The Swedish PGA first floated the idea of a national golf centre in 1996 and it would take a decade of planning and preparation before construction began on an ambitious 45-hole complex within an estate that was formerly owned by the municipal authorities in Malmö.
Three years after work on site began in earnest, the official opening of the PGA Sweden National golf facility took place in June 2009 with only the 18 holes of the championship Links course available for play.
Twelve months later, lead shaper Peter Scott had completed the finishing touches on both the 18-hole Lakes course and a 9-hole par three layout, producing a very impressive collection of Kyle Philips-designed holes.
The number of bunkers on the Lakes course averages four per hole, the same as the Links course, but the traps on the Lakes occupy an area three times that of the other course so golfers can expect to use their sand wedge quite a bit if they stray off line here.
A lake forms the main feature at the closing holes on each nine. The 9th hole plays down one side of the water hazard and on the other side, the par three 17th requires a 170-yard carry to a narrow green, followed by a treacherous home hole that follows the lake from tee to green with water down the entire left hand side of the fairway.
Some might raise an eyebrow at such an overtly American design appearing in Scandinavia but the Swedish PGA certainly have no qualms about marketing the Lakes course as “a beautiful piece of Florida in the heart of Skåne”.
The Scandinavian Masters, sponsored by Nordea, was first played on the Lakes course in 2014, which resulted in a play-off win for Thongchai Jaidee, who denied Stephen Gallacher of his second tournament win of the year. The event returns to the PGA of Sweden National golf facility in 2015.
What can go wrong if you have plenty of land and an unlimited budget? Not much; large green complexes and runway tees can be built. But too many places like PGA Sweden end up with Orlando-style golf a la Championsgate - Imagine an overly large Florida golf course in the middle of nowhere - just without the nice landscaping and cart girls but with bad food and worse weather.
Sometimes designers try too hard to create excitement - too many hills, slopes, creeks, large lakes or 150 yard waste bunkers -without adding anything - (for artificial links golf see Kingsbarns) - for me that is the case here. You could cut the amount of hazards in half and the course would not change.
I nominate the 16th hole as the worst designed hole in Europe. It is another 450+ yard par 4 into the prevailing wind. The tee shot has to land on a ridge, falling off right to the bushes and left to the water hazard - but don't go over 250 yards or you will end up in a creek. The second shot from over 200 yards into the wind can then end up either left out of bounds or right in the water hazard. The par 3 17 and par 5 18th around a large lake seem too contrived to be exciting. Despite such golf course design accidents I actually enjoyed playing the course. You hardly ever get an even lie and there are countless ways to play the holes. But who would ever want to be a member on that monstrosity and be forced to play it 20 times a year?
You might argue that any fool with a bit of a budget could dig a big pond and route a par 3 17th and a par 5 18th alongside it. If you have watched golf tournaments on TV I bet that you have seen a few examples. However, Kyle Philips has succeeded in making this course not just playable, but also enjoyable for all categories.
Let us examine the par 3 17th as an example: it is 180 meters (208 yds) from the tips, water all the way to a bunker then bunkers behind and right, exactly where you might subconsciously think of bailing out. Wind almost always a factor. Anything remotely to the left is in the water. Tough? As it should be, the tee 68 (as in 6800 meters+, Sweden is moving away from the traditional white-yellow-blue-red tee colours to entice golfers to choose the right tee for their playing level rather than their gender) is built to decide tournaments for professional golfers at the top level. Now consider the proposition from the most forward tee 48: 96 meters (105 yds) angled so that a straight shot can roll on to the green. The water and the bunkers lurk more as lateral hazards than something that forces a carry out of a beginner/young junior/old senior uncomfortable with such challenges.
Since you have come to this website to read this review you might have played a few courses in your life already. Now think how many of these championship layouts you could play with your beginner friend/loved one/young daughter/old parent with both of you enjoying it? Surprisingly many of the classics and disappointingly few of the modern beasts would be my answer. Thankfully both courses at PGA Sweden fall into the right category, which is one major reason I rate them so highly.
Last point: you might conceivably also have come to this website to decide which courses to pick for a trip to the area. The tradition of Falsterbo, and its seaside neighbours at Flommen and Ljunghusen, is hard to argue with, if that indeed is what you are after. However, if you would be hesitating between a day at Vasatorp, at Barsebäck or at PGA Sweden my advice would be to pick PGA....and to – absolutely - play both courses. The Lakes course is only my no.2 at PGA Sweden!