At Vidbynäs you will find two top class courses, the North, formerly known as the Axa, and the South course, both designed by the renowned architects Brian Curley and Lee Schmidt.
The South course is laid out on mostly open country and has a distinct links character and is aggressively bunkered. Picking the right line of play is one of the qualities of the course and it’s an exhilarating challenge. There are a number of great holes worth mentioning.
The fairly short 3rd is a gorgeous par four with a central fairway bunker that creates an interesting strategic challenge. The more you favour the safer right side of the fairway, the more you bring in two large greenside bunkers that protect the angled green from the line of your approach. The wonderful par three 7th sits perched upon a small hill with the green angled and protected by three cavernous bunkers. When the pin is on the back right, you need both luck and tremendous skill to attack the flag.
The South course is routed in two returning nine-hole loops, and on the back nine don’t be fooled by the short par four 12th; either go for it, or lay up safely. It looks rather easy on the card, where some adopt the “I’ll just knock one out there” approach, but that plan is sure to get you into trouble. The green is well defended and is a tricky surface, so yes; it's short, but absolutely no push over.
Another short par four is the 16th, the cavernous bunkers framing the fairway look intimidating, but the tee shot is slightly uphill, and you need to carry 240 meters from the club tees to find them. It’s a visual gem and a great example of cerebral bunkering.
The signature hole of the South course is undoubtedly the par three 17th. The elevated tee offers a splendid view of the clubhouse and resort area. Club selection is crucial, anything short, left, right or long is not advised and the green is wide and narrow to the line of play. It’s a cracking short hole.Following the round, find time to enjoy a beverage of your choice on the clubhouse patio and make sure that you have a good view of the 9th as many will try to make it in two on this short par five. With water edging the green to the left and the rest guarded by huge bunkers it is rather entertaining.
Many bunkers as well as large greens are the hallmarks of this modern layout. The design often favours approaches from one side of the fairway, but unless your iron play is absolutely magical on the day your ability to place recoveries from sand and long putts close to the hole will be key to scoring well here.
If there are slightly too many large bunkers of the same type for my taste, I liked other aspects of the design more: two short par 4s late in the round at 12th and 15th, teasing you to have a go and two difficult par 3s at 13th and 17th, where par will be an excellent score. These four holes on the back nine are likely to be decisive in any match-play situation.
Golf South Stockholm, a merger between Vidbynäs and Kallfors are marketing themselves as having the three best tracks in the southern part of Stockholm and that is probably true. However, the best courses in the whole Stockholm region, located north (Bro Hof, Ullna) and west (Royal Drottningholm), do offer much more consistent conditioning throughout the season.
Worth four balls assuming summer season conditioning, but not better than any of the 14 Swedish courses ranked above which I have played.