- Top 100 Golf Courses updates its Nordic rankings 2018
Top 100 Golf Courses updates its Nordic rankings 2018
Top 100 Golf Courses updates its Nordic rankings 2018
In a repeat of what we did when we re-ranked the Nordic countries two years ago, we’re issuing a joint news release for the five Northern European countries that we cover in this region – namely Iceland, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden. More observant browsers might also notice we’ve increased the Swedish chart to a Top 60 so we now feature a total of 170 Nordic courses, eighteen of which also appear in our Continental Europe Top 100.
Golf in these five nations dates as far back to 1888, when Edward Milner set out a 6-hole course for the Sager family within the Ryfors private estate, which lies 27 km northwest of Jönköping in Sweden. A few years later, Milner’s son extended the course to a 9-hole layout and it remained in operation until 1920. Ryfors Golf Club was formed in 1988 to mark the hundredth anniversary of the course’s formation and a new 18-hole course was laid out on the same estate.
These days, more than nine hundred clubs look after the golfing needs of almost 900,000 registered players in the Nordic countries, where the game appears to be just as popular as it ever was. According to KPMG in its Golf Participation Report for Europe 2017, it reckoned there had been an increase in affiliated golf membership of just under 1% across the combined five countries for the period 2015-16.
The report showed that Sweden was Europe’s leading light for junior golfers as it has 46,000 young people signed up, and the Swedes also register the 3rd highest number of female golfers, a total of 118,000 women. Nordic nations also led the way within the Top 10 European markets in terms of participation rate relative to the number of registered golfers in 2016. Iceland and Sweden occupied 1st and 2nd place, Denmark and Finland were ranked 5th and 6th, with Norway in 8th place.
The 18-hole Hvaleyrarvöllur course at Golfklúbburinn Keilir is still the number 1 track in Iceland. It’s a totally unique design, with the front nine routed across an ancient lava field and the back nine set out on a small promontory at the entrance of Hafnarfjordur harbour, with spectacular views across to Snaefellsjokull glacier and the Alftanes peninsula.
Back in June last year, a reviewer expressed concern about the fairways of the club’s 9-hole Sveinskotsvllur layout sitting dangerously close to the back nine on the main course but, in fairness, any misgivings he had were alleviated somewhat by the “joy in playing the front nine Lava course” which was “definitely an experience and an adventure you must play.”
A couple of courses make upward moves in the new national Top 10, both of them rising two places.
Golfklúbbur Vestmannaeyja (our new number 2) is the third oldest golf club in Iceland (founded with a 9-hole layout in 1938) and its present-day course is host to the annual Volcano Open. Golfklúbburinn Leynir (at number 4) is the other climber and the club, which celebrated its fiftieth year in business during 2015, is where Iceland’s first European Tour professional, Birgir Leifur Hafporsson, plays when he’s at home.
We have one new entry and it’s the 12-hole layout at Golfklúbbur Brautarholt at number 9. Designed by Edwin Roald, the course was only extended to its current configuration last year, with the addition of three new holes. Roald, one of the more progressive thinkers in the world of golf course architecture, questions why we always seem to impose either a 9-hole or 18-hole design on a property when perhaps the best solution is setting out a course with its own unique number of holes, based entirely on local conditions – hence the 12 holes at Brautarholt.
To view further details of the Iceland Top 10 click the link.
This is the fifth time we’ve reappraised the listings for Finland which were first published in 2008. Retaining the position it has held in all previous editions, the South East course at Kytäjä Golf remains as the national number 1. Designed by Canadian architect Thomas McBroom, the course forms only 50% of the golfing component at a wonderful 36-hole facility located an hour’s drive north of Helsinki. With the front nine playing through forested terrain and the back nine laid out alongside Lake Kytäjä, it’s very much a game of two halves at this enchanting new millennium track.
