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Off Piste: Is Stockholm, Sweden Golf’s Best Kept Secret?

Stockholm, the Capital of Sweden, known as the Venice of the North for its multitude of islands and bridges, is one of the most historic and unique cities to visit in Europe. Probably more interestingly for our community, it was also the setting for our recent golf trip where we checked out some of the most highly recommended golf courses in the area.

When you think Sweden, you probably think of Reindeer, meatballs and flat-pack furniture, but beyond the known commodities is a deep and vibrant golf scene, from country clubs to municipal courses and absolutely world-class golf destinations. Sweden, and specifically Stockholm, has it all.

For a fine example of what the rest of Sweden has to offer, Google Visby Golf Sweden (the home of Alex Noren)!

The country has a rich golfing history, with the game proving hugely popular among its population. That interest is of course driven by the success of the likes of the GOAT of the women's game, Annika Sorenstam and the 'Iceman' Henrik Stenson, but you can trace the real explosion in numbers back to the 1960s when sports star Sven Tumba first picked up a golf club and helped dispel the myth that the game was only for the elite.

The trip to Stockholm involved a short 3hr skip over the North Sea, escaping the inferno on the British Isles (where temperatures reached 40 degrees celsius) to a sun-soaked Sweden. We basked in high 20s/low 30s for the entirety of the visit, didn't pack any sunscreen, and got hilariously burnt on day two due to our own stupidity. But I digress; let's get to the golf.

Our trip started in the outskirts of the city for two days at our host's home course, Fagelbro Golf and Country Club, before taking in Royal Drottningholms, Bro Hof (both courses) and finishing at the recently renovated Stockholms GolfKlubb.

At this point, I should mention that our welcome in Sweden was spectacular. Everyone went out of their way to make our visit beyond memorable. Swedish golf feels much more of a day experience than at home in the UK. Shot savers were handed out free of charge, and trolleys were an expected courtesy by the trip's end.

As someone who religiously carries, taking a break for a week was a nice change. It also means one less thing to worry about if you do make the trip!

Now, on to the courses.

Fagelbro (fur-gel-BRUR) Golf and Country Club - Varmdo, Stockholm.

Par: 73
Length: 6,603 Yards
Architect: Tomas Hagma

As mentioned, this was our first stop. We went straight from the plane to an evening 18-hole stroll to acclimatise to the Swedish golfing landscape. I had visited the country once before, and on the drive in I was reminded of how rocky and harsh the country appears in and around Stockholm, leading me to wonder just how this could be married to golf courses that rely so much on beauty and rolling grassland. The answer came immediately and vigorously.

Fagelbro was stunningly interwoven, as if the golf course itself had always been at home within this unforgiving landscape.

The practice facilities were in fabulous condition with two heavily undulated practice putting/chipping greens. The range was short  (driver was probably not an option for most) with a standard range ball machine and hitting exclusively off mats. Certainly not state of the art, but did the job nicely and the putting greens were excellent.

The clubhouse and very well stocked shop are separate, the clubhouse serves amazing pizzas in a greenhouse that maintains a pleasant temperature even on the hottest of days. Grabbing a refreshing post-round drink and watching people play down the 18th is an absolute dream, and I can see the vast appeal of membership to such a well provisioned Country Club

Fagelbro makes the most of elevation and rocky outcroppings,  the landscape you are set to encounter is evident on the elevated tee box of the semi-blind opening hole. No two holes here play alike, and often the big miss is unsalvageable. One wrong move and I was headed for the pine trees that sit between the rocks or between the rocks themselves, with little hope of success short of punching back toward the immaculately manicured fairways.

The greens were shockingly fast, undulating and true; a step up from what I usually see in my local area and quite a challenge to get to grips with. Sliders that seemed pretty routine would often leave you 8 feet downhill and scared of putting any pace on the ball on the way back up, to avoid a trickling putt downhill. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was more than one 4-putt in our group on day one.

While it's not the longest of courses, the layout and greens provide more than enough defence for the amateur golfer, all set against a stunning landscape which backs on to a private estate of the Royal line of Sweden. Some of the fariways appear to have been raised from the water around which the course is routed, which provides some harrowing '1 bad bounce and that is in definitely wet' moments.

After recent bunker redesigns (in particular on the double green shared by the par-3 9th and the par-4 18th) the course is of such fantastic quality I was surprised to have heard nothing about it before making the journey. On a course full of great holes I was a big fan of 12. It's a partially blind uphill par-4 with rocks left and a fairway which angles to the left, with a beautiful green site that was only really reachable with a well-placed tee shot. It beat me 2 times out of 2.

