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Top 100 Golf Courses revises its Nordic rankings

23 January, 2014

Top 100 Golf Courses revises its 2014 Nordic rankings

Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden are the latest European countries to receive a Top 100 ranking review

Top 100 Golf Courses has been ranking courses in the Nordic region of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden since 2008. Although best known in a sporting context for winter activities, these nations are home to around a thousand golf courses. Our advice is to pack your skis during the winter and your golf clubs during the summer.

We’re not going to dwell on Norwegian golf courses here and now because we published our latest Norway rankings back in October 2013. Click the link if you missed that release which was titled: Jan Nordstrom plays every 18-hole course in Norway.

Our 2014 Icelandic Top 10 remains exactly as it was in 2012, so the title of Iceland’s premier course remains firmly in the grasp of the wonderful Hannes Þorsteinsson-designed Keilir, which narrowly missed our new Continental European Top 100. However, one Icelandic golf project worth hoping for is the proposed true links course called Black Sand, if it ever happens it will become the most northerly links in the world. Course designer Nick Faldo commented as follows: “There are some very interesting features here – not least of all the black volcanic sand that will make up the bunkers – and I’m confident that this course will help to put Icelandic golf firmly on the map.” We recently checked the situation with the office of Faldo Design. Sadly the Black Sand project is still on hold.

Finland is undeniably one of Europe’s unsung golfing nations. There are only 130 or so golf courses in the entire country but Finns should be justifiably proud that a fair number of these are veritable belters. We visited Finland last year and sampled the delights of Kytaja and can echo the opinion of one recent reviewer who commented: “All in all there is nothing but class at this destination and its obvious why [Kytaja (South East) features within the Top 50 in Europe.” If you find yourself in Helsinki we thoroughly recommend both courses at Kytaja and also, a little further to the north, Tom Lobb’s Linna, which together provide a near perfect Finnish golfing threesome.

We are so impressed with golf in Finland that we’ve extending our Finnish rankings from a Top 20 to a Top 25. Ron Fream told us quite a bit about Paltamo – set on the shore of Lake Oulu – and it’s our highest new Finnish entry, straight in at #7. “With ample space we created large rambling greens that were well defended with aggressive bunkering. The combination of huge water views, majestic shiny birch and towering fir trees, along with inland streams and lakes, presents a memorable challenge.”

We’ve featured the Old course at Tahko Golf Club on the Top 100 website for years, but it’s the New course at Tahko that storms straight in at position #8. Set close to the sparkling waters of Lake Syväri, the New was unveiled in 2008 and it’s the second Jan Sederholm-designed layout at this impressive golf club. The Seaside course at Pickala makes way for a further quartet of new entries, most of which will cause serious pronunciation problems for native English speaking readers: Viipurin (Etela-Saimaa), Vuosaari, Hirsala and Virpiniemi (#12, #13, #17 and #18 respectively).

My feeling is that it will take us a few more years to completely unravel Denmark’s golfing delights. We feature thirty of the country’s 200 or so golf courses but I’m convinced that there are numerous other Danish gems just waiting to be showcased. Modern courses (especially RTJ II-designed layouts) dominate the top of our Danish rankings, where one or two old-fashioned classics languish, sandwiched between the many young upstarts. Once such classic, Københavns or Royal Copenhagen, not only has to contend with all the youngsters, but also with a facility that calls itself the Royal Golf Club which, confusingly, is also located in the capital. Ron Kirby designed this new royal pretender in 2008 and it’s one of our highest new entries.

The real Royal Copenhagen dates back to 1899 and the oldest golf club in Scandinavia moves forward in our rankings. The hand of an unknown architect designed the present course back in 1928 and seventy years later Frederik Dreyer refashioned it. More recently, Tom Mackenzie of Mackenzie & Ebert Ltd was called in to update the Københavns layout and Tom kindly wrote an article for us (visit our Royal Copenhagen page to read it in full). I especially like his opening paragraph, which sums up the quirks of golf course rankings: “We can all debate the pros and cons of different courses and what weight certain characteristics should have compared to others in creating the ranking. My own preference is overall gut feeling and based on that I believe that Københavns, or Royal Copenhagen is one of the truly magical places to play golf. So much about the place is incomparable.”

It is generally accepted that the first Open played on the European continent was the French Open in 1906, won by Arnaud Massey at La Boulie. Not so, according to at least one historian of the Fano Golf Club. The claim is that the Fanø course architect, Prestwick professional Robert Dunlop, won their inaugural Open (played to mark the opening of the course) five years earlier, in 1901. Regardless of the historian’s claim, the old-fashioned Fano is one of Continental Europe’s rare true links courses and it nudges into our latest Danish Top 20.

The heir to the Lego fortune has recently engaged Nicklaus Design in an ambitious new golf project on the shore of the Great Belt near Odense. The Great Northern golf course promises to be another powerful addition to Denmark’s outstanding golfing facilities when it opens for play in 2015.

Sweden is the powerhouse of Nordic golf with more courses to play than the sum of all other Nordic countries put together. With approaching 500 layouts and more than 6 million rounds of golf played last season, Sweden is a golfing force to be reckoned with. We’ve recently looked long and hard at Sweden’s rankings and we’ve extended our table from a Top 30 in 2012 to a Top 50 this time. Ideally we’d like to showcase the country’s best hundred courses, but that job will take us at least another couple of years to complete.

The Stadium course at Bro Hof Slot remains at the top of the table and its sibling, the Castle course, nudges ever closer a Top 10 position. However, our highest new Swedish entry is Ullna Golf Club, which is located near the capital, Stockholm, and was once a highly ranked Continental European golf course. Closed in 2011 for almost two years following an extensive Nicklaus renovation, Ullna retains Sven Tumba’s original routing from the early 1980s, but new tees, re-shaped fairways, new bunkers and green complexes at all holes, make the renovated Ullna a likely candidate to return not only to Sweden’s Top 10 next time round, but also our European hundred. This time Ullna will have to accept a very creditable return to the Swedish rankings at position 15.