Sixty kilometres further north, the course at Linna Golf is still in the number 2 position. A Tim Lobb design from when he worked at European Golf Design in 2004, this course has hosted a number of important international amateur and professional events, the most recent of which was the European Tour Properties Senior Classic last June. The course advanced fifteen spots to number 74 in our Continental Europe Top 100 last month, with Kytäjä (South East) falling eight places to number 61 in the same standings so some might surmise the gap at the top of the Finnish table has just got a little tighter.
There are three new entries in our Finland Top 30 with the highest debutant, the Rock course at the 36-hole Nokia River Golf facility, making a big splash at number 13. Laid out on the edge of Lake Kulovesi, near Tampere, this 18-hole layout only opened in September 2016 as a redesign of an older course by Lassi Pekka Tilander. The architect added eleven new holes to seven existing holes from the former 27-hole complex to fashion a new 18-hole course and these fairways now sit alongside eighteen of the old holes in the newly named River course.
|1||Kytäjä G.C. (South East)||No change|
|3||Kytäjä G.C. (North West)||Up 3|
|4||Viipurin (Etela-Saimaa)||Down 1|
|5||Nordcentre (Fream)||Down 1|
|6||Tahko (Old)||Up 1|
|8||Pickala (Forest)||No change|
|10||Nordcentre (Benz)||Down 5|
|11||Vierumäki (Cooke)||Up 1|
|12||Lakeside (Pirunpelto)||Up 3|
|13||Nokia River (Rock)||New entry|
|14||Levi Golf||Down 1|
|15||St Laurence (New)||Down 4|
|16||Pickala (Seaside)||Up 1|
|18||Tahko (New)||Up 4|
|24||Oulun (Sanki)||Up 2|
|25||Pickala (Park)||Down 4|
|26||Master (Master)||Up 4|
|27||Sarfvik (New)||Down 4|
|29||Talma (Master)||New entry|
To view further details of the Finland Top 30 click the link.
The big news for Norway is that it has a new number 1 course, the much celebrated Lofoten Links (rising nineteen places from number 20), which also entered our European Top 100 at number 51 last month. Something of a labour of love for architect Jeremy Turner, who transformed a basic 6-hole track on the remote island of Gimsøya in the far north of the country into one of the best 18-hole links layouts on the continent, the course occupies a fabulous coastal setting, with one reviewer saying “the views are just gorgeous to the extent that the golf is almost incidental”. It’s a bit of trek to play here (and that’s really an understatement) but we think it’s one worth making for the intrepid golfer who fancies a mid-summer midnight match on the links inside the Arctic Circle.
Another couple of courses move up the table within the Top 10. The first of these is Kongsvinger (up four to number 4), a Peter Nordwall-designed tree-lined track located an hour and a half’s drive northeast of Oslo, and the second one is Nøtterøy, situated a 90-minute drive in the opposite direction from the capital in the heart of Vestfold, where the aforementioned Jeremy Turner carved out the eighteen fairways from a largely forested landscape in 2003.
Further down the chart, two more courses enjoy a positive impact on their new Norwegian standings: Kragerø (up seven to 20), a coastal resort course where a relaxing game of cart golf is often the norm for visiting players and Tyrifjord (up five to 21), which enjoys an idyllic location on the small island of Storøya in Tyrifjorden Lake, with a terrific mix of woodland and seaside holes laid out on an undulating property.
There are two newcomers to the new Norwegian rankings, both of them appearing in the final two positions at number 29 and 30. The course at Valdres (#29) is a lovely 9-hole layout from the prolific Jeremy Turner, set out on the southern edge of the Aurdalsfjorden, where six of the holes actually touch the water’s edge. The course at Haga Golfklubb (#30) has been renovated recently by Johan Benestam (with the architect upgrading drainage and bunkering) and the Gul and Rød nines at this 27-hole facility make the cut in our revised national Top 30.
|1||Lofoten Links||Up 19|
|12||Byneset (Nord)||No change|
|14||Moss & Rygge||Down 4|
|15||Sola (Mesterskapsbanen)||Up 1|
|19||Losby (Østmork)||Down 1|
|22||Gamle Fredrikstad||No change|
To view further details of the Norway Top 30 click the link.
