The Scandinavian (New)
Location: Farum, Denmark
Designer: Robert Trent Jones Jnr
The kinship between Old and New has been an inequitable one for almost as long as the game itself. From St Andrews to Sunningdale and Walton Heath to Moray, the elder sister always casts a long shadow over her younger sibling, even if in many of those instances the New has outstanding merit of her own.
Clubs founded in more recent times with two courses – especially resorts eager that their venues are viewed as equals – have usually settled on more descriptive names: Links and Lakes; Les Pins and Les Dunes; Stadium and Castle; Chateaux and Vignes; Stadium and Tour; Chateau and Riou. But in Denmark, The Scandinavian followed the route of St Andrews et al, and one cannot help but wonder at the effect those names have had on how the golf courses are viewed.
The New opened 12 months later than the Old, in 2011, and it is impossible not to surmise that those 12 months have cost it a slice of status. It was the second course to finish so must have been the second to start and, it might be reasoned, it must have got the lesser site (and perhaps even less attention); it is easy to imagine that is the way the courses are viewed, even if only subconsciously.
Golf World’s 2013 and 2015 rankings backup that theory, placing both in the first 50 of the Golf World Top 100 Continental Europe Courses.
Both courses bear the name of Robert Trent Jones Jnr. He was on site frequently, although it was his trusted associate Bruce Charlton who intimately oversaw the project over its lengthy development period.
Located 25 minutes north of Denmark’s capital, near Farum, the courses are laid out in 200 hectares of forest separated by streams that filter into natural ponds. Their natural setting gives both tracks a huge natural advantage over modern contemporaries, conveying a maturity that betrays their years and a tranquil experience that belies their proximity to one of Europe’s great cities.
A game here is an idyllic one, with the only sounds those of balls being struck, birds chirping in the trees and deer snapping a branch in the dense woodland through which the holes slither. This despite three motorways running close enough to bring visitors from the airport and city centre to this serene spot in less than half an hour.
The planning process was however not so idyllic. Full permission took years to achieve, requiring determination and deep pockets to stay the course. The Scandinavian’s three co-owners had both.
The trio bought the former training ground of Farum Barracks in 2002, the same year Jesper Balser, Peter Bang and Torben Wind sold a company they founded in 1983 while students at the Danish Technical University in Copenhagen to Microsoft. You don’t have to be a financial wizard or an IT specialist to know that when Microsoft deem a company worth acquiring, they are happy to spend seriously to do so.
All keen golfers, these three suddenly cash-rich friends resolved to spend some of their new fortune on creating a very special new golf club. But despite buying the land in 2002 – and the area being designated for ‘recreational purposes’ with golf mentioned directly – political issues meant it wasn’t until 2006 that construction actually began.
The political sensitivities were not helped by the fact the site was 85 per cent owned by one community and 15 per cent by another, after two parties had taken over the land when cost cutting saw the Danish military leave the area after over 50 years using it as a base. Even when the issues were resolved it wasn’t straightforward.
That the forested site’s long-time use was as a clay pit before becoming a military practice area indicates how much work would be required to turn it into a golf course. A small beach’s worth of sand was imported to cap the playing areas, which take up only 25 per cent of the vast site of over 200m². The rest is cultivated so it is a sustainable environment for fauna and flora.
The high-spec build was worthwhile, though, because while it feels like an environment that could easily house a wet course, both here can absorb huge amounts of rain and remain playable. When Golf World Top 100 visited after a wet spring in Scandinavia, they were as firm as you would wish. Scottish greenkeeper Russell Anderson leads a 25-strong team who single cut the bent grass greens and surrounds to present slick, true surfaces and slippery banks around them.
Good conditioning on its own is clearly not enough to be judged one of the Continent’s finest, though, and the New duly has many additional strengths. The owners opted for Trent Jones Jnr because his stock was high after work on high-profile projects in Denmark, including fellow Top 100 course Lubker, as well as Bro Hof Slott in Sweden. There is a case to be made that the firm has arguably made more of this solid but hardly Bro Hof-esque site than anywhere else.
Routed in two loops of nine on opposite sides of the clubhouse – a cutting-edge design with a Scandinavian feel created by the famous Henning Larsen Architects firm – it is a spacious layout, especially on the back nine where consecutive holes run in the same direction only at 15 and 16 (and then only vaguely). But it is a little tighter than its sister, or at least it is in a visual sense, the actual width often markedly greater than what appears on the tee.
Even so, it is a course that rewards, largely necessitates, precision. This is obvious right from the 1st, an arrow-straight par 5 of 550 yards that ends on a narrow, well-bunkered green. It ought to act as a signal to the alert visitor that nudging your way round the New is often more successful than trying to bludgeon a route.
Off the back tees at 7,129 yards, it is a championship venue for the strongest players. So it is wise for us mere mortals to select our tees wisely, then play this first of the front nine’s three par 5s as a true three-shotter. That’s also a good ploy on the long 4th too, its green entrance protected by a mature willow.
But on the last of the trio, the 7th, you can open your shoulders and take on the jigsaw-shaped bunker that guards the uphill dog-leg right.
The first half also has three par 3s, starting at the pretty but tricky 2nd, whose green has a step in its front third that is one of the reasons this is an easy target to find with your tee shot... then walk off mystified with a four.
The next is at the 5th, played uphill to a green beautifully draped over a knuckle of terrain. The pick is probably the 9th though, played over a dip in the ground but where most of your attention is on avoiding the water up the entire right half of the hole.
Of the two shotters, choose your favourite between the 3rd – its green nicely sited beyond a gully on the right – or two holes dominated by water. At the exacting 6th you must be brave off the tee by hitting close to a pond that ensures everyone will have at least 165 yards to cover on the uphill approach to a benched green. Then at the clever 8th, a tight downhill drive is followed by an approach to a shallow, sporty green fronted on the left by water.
The 11th has no water, but will induce the most anxiety of the New’s par 4s. Here, the army’s former shooting range has been used brilliantly to create a hole of tension and apprehension. The drive is straightforward, but it is worth working hard to get to the end of the slight dog leg.
That puts as short an iron as possible in your hand for your attempt to steer your approach down an uber-tight funnel of trees to an almond-shaped green that slopes back to middle and front to middle, as well as right to left.
It might well infuriate some but will entertain plenty more. It’s followed by comfortably the longest hole on the New.
There was a desire here to have a hole so long it couldn’t be reached in two shots. This is it. Played into the prevailing wind, ponds eat into the fairway three times en route to the green, so it is a strategic as well as a physical challenge.
The same is true two holes later, but this time on a short dog-leg right downhill par 4 that will tempt most into having a go at finding – or at least getting close to – the funkiest green on the course.
Ditto 15, although this turns left and has the added factor of a lake guarding the left of a sloping, shallow green. The New’s best green site – sitting on a ledge with a higher bank to the right and a fall-off to the left – ensures the 16th concludes a trio of especially good two shotters in style.
The 18th acts similarly for the whole course, where there is more water than dry land in sight on a sweeping par 5. It is a perfect decisive matchplay hole and one those with a neat card will start thinking about midway through the back nine. It all adds up to impressive variety among holes that challenge mentally as well as physically and when added to its pristine presentation and tranquil setting, is a very tidy package for The Scandinavian’s ‘second’ course – although arguably in name only.
To see the Golf World Top 100 courses in Continental Europe, click here.