I would go as far as to say Fagelbro is a must-play in the region, but this was purely for starters. The big 3 of Drottningholms, Bro Hof and Stockholms Golfklubb were yet to come.

Royal Drottningholms GC - Drottningholm, Stockholm

Par: 72
Length: 6,830 Yards
Architect: Rafael Sundblom / Nils Sköld - Renovated by Johan Benestam

First things first, and this is a big statement: this was the best condition golf course I have ever played. The way the fairway and green surrounds were cut, it was like there was no change in grass length. Check out the picture below which was from about 20 yards out on the fairway, for an example of just how tight the greenkeepers were able to get them and still with 100% perfect coverage.

The gigantic practice putting green at Drottningholms was in immaculate condition and it ran insanely fast. After filling a bucket of balls from the machine, I headed to the arced driving range bays on practice mats that were in really good condition. They also have a practice short hole which was as unexpected as it was exceptionally well maintained. The Pro shop needs a mention too. It was big and well stocked with a friendly, chatty pro behind the bench, you would feel right at home instantly, and this isn't really my normal standard of golf course!

After the round I explored the large clubhouse and had lunch in the restaurant (great pasta by the way). They have a lot of historic information around and a beautiful little lounge area where you can sit and spend time. It's unquestionably a quality facility.

We played the course on the hottest day of the year, so conditions were nigh on perfect. The course again makes the most of its changes in elevation but there is a lot less rock in play. I would say this is much more of a parkland feel but with rugged edges that are apparently a feature on courses all across Sweden. As mentioned a quick practice putt foretold the nightmares that the 18 holes would bring, as the greens were lightning again.

The course meanders through the Royal Estate as Drottningholms (every Swede can tell you where this is, as it's very famous among the population). It's an undulating property with water occasionally in play, as well as stands of trees which the holes bend around or incorporate into their tee shots.

This was arguably the toughest test of golf from the trip. It played long and I rarely spotted an 'easy' miss from the tee, or a lay up that didn't leave an insanely long approach shot into the contoured slick greens. In general, you need solid ball-striking and an impressive short game to walk away with a good number here.

My favourite hole is the 18th, which I absolutely butchered by chunking my 2 iron into the drink. It's a beautiful par-3 with a long carry over the water (definitely 3 wood at least if into wind) that rises up to the clubhouse, with a green that has a false front and probably six really challenging pin positions.

But picking a favourite hole is a challenge as this place really is stunning. Honourable mentions to the dogleg par 4 14th which begs longer hitters to try to carry an imposing thicket of trees, and the par 5 4th with it's split fairways and tremendous bunkering. There are great approach shots everywhere and no two holes appear the same. If you can hit it well off the tee, you'll be in for a fantastic day's golf.

Bro Hof Slott(bruh hOrf slott) Stadium Course - Bro, nr Stockholm

Par: 72
Length: 8,056 Yards (Black Tee)
Architect: Robert Trent Jones Jr

The practice facilities here are off-the-charts good. You have multiple chipping and putting greens (again, the greens are stupid fast), a giant driving range where you hit ProV1s off mats (and grass if the weather allows), and I found it all in pristine condition on the day.

The clubhouse at Bro Hof is a literal mansion where you will find beautiful food (I had Swedish meatballs this time, incredible), and plenty of areas to help yourself to tea or coffee. Basically, it's a great restaurant which also masquerades as a stunning clubhouse.

The Pro Shop is separate (seems to be a theme in Sweden) but is amazingly well stocked with everything you could possibly need. I strongly recommend the blade putter headcover which still looks brand new. You could chill out on the balcony here and be happy for the day. Lovely.

You tee off on 1 from an elevated tee box next to the 'castle'. Let's call it a castle as it's not far off! With beautiful views over 9,10,11 and 15, it offers some of the best scenery I've witnessed in golf. The 1st doesn't disappoint either. It's a long par-5 with an elevated green and bunkers basically everywhere you don't want them. It's a really fun start to your round.

The course meanders through the lakeside property on fairly flat ground, but the design of the course leaves you constantly excited for what's coming next, as rarely can you see the entirety of the next hole.

The holes jump between long and short, flat and undulated, and sometimes you'll have blind tee shots or vast bail outs you didn't know existed until you get up to your ball.

