An ambitious development on farmland on the outskirts of Malmo, PGA Sweden National is a 36-hole facility with two distinct courses designed by American Kyle Phillips. The property itself was once part of the grounds of the medieval Torup Castle, and mostly devoid of interesting natural golf contour. Generally speaking the undulations were either too steep or too subtle for exciting golf, so Phillips and his team were tasked with moving earth to add golfing interest. Ordinarily this would have been right in the designer’s wheelhouse, but at PGA Sweden the creative brakes seem to have been applied to some degree and the results are a little mixed.
Unquestionably the finer of the two courses, the Links Course is set across the southern land and devoid of the lakes and large, modern bunkers that define its younger sibling. The Links is so-called because of several old-school features, such as a winding burn that cuts across several holes, and its smaller, more intimate bunkers and larger, more intricately contoured green complexes.
Despite the lack of internal trees and an open feeling to the overall site, the Links is quite narrow by design with bunkers and fescue roughs tending to pinch the landing areas. It has a somewhat similar feel to Gullane in Scotland, for the manner in which holes tend to be routed either straight up or straight down the slopes. This is far from Phillips’s most elegant routing, and in fact were it not for some really clever green sites the whole course would feel rather bleak. Holes don’t quite flow as well as they could, and the forced laying back from the tee because of an unseen watery burn is an annoyance. The 9th is the worst offender, as you have to lay well back of the hidden creek area in order to have any sort of approach shot into the green.
On the positive side are a couple of really nice par threes on the back nine, and genuinely interesting green sites at the 2nd, 3rd, 10th and 16th. The 10th is probably the pick of the longer holes, for the use of the creek up its right side and some really nice driving contours. With the exception of the next hole, a long par five straight up a steep hill, the rest of the back nine is very solid.
Kyle Phillips set a high benchmark in design at places like Kingsbarns and the California Club of San Francisco. Neither of the PGA Sweden National courses reach such design heights, but both should appeal to the average visiting green fee golfer.