Swedes have traditionally associated the Österlen (South East Skåne) region with farmland and apple orchards, but there are large forested areas as well. Devotees of Scandinavian crime novels (aka Nordic noir) might also recognise many names of places where Inspector Kurt Wallander has solved mysteries after grisly deeds have been done. The region is very popular as a summer and retirement destination.
Österlens Golfklubb was founded in 1945 when local doctor Johann Lehmann enlisted the help of Rafael Sundblom to lay out the first six holes on the seaside meadows at Vik north of Simrishamn. In 1951, nine holes were in play. The house behind today’s 14th green served as the clubhouse in those days. It is now a private residence.
The club enlisted member and then unproven golf architect Tommy Nordström to expand the course. In 1979 the current 18 holes at Lilla Vik opened for play with only the current 13th and 14th left from the 1951 nine-hole course. Nordström was well established in 2001 when he designed the club’s other course at Djupadal, five minutes drive away from Lilla Vik.
Work in 2012-14 by Pierre Fulke and Adam Mednick (former tour players turned architects) to improve the course and its playability resulted in a set of front tees, which enable beginners to play a shorter course. Bunkers were also rebuilt and mowing lines tweaked to create a more modern look.
Overall, at not much more than 5,800 meters (6,400 yards) from the back tees, Lilla Vik is a course where it is more important to have your brain switched on than to be able to hit it very far. The opening hole at 305 meters from the back tees is a case in point. A drive of over 240 meters can fly the three bunkers on the right to leave no more than a pitch into the green, but this requires precision, so maybe a mid-iron to the heart of the fairway followed by a full wedge or short iron is a safer route to par.
The 6th green provides the first panoramic view of the Baltic Sea and is probably the most photographed vista on the course. The routing then takes you back to the clubhouse. If you are lucky to play the 9th hole when the surrounding apple trees are in full bloom you are unlikely to forget that view. Otherwise, most visitors tend to appreciate the stretch between 13 and 17, played along the sea front, before the 18th takes you back to the clubhouse.
Österlen, the eastern part of Skåne is a favourite vacation region for many Swedes. The golfers among them also seem to have a long-standing love affair with Lilla Vik. I can understand; the course has nice views over the Baltic, although without being a links course. It is not overly long either and consequently demands more of your golfing brain than your driving muscles, especially after the recent renovations by Pierre Fulke and Adam Mednick (disclaimer: I played the course before). Another great plus in my book is that you can stay at the course. There are few things that inspire to “just another round” like waking up to birdsong mixed with the soft sound of balls hit from the driving range!