The course was designed with the intention of eventually hosting a Ryder Cup and it certainly has that grand feel. The Black tees (which are out of action for the regular golfer) stretch out to over 8,000 yards and honestly, this course feels like it doesn't need the extra yardage. It also has the uncanny ability of getting consistently better as you continue to play, ending with four great holes including back-to-back par-3s on 16 and 17.

The 17th especially is a tiny island green which totally surprises you as, for the most part, the course is GRAND in scale. Large vistas, large greens, large bunkers and an incredible routing which I should mention passes the halfway house FOUR times, so you never go long without refreshments.

Honestly I think I may have underrated this course on the day, as it felt a bit of a destination rather than a great golf course. When I think back to my visit, I have only incredibly positive memories.  

From the first tee, to the lakeside, and the great tee shots, the quick and tricky greens, beautifully perfect sand in every bunker, water in play in interesting ways - it was just a dream to play.

Bro Hof Slott(bruh hOrf slott) Castle Course - Bro, nr Stockholm

Par: 72
Length: 6,703 Yards
Architect: Robert Trent Jones Jr

The Castle Course shares facilities with the Stadium course, that is to say, it shares in its excellence.

I made a mistake with this course. I assumed it was going to be some kind of lower-level, easy afternoon to round out a day of 36 holes. Instead, I discovered the 16th best course in Sweden and a challenge that was scarcely easier than its more famous sister on the lakeside. The layout of six par-3s, six par-4s and six par-5s provides a never-stale journey through the forest and grasslands which sit adjacent to the lakeside.

The layout is a mix of woodland and heathland play, with smaller fairways and bunkers than its counterpart. For me, it's the more fun of the two to play. I went for an experience at the Stadium, but I played golf at the Castle.

The course provides more than enough of a challenge with its clever design and wild run-offs, and it shocks you with just how different a course can play, even though at one point it runs directly alongside the Stadium course, with OOB stakes that mean there's practically nothing between you and the 2nd fairway on the Stadium.

The biggest feature gives a nod to golf course design on the British side of the North Sea. The waste areas and heathland which have been incorporated seamlessly into the design are populated with mounds of grass that not only increase the difficulty of play, but the entire visual appeal of the course. Oh, and as you might expect by now, the course was in fantastic condition. It seems to be a trend in Sweden.

Any member here should think themselves lucky to have access to this course day to day. It's certainly an option that shouldn't be slept on. I would happily travel to Bro Hof just to play the Castle and call it a day.

Stockholms Golfklubb (Kevinge) - Danderyd, Stockholm

Par: 72
Length: 5,939 Yards
Architect: John Morrison, Christian Lundin

The practice facilities here offer a large practice green (for once, not lightning fast) which was very spacious and a driving range angled into the lake which was very cool. The clubhouse had a beautiful upstairs bar and seating area, with a blue-collar downstairs and pro shop.

As an initial caveat, SGK has had MAJOR works carried out since 2020. Rather than remain closed, they have opted to keep it open and it was still well worth the visit. Since 2020, all of the bunkers have been replaced (which look fantastic), four greens have been rebuilt and the entire irrigation system has been replaced.

This is quite some undertaking and you can see the signs of the work throughout the course. The greens were a little slower than the rest of the trip and the trenches for the irrigation have not been re-sod as this would have meant closing the course.

However, all that said, it was magic.

This course feels like a 1930s golf course that has been fit out to modern standards. You'll find sharp doglegs you can't make it over so you have to play around, greens surrounded by stands of trees, not to mention the huge run-offs around them. Then there's the wispy native grass which obstructs sightlines and eyebrows some of the bunkers. Even the interjection of tower blocks around some of the holes (this course is very much in the city) did nothing to detract from the charm and character of the second oldest golf course in Sweden.

I could trip up over myself talking about the holes and the flow of the course, but the real memory that sticks with me is the FEELING of playing there. I had fun on almost every shot, and every tee made me think. It was a delight and I count myself very lucky to have stumbled upon it.

We played on the same day as the guys from No Laying Up. You can see a little more about this course here, in their most recent video.

Final Thought

Perhaps when you first think of Sweden's capital and largest city, it might not necessarily scream golf holiday destination. After my trip, though, I can promise that if you do visit Stockholm and take in the city, the culture, the Scandinavia-ness of it all - and then play all the golf you can manage during your stay - you will discover a fascinating land with exceptional quality both on and off the course. Highly recommended!


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