The first 18 holes at Mälarö
GK Skytteholm were built in the early 1990s for SEK 6 million (circa €600,000), small change for just about any ambitious new-build. The course is
laid out in an open landscape on light, sandy soil and the club proudly
announces on its homepage that the sand excavated during course construction
from the pit, located adjacent to the current 17th green, had exactly the right
characteristics for building greens. This is not a surprise, as the Mälarö
islands have kept Stockholm’s construction sector supplied with sand and gravel
for much of the last 100 years. If you let your eyes wander off the road on
your way to the course you will notice a number of gravel pits, at least one of
which is still active. This subsoil gives the course a longer season than most
other layouts in the Stockholm area.
It was perhaps also not a coincidence that the club did not plant trees all over the course to create a parkland feel, as has been the prevailing fashion in golf course design. Architect Tommy Nordström was always inspired by traditional British links and heathland golf courses and used this inspiration in his work whenever the land permitted, as can be seen by his work in southern Sweden, at Degeberga-Widtsköfle and Österlen’s Djupadal course, but Mälarö is perhaps his purest “inland links” and certainly one of the few such courses in the Stockholm area.
Mälarö Golf Club actively promotes the ground game and wind is almost always a factor when playing the course. The collection of flags welcoming you as you drive in (most other clubs have them at the clubhouse, here they stand in the middle of the course) also help with judging wind direction and speed, whichever hole you happen to be playing. The only exception is the par five 9th, played in its own splendid isolation in the nearby woods.
A further nine holes were built on adjacent, slightly lower lying land in 2003. These holes (numbered 19-27) therefore have more water in the line of play and are regarded as the toughest. The only water on the first 18 holes comprise of ponds on the 11th and the 12th holes, which are not directly in the line of play.
The course is laid out in three loops of nine, all returning to the clubhouse. However, holes 1-18 have formed the regular 18-hole course ever since the resurfacing of all 18 greens was completed in 2014.
Recent years have been tough economically for many golf clubs and Mälarö has been no exception, so a merger/combination with nearby Troxhammar GC was perhaps more of a necessity than a choice. The policy of not watering the fairways of the 19-27 loop could also be viewed in that light. However, these holes have recently offered Stockholm-based golfers a taste of real fast-running fairways, a treat for the purist if there ever was one.
In any case, the club is not standing still and a forward fifth tee has been built on most holes. These forward tees, together with extra beginner’s tees on holes 19-27, should make the course more welcoming for novice golfers while still entertaining their more accomplished friends. Hopefully, this will also enable the club to continue offering its unique blend of Swedish and Scottish open country golf.Finally, we must mention the practice facilities. Mälarö has the full set, not only a driving range and a couple of putting greens, but also a 6-hole short course and two areas for approach shot practice with own golf balls. Mälarö is therefore one of few places where perfection-minded Stockholm-based golfers can observe their divots when practising full iron shots.
You can almost always get a game at Mälarö as the starting sheet is not as busy as it is most days at nearby Drottningholm or other quality courses near Stockholm.
Why is this? I think the vast majority of Stockholm golfers simply do not “get it”. They prefer their fairways tree-lined but also green and soft and therefore have a hard time picking out where that slice bounced into the high grass.
The latter is actually no longer a factor unless you hit it very far and way off line at the same time. The club has done an admirable job of widening the semi-rough and holding it down, even to the point of significantly lower course and slope ratings compared to a few years ago.
What you almost always get at Mälarö is good practice playing in the wind. Furthermore, if you pick the right time in the season you can also enjoy fast running fairways, certainly on holes 19-27. However, it is a pity that drainage is not better around the greens as more than one apron is often too soft to offer a more comprehensive links-like experience.
Clearly behind the top names in the region (Bro Hof, Ullna, Drottningholm), but the design is good enough to qualify into the group of courses below. Design 4 balls, Conditioning 3 balls. Practice facilities 5 balls, Club-house/Ambiance 2 balls....Overall verdict = just about 4 balls