perfect path without too much penalty. Well, until you walk up for your second shot, and you realize that the architects of this course carefully designed it so that the approach shots cannot be easy if you are not in the right spot on the fairway, so strategy is more important than first thought. Deep bunkers, fairway-encroaching trees, doglegs and rivers crossing your path lurch…
One may expect that the round will be an easy walk, as the first few holes are really very flat. That is, until you come to the first par-three, the 4th hole. All of a sudden, we were facing a deep hollow and a blind green due to elevation changes, and at the end of the round we had to acknowledge that in fact, none of the par-threes are level. The only one where the tee is no higher or lower than the green, the 7th hole, offers a different challenge: the green is protected by two very large bunkers, left and right, and the putting surface is very much slanted toward the deeper and bigger sand trap on the right side.
The 16th is the hardest of the par-threes: not a very long hole at 164 meters from the tips, and the tee is elevated… so you can see clearly that the long, narrow green is guarded by a river in front and right, a couple of greenside bunkers on the left, and dense tree growth all around the sides and back! It takes a confident, even a daring tee shot to go for the flag.
The par-five 5th is index 1, and no wonder, it’s 548 meters from the tips (and still a most respectable 459 meters from the red tees). It has an uphill, blind tee shot and a double dogleg design, with the second turn only 100 meters from the green. Other than this hole, the par-fours and par-fives on the first nine seemed pretty flat.
We arrived at the halfway house, almost as far from the clubhouse as one can be, ate our Swedish regulation hotdog, and started on the back nine. Soon, the relief of the holes seemed to get “angry”. The par-four 12th plays over a hill with a sharp decline leading to a smallish flat area (it will take a very good drive to get there for the approach shot). The green is across a deeply sunk river, back up the hill. The par-three 13th is sharply uphill, with the same river crossing the fairway (far enough from the green though). The fairway of the par-five 14th is full of bumps, including a ravine where your second shot might land to keep you from having a good view onto the green for the approach. The 15th starts flat, but from the dogleg onto the green it seems an earthquake just happened and created havoc. Only the final hole goes quiet and provides for a relatively comfortable finish.
I need to make a special mention concerning the clubhouse here. The building is modern, very functional and well-conceived, with a big pro-shop, a comfortable restaurant and a great terrace on the upper floor overlooking the starting and finishing holes of both courses. But the best part is that it is bustling: I was there at dinner time one day, and lunch time the next, and it was full of people and families both times, taking good advantage of the excellent buffet offering as well as the menus and a la carte dishes on offer. This club is really hopping, with a very friendly atmosphere, and I can only wish the management team a happy future. I need to find an opportunity to come back, if only to play the South course…
Date: August 14, 2017