Vallda is located in Kungsbacka just south of Sweden's second largest city Gothenburg. In the Göteborg area you will find some 30 quality golf courses, amongst them Sweden's oldest course, Göteborg Golf Club and the modern Hills Golf Club. Making its mark in such a fine company is a tall order, but the team at Vallda Golf & Country club has managed to deliver against the promise.
The vision was to create a course with the playing qualities of the classic heathland courses and renowned architect Martin Hawtree and his associate Caspar Grauballe created a course that although not particularly long is a fair test for both the low and high handicap player. It is generous from the tee for the long handicap player, and for the short handicap player the tricky green areas present an exhilarating challenge.
Vallda is quite open and relatively flat and with the wavy tall fescue contrasting the green fairways it is particularly visually pleasing. Although the course is still relatively young, the playing surfaces already exhibit the firm qualities one would expect to find on a quality heathland course.
The secret behind the club’s unusually firm and fast playing surfaces lies in the environmentally conscious maintenance practices – minimum fertiliser and irrigation and generous applications of sand, which encourages a deeper grass root zone. As a result the club has been able to retain the red fescue sown all the way from tee to green a decade ago despite not being blessed with naturally sandy soil throughout the property.
What makes Vallda such a fun course to play is without doubt the green areas. Boldly bunkered and craftily undulated demand excellent course management, and depending on the pin placement, a number of approach options are available, from the high pitch, to the classic bump and run. Regardless of the choice it will require crisp execution as the greens are quite firm where a misjudged shot will quickly leave a tricky chip to save par.
In an area with many fine courses, Vallda is surely one of the finest.
We went back to Vallda twice in July this year. I liked all the things I enjoyed about the design last time (see review below), but regret to admit that the speed of the bone dry fairways, and some greens, caught me out a few times more than I would have liked. Note to self: be more careful about club selection, in particular let the big stick stay in the bag if not able to hit it exactly where you want it on the day. Members point out that the course is greener, and therefore plays a bit easier in spring and autumn, so keep this in mind when planning to visit the course.
The firm and fast playing surfaces are a result of a conscious maintenance regime (minimum water and fertiliser) which is still far from usual in Sweden. Hills Golf Club, the rival for the local top spot in rankings with a more American style profile and (probably) a bigger budget, had to relay greens ahead of hosting the Scandinavian Masters this year.
Another benefit of this low input regime seems to have been to survive the unusually hot and dry summer this year without significant damage. It must have been a close shave though, because strict hosepipe bans were in full force and water levels in the ponds were very low. Again, Hills had to concede defeat by taking the ignominious step of allowing placement of balls on fairways (preferred lies) during the Scandinavian Masters in mid-August.
Vallda is also the place to choose in the Gothenburg region if you like to combine your golf with really good food, but remember to check kitchen opening hours before booking your tee-off time to avoid disappointment.