It's your round
DAY 1: A RIGHT ROYAL WELCOME
Having collected our rental car at Copenhagen airport, a leisurely 20-minute drive north of the city to Royal Copenhagen Golf Club, situated in the middle of Dyrehaven – originally an ancient hunting ground and now a beautiful nature reserve of open spaces and mature trees – is all that’s required to get this much-anticipated trip underway. The car park, somewhat unusually, is situated a few hundred metres from the course and a short stroll takes us through a savannah- like landscape of tall bleached grassland dotted with mature twisted oaks to what is not only the oldest golf club (1898) in Denmark but in all of Scandinavia.
Royal Copenhagen was the first Danish club (starting in 1945) to run a 72-hole stroke-play tournament and, particularly in the 1960s, world stars such as Flory van Donck, Guy Wolstenholme and British Open winners Roberto de Vicenzo and Peter Thomson all took part. In 1965 the elegant and popular South African Harold Henning made an impressive course record of 63. His score of 265 for 72 holes is a tournament record.
Unchanged since 1928, apart from a little ‘tweaking’ here and there with the placement of bunkers and trees, the course is a fairly straightforward affair playing over mildly rolling terrain with few forced carries and only a couple of blind landing areas. So highly playable and pleasantly inviting. The fairway turf is excellent, but the biggest hazard is the tough, springy, fescue rough, where the best option – if you can find your ball – is to forget about the green and concentrate on getting it back on the fairway.
There are more than 2,000 deer (mainly red deer and also sika deer) in the park, and they roam freely over the fairways and greens. Indeed, the deer are so abundant that they can sometimes be a hazard – or provide the line for a tee shot! Royal Copenhagen wouldn't make it into the world’s top 100 courses, but the setting and the local wildlife more than make up for that. The place is unique.
After our round, we continue north up the coastal road to Simon’s Golf Club, in the town of Humlebæk. When you first hear the name you could be forgiven for thinking that a local farmer converted some of his fields into a rustic 9-holer. But Simon’s is anything but; it’s one of the best quality layouts in the country and in 2003 hosted the first European Tour event held in Denmark, the Nordic Open, won by Ian Poulter.
A well-struck Tiger Woods’ drive from the comfortable surroundings of the on-course cottage-style accommodation are some truly great golfing facilities: a driving range, three putting greens, a fun 6-hole par-3 course, an indoor training centre, bistro and pro shop. Most importantly, though, is the excellent pub – the Albatross Bar – with eight house beers on tap and a TV screen so large it wouldn’t look out of place in your local Odeon. Having worked up a decent thirst, we order up our first traditional Danish brews of what is already promising to be a memorable trip, sink into the comfy leather armchairs and catch up on some USPGA tour action.
DAY 2: BRUSHING UP ON THE BEER TRADE
Next morning begins with a hearty breakfast of fruit, bread, cheese, ham and (several) cups of strong filter coffee – all enjoyed on the terrace overlooking the course. Simon’s is a 27-hole golf facility, with three nines labelled A, B and C (creative genius, eh?) that meander their way around a pretty lake. Simon’s is a leafy, very green course, with some nice changes in elevation over gently rolling terrain. Though situated a few miles inland, we can just make out Sweden across the narrow Oresund Strait from some of the higher points on the course.
For a diversion from golf we pay an afternoon visit to nearby Bryggeri Skovlist (Skovlystvej 2, Værløse), a brewpub set in picturesque woodland, where we meet master brewer and champion beer taster Casper Møller. “Ten years ago it was pure pilsner in Denmark with beers such as Carlsberg and Tuborg dominating the market, but in recent years a beer revolution has taken place and now there’s more breweries per capita than anywhere in Europe,” says Casper as he shows us around. “Although we use the main ingredients such as malt, hops, water and yeast in our beers, our unique brewing concept is to utilize natural products from the forest. For example we experiment with maple syrup, birch sap and woodruff, a forest plant that imparts a beautiful spicy aromatic flavour to our brews.”