Kungliga Drottningholms, as the name implies, is located close to Drottningholm Palace, the residence of the King of Sweden. The royal castle is a Unesco World Heritage Site and the park and parts of the castle are open to the public, so a bit of culture is easily combined with a fine round of golf at Kungliga Drottningholm Golf Club. After 50 years of play, the club decided it was time to upgrade the course, and they engaged an upcoming architect, Johan Benestam, who, as it happens, spent his formative years as a golfer at Kungliga Drottningholms. In 2012 the revised course opened, complete with new bunkering schemes, new drainage, re-capped fairways and new green areas and it busts straight into our chart for the first time at position 19.

Top 100 Golf Courses has never claimed to present “definitive” golf course rankings. Instead, we think we produce the “most informed” listings, taking into account data and opinion from as wide a range of sources as possible. If you think we’ve missed a Nordic Gem then do let us know. And please send us a course review should you have been lucky enough to play any of our featured Nordic courses.

Keith Baxter

2014 Iceland
1 Keilir
2 Reykjavik (Grafarholt)
3 Leynir - Akranes
4 Sudurnesja (Holmsvollur)
5 Oddur (Urrida)
6 Vestmanneyjar
7 Reykjavik (Korpa)
8 Thorlakshofn
9 Kidjaberg
10 Akureyri

Click the link to see our Icelandic Top 10 in detail

2014 Finland Move
1 Kytäjä G.C. (South East) No change
2 Linna No change
3 Kytäjä G.C. (North West) No change
4 Nordcentre (Fream) No change
5 Vierumäki (Cooke) No change
6 Ruuhikoski Up 1
7 Paltamo NEW
8 Tahko (New) NEW
9 Aura No change
10 Pickala (Forest) Down 2
11 Nordcentre (Benz) Down 1
12 Viipurin (Etela-Saimaa) NEW
13 Vuosaari NEW
14 Oulun (Sanki) Down 8
15 Kymen Down 4
16 St Laurence (New) No change
17 Hirsala NEW
18 Virpiniemi NEW
19 Tahko (Old) Down 6
20 Espoo Down 8
21 Master (Master) Down 2
22 Helsinki Down 8
23 Talma (Master) Down 8
24 Sarfvik (New) Down 7
25 Kerigolf Down 7

Click the link to see our new Finnish Top 25 in detail

2014 Denmark Move
1 Scandinavian (Old) Up 1
2 Lubker (Sand & Sky) Down 1
3 Scandinavian (New) Up 2
4 Holstebro (Skovbanen - Forest) Down 2
5 Esbjerg (Marbaek) Down 1
6 Silkeborg No change
7 Simon's No change
8 Rungsted No change
9 Himmerland (PGA New) Up 12
10 Lyngbygaard Up 5
11 Skjoldnaesholm (RTJ) Down 2
12 Kobenhavn up 4
13 Stensballegaard (Brakor & Elbaek) Up 9
14 Royal - Copenhagen NEW
15 Vejle (Rød-Blå) Up 5
16 Trehøje Up 3
17 Sct. Knuds Down 7
18 Nordvestjysk Down 7
19 Fanø Up 5
20 Korsor NEW
21 Hjarbaek Fjord Down 9
22 Laesø Seaside Down 4
23 Aalborg Down 6
24 Helsingør Down 10
25 Royal Oak Down 12
26 Falster No change
27 Furesø No change
28 Samsø Down 5
29 Møn Down 4
30 Gilleleje Down 1

Click the link to see our new Danish Top 30 in detail

2014 Sweden Move
1 Bro Hof Slott (Stadium) No change
2 Visby Up 3
3 Barsebäck (Masters) Down 1
4 Falsterbo Up 2
5 Halmstad (North) Down 1
6 Vasatorps (Tournament) Down 3
7 PGA of Sweden National (Lakes) Up 1
8 Sand Up 1
9 PGA of Sweden National (Links) Up 3
10 Ljunghusen (Yellow & Red) Down 3
11 Bro Hof Slott (Castle) Up 3
12 Frosaker Down 2
13 Elisefarm No change
14 Vallda Up 1
15 Ullna NEW
16 Vidbynas (South) Up 5
17 Hills Down 6
18 Bokskogens (Old) Down 1
19 Kungliga Drottningholm NEW
20 Kristianstad (Ostra) Down 4
21 Kallfors Up 8
22 Ombergs Up 1
23 St Arild Down 3
24 Rya Down 2
25 Upsala (Old) NEW
26 Torekovs Down 7
27 Flommens NEW
28 Arlandastad (Masters) Down 1
29 Svartinge Up 1
30 Varbergs (Vastra) Down 5
31 Gronhogen Down 7
32 Goteborgs Down 4
33 LannaLodge NEW
34 Vasatorps (Classic) NEW
35 Woodlands (Cedar & Pine) NEW
36 Solvesborgs NEW
37 Fjallbacka NEW
38 Forsbacka NEW
39 Ekerum (Lange Jan) NEW
40 Katrineholms NEW
41 Kungsbacka (Gamla) NEW
42 Halmstad (South) NEW
43 Isabergs (Ostra) NEW
44 Ringenas NEW
45 Vidbynas (North) Down 27
46 Kalmar (Old) NEW
47 Sturup Park NEW
48 Vaxjo NEW
49 Falkenbergs NEW
50 Degeberga-Widtsköfle Down 24

Click the link to see our new Swedish Top 50 in detail


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