The Old course at The Scandinavian holds onto its number 1 status in our Top 40 for Denmark – just! The Robert Trent Jones Jnr design took over the top spot from Lübker in 2014 and has managed to stay ahead of the pack since then, despite intense pressure from other contenders. A couple of the Top 100 Team visited The Scandinavian recently and were impressed by what they found: “built on an epic scale, with an absolutely fabulous, cathedral-like modern clubhouse at the epicentre of a beautiful 500-acre property, the Scandinavian is home to a pair of ravishing Robert Trent Jones Jnr 18-hole courses that epitomise new money, high-end golf at its very best”. It’s certainly the best 36-hole venue in Danish golf but for how long will the Old course remain the #1 layout?
We ask that question because it was almost ousted from its lofty position during the current re-ranking process by a new kid on the golfing block, Great Northern, which only opened last summer, and it makes its chart debut in the runner-up position. This 27-hole facility is a big budget, no-expense-spared development from Nicklaus Design that careered into our Continental Europe Top 100 at number 27 last month, the second highest new entry in ten years of publishing that particular chart. A few of the Top 100 Team played the course last year, attracting comments like “absolutely top drawer” and “perfectly polished”. Expect to see prestigious tournaments played here in the near future as this is a club with big ambitions, both on and off the course.
The leading six courses in our Danish Top 40 make it into the European hundred, so there’s no doubt about the top quality of golf to be found in the Jutland peninsula. Further down the listings, three courses make noteworthy progress: Hvide Klit, the most northerly course in the country (up three to number 17), Aalborg, the second oldest club in Denmark (up five to number 21), and Royal Oak, which was laid out on the west bank of Lake Jels by Jens Malling and Per Gundtoft in the early 1990s (up five to number 29).
|1||Scandinavian (Old)||No change|
|2||Great Northern||New entry|
|3||Lubker (Sand & Sky)||Down 1|
|4||Scandinavian (New)||No change|
|5||Esbjerg (Marbæk)||Down 2|
|6||Holstebro (Skovbanen - Forest)||Down 1|
|7||Silkeborg (Syd-Vest)||Down 1|
|8||Lyngbygaard (18-hole)||No change|
|10||Simon's (A & B)||Down 3|
|11||Stensballegaard (Brakor & Elbaek)||Down 1|
|13||Skjoldenæsholm (Trent Jones Jr.)||No change|
|14||Royal Golf Club||Down 2|
|15||Himmerland (Backtee)||Down 1|
|17||Hvide Klit||Up 3|
|18||Ledreborg Palace||Down 3|
|20||Furesø (Farum & Hestkøbsgård)||Down 3|
|22||H.C. Andersen||Down 3|
|24||Vejle (Parken & Skoven)||Down 3|
|26||Sct. Knuds||Down 1|
|27||Hjarbæk Fjord (Nord & Syd)||Down 4|
|29||Royal Oak||Up 5|
|30||Laesø Seaside||Down 2|
|38||Korsør (Old)||Down 5|
To view further details of the Denmark Top 40 click the link.
The top six positions remain unaltered from our 2016 ranking revision for Sweden, so that means the Stadium course at Bro Hof Slott is still our number 1 course for this country, a position it has held since 2010. Host venue for five of the last eight editions of the European Tour’s Nordea Masters event, the Stadium layout is a Robert Trent Jones Jnr design which has definite appeal for golfers who prefer their golf experience to be as near perfect as possible, as recently articulated by a reviewer who described the Stadium thus: “always top notch… impeccably maintained… as good as it can get” and he went on to say: “the clubhouse is by far the nicest in Sweden and the spa and locker rooms are what you would expect”.
