Ljunghusens Golf Club dates back to 1932 and there are 27 holes to be sampled here on this unique maritime heath of the Falsterbo Peninsula. The main course comprises of holes 1-18 (par 35 out and par 37 back) and the third nine is the shortest loop, rated as a par 35.
The book True Links by George Peper and Malcolm Campbell has this to say about the course: “A ten-minute drive from Falsterbo is the 27-hole facility at Ljunghusen, which might best be described as a heathland links - in fact, Ljunghusen means ‘house of heather’.
There aren't many trees, but large, dense clumps of heather and crowberry come frequently into play, especially on the front two nines. It is the third nine that provides the true links experience, on flat, sand-based land with the last six holes running along the Baltic.”
The club has held a number of national and international championships like the PLM Open in 1984 and 1987, the Telia Tour Grand Prix on the Challenge Tour from 1996 to 2004 and the European Men’s Team Championships in 2001, when Luke Donald set the course record with a score of 63.
The wind can play a major part in proceedings here as it blows in off the Baltic and with a total of 80 bunkers, 12 water hazards and large areas of heather on either side of many holes, Ljunghusen can be a very challenging course and a tough one on which to play to handicap.
Is the Ljunghusen golf course (1-18) a true links, or a maritime heathland course? I will let the debaters argue on. I simply had quite an experience at this golf club and I think this property should definitely be part of a golf trip in southern Sweden. As an added bonus for the eco-friendly crowd, Ljunghusen has been the very first golf course in the world GEO-certified (Golf Environment Organization, a group encouraging golf courses to reduce their impact on the environment and to develop sustainability practices) back in 2009 and is still working hard at improving its eco-balance.
Actually, what impressed me first at Ljunghusen was not the course itself, because even from the top floor of the clubhouse one can only see how far it stretches. There are so few vertical landmarks that it is difficult to get one’s bearings. A few trees along the first three holes that are located at the far end of the property, along the pine forest that covers the land, and then nothing but thick heather, assorted fescues and small bushes around the fairways. What struck me before teeing up was the number of families with kids of all ages armed with sets of clubs roaming around the clubhouse and the practice areas. Not only is this club a popular golf venue, but also that it attracts golfers of all ages. I was told that the club has 1,700 members, an impressive number.
Playing this course, even when the sun is shining, is not easy as the wind is certainly a very frequent actor here, even though the fairways are not the tightest I have seen and their bumps do not systematically run one’s ball into the rough or a bunker (there are quite a few of these). In fact, these fairways give your ball a really good roll and the greens are fast but true. The difficulty comes mainly from the usual hazard for this kind of course: any ball going into the rough stands a good chance of “returning to the wild”, and if not, the best course of action is to swallow your pride, take a wedge and simply make it back to the fairway, forget about forging ahead. In other words, keep it on the fairway at all times and you will be able to take advantage of the average-length design of Ljunghusen.
The club is going through some upgrading works these days: the committee has decided to start thinning out some of the heavier roughs in an effort to quicken the pace of play (until now players use up their five-minute search time too often). Also, on some of the holes the bunkers have been redesigned in revetted links-style, using a new technique: instead of using sod layers as tradition has it (again and again, as they have to be rebuilt frequently), the club is using recycled plastic bunker edges. This will allow the revetted faces of the bunkers to last 15 years or more, vs. 3 years for sod revetting. Apparently it also allows the walls to be more abrupt, so it’s a good thing none of the sand traps are really very deep! I have noticed a kinky bunker or two however on the course, where the revetted lip was not looking at the green but sideways or away from it. Good luck if your ball ever drops in one of those and comes to rest at the bottom of the wall... but I am told that the plan is to have hollow surfaces so that the ball naturally comes to rest in the center of the sand surface.
My playing partner, a long-time member of the club, warned me about the 12th hole, a par-five where a burn-style stream now crosses the fairway. As I soon discovered, the stream was very much in play for the second shot if you’re not very long off the tee, whereas the pros would never give it a second thought. “Not the right people to be bothered with it”, was the verdict; “hazards should keep the best golfers on their toes and not be there solely to frustrate the rest of us.”
The course is undergoing progressive changes and I expect that the result will be an improvement over what is a difficult, but exhilarating round along the Baltic sea, which can be seen often and comes into play on the 18th. I also played the original 9 holes, numbered 19-27 nowadays. They mostly retain the wilder character of links designs of old, even though the last few holes work their way around an inlet of the Baltic sea and have more to do with water hazards than with pure links.
Holes 19-27 form the original nine at Ljunghusen but it’s the preceding holes 1-18 that form the stiffest challenge here. I disagree with the book True Links, which asserts that “it is the third nine that provides the true links experience” – just because those original holes are located closest to the coastline doesn’t mean they’re any better than the newer 18-hole layout.
As a matter of fact, they’re easily the poorest holes on the 27-hole property, with the final four playing alongside or over tidal inlets in a very un-linkslike fashion at the end of the round. No, the 1-18 course is definitely the one that matters, with firm and fast conditions prevalent throughout the layout.
Water hazards do come into play on occasion – there are small ponds to carry at holes 2 and 13 (stroke index 1 and 2) and burns cross the fairways at both the 7th and 12th – but, in the main, this is good quality links golf that would not be out of place around the coastline of the British Isles.
The round ends in bittersweet style, with the sweet coming before the bitter, actually: the par four 17th is probably the best hole at Ljunghusen (doglegging left past a small pond to a green that’s protected by beautifully revetted bunkers), followed by the par five 18th which now plays to a newly positioned home green next to the shore with a huge area of “dead ground” sitting in front of the putting surface.
Perhaps the fairway definition will become clearer as the newly configured hole beds in but, for now, it’s an unsatisfactory way to conclude a round that deserves to end on a real high.