Entering the Top 10 for the first time as it leaps four places to number 12 (also retaining its membership of the European Top 100 at #100), the course at Vallda Golf & Country Club near Kungsbacka lies 30 kilometres south of Gothenburg, where Martin Hawtree laid out the fairways in the style of a fast-running heathland track. In the words of the architect, the course has been set out using design components such as “characteristic bunkers and intriguing rolling greens (and) water features to challenge the players on several holes with multiple options for reaching the green.” It’s a great place to practice your ground game around greens that are boldly bunkered and cleverly contoured.
Further down the standings, two courses make exceptional eight-place jumps into the top half of the table: the first of these is at Torekovs Golfklubb (at number 24), where a couple of holes on the 18-hole layout at the end of the Bjäre peninsula touch the coastline, and the second is LinksGolf Öland (at number 28), formerly known as Grönhögen. It's located on Öland, the second largest Swedish island, and the layout had a makeover from former European Tour professional Pierre Fulke in 2004.
The first of our twelve new entries (we’ve expanded the chart to a Top 60 so two courses – Vaxjo and Hooks (Park) – drop out) arrives at number 34 and it’s the Vesterby course at the 54-hole Landerys Golfklubb facility on the southern outskirts of Linköping, where more than 3,500 members play their golf. Located a few kilometres from the golf club’s other two layouts, the Vesterby course was acquired in 2008 and subsequently renovated by architect Johan Benestam, offering golfers a risk and reward strategy from tee to green on almost every hole.
|1||Bro Hof Slott (Stadium)||No change|
|3||Halmstad (Norra)||No change|
|6||Barsebäck (Masters)||No change|
|7||PGA of Sweden National (Links)||Up 2|
|9||Vasatorp (TC)||Down 2|
|10||PGA of Sweden National (Lakes)||Down 2|
|11||Bro Hof Slott (Castle)||Down 1|
|14||Ljunghusen (1-18)||Down 1|
|15||Frösåker (Stora)||Up 1|
|16||Kristianstad (Östra)||Up 1|
|17||Kungliga Drottningholm||Up 2|
|18||Vidbynäs (South)||No change|
|20||Vasatorp (Classic)||Up 1|
|26||Bokskogen (Gamla)||Down 6|
|27||S:t Arild||Down 3|
|28||LinksGolf Öland||Up 8|
|31||Arlandastad (Masters)||Down 1|
|32||Bastad (Gamla)||Down 3|
|33||Upsala (Old)||Down 6|
|34||Landeryd (Vesterby)||New entry|
|35||Isabergs (Ostra)||Down 4|
|38||Halmstad (South)||Up 2|
|40||Varberg (Vastra)||Up 1|
|41||Barsebäck (Steel)||Up 6|
|42||Österlen (Lilla Vik)||Down 3|
|43||Kungsbacka (Old)||Up 2|
|44||Landeryd (Norra)||Down 6|
|45||Katrineholm (Gamla)||Down 3|
|47||Vidbynas (North)||New entry|
|51||Kungsängen (Kings)||New entry|
|53||Ekerum (Long Jan)||Down 4|
|55||Falkenberg (18-hole)||Down 12|
|56||Bastad (New)||Down 6|
|57||Kristianstad (Vastra)||New entry|
|58||Woodlands (Cedar & Pine)||New entry|
|59||Bro-Balsta (Stora)||New entry|
|60||Kalmar (Old)||New entry|
To view further details of the Sweden Top 60 click the link.
If you think we’ve maybe made a mistake with one (or more) or our Nordic rankings then please feel free to let us know about it. There could be a course that we’ve left out that should be included or maybe there’s one registered that should be immediately de-listed. Perhaps we should be bringing a particular layout back down to earth with a bump or, on the other hand, elevating one that’s been sitting too far down for too long. No matter your opinion, we’d be glad to hear from you so please click the “Respond to this article” link at the top or bottom of this page to submit your feedback.
Top 100 Golf Courses