Later, back at the Albatross Bar, we get chatting to Simon’s resident professional, Englishman James Petts who coaches Danish golf pro Søren Hansen who also happens to be a member of the club. “I had the pleasure of being Søren’s bagman in the par-3 tournament at the Masters in 2008,” says James. “He’s developed into one of the finest players in Europe – his ball striking is crisper than a frosty morning in December.” James could fill a library with his yarns and keeps us nicely entertained all evening.
DAY 3: TIME FOR SOME SERIOUS EXERCISE
Now just getting into our stride (drinking, not golf), we decide to take a day off from the greens to really concentrate on the ambers, reds, browns and blacks of Danish beer culture. By mid-morning we’re back in Copenhagen wandering up a cobbled street towards four giant Bornholm granite elephants (Elephant Gates) that guard the grounds of the world famous Carlsberg Brewery founded in 1847.
“Don’t forget your tickets for some complimentary beers,” says the cheery attendant as we begin a self-guided tour of interactive displays and exhibits that take you through the history of beer production in these parts. Funny the things you learn, too. It turns out that Danish beer dates even further back than we imagined, after a girl who was discovered in a peat bog clutching a jug of well-aged brew was carbon dated to 1370 BC.
En-route to our final golfing destination we pass the world’s largest collection of beer bottles (17,592 at the time of writing), a steam engine that revolutionised early industrial beer production and antique copper vats used in the brewing process. Our tour ends at the second floor of the Jacobsen Brewhouse where we order a couple of Carls Specials, a beautiful dark malt smoother than Tiger’s putting stroke.
Feeling noticeably heady after the beers we stroll back towards the city centre and the picturesque Nyhavn district with its showcase 17th canal, originally engineered to allow traders to bring their wares into the very heart of the city. It soon established itself as the place where returning sailors indulged themselves in the numerous bars, brothels and tattoo parlours. On this particular afternoon, traditional sailing craft crowd the waterway, adding to the salty atmosphere among the colourful gabled townhouses. People are out in numbers soaking up late August sunshine and enjoying a drink at the many pavement cafes, bars and restaurants. A short walk from the Nyhavn district is the beginning of Strøget, billed as the world's longest pedestrian street and one – you’ll not be surprised to discover – that boasts several good watering holes. Although many of the more cosmopolitan- style cafes serve beer and play a leading role in the social scene of Copenhageners, we are more interested in checking out traditional Danish taverns.
A good example is the Hvide & Lam (Kultorvet 5), and, entering via a small doorway, you are engulfed in the warm glow of a bar oozing with character. There’s a good mix of locals and travellers and, as an added bonus, a three-piece jazz band are in full flow in the corner by the billiard table. As if by now you need any other tips on good traditional watering holes worth checking out, we’re told Copenhagen’s oldest – Hviids Vinstue, founded in 1723 (Kongens Nytorv 19) – the Lord Nelson (Hyskenstræde 9) and Charlie’s Bar (Pilestræde 33) are all serious haunts for beer lovers.
The Nørrebro Bryghus (Ryesgade 3) is a combined microbrewery, bar and restaurant located in a former metal goods factory – and a dream come true for Master Brewer Anders Kissmeyer, who had a vision to help rejuvenate Danish beer culture. “The inspiration for our restaurant came from the American brewpubs, where food and beer is enjoyed in an informal atmosphere amidst brewing kettles and tanks,” he tells us. “Here the dishes are created around the beers we brew and vice versa. The beer is a primary source of inspiration for our head chef and it is used as both ingredients, seasoning and finally in the glass accompanying the food.”
Reserve the Brewer’s Table for a special seven-course gourmet feast served with Nørrebro’s own hand-crafted brews and selected bottled beers. Back in the city centre is another top-notch microbrewery, the Vesterbro Bryghus (Vesterbrogade 2B), where fine beers including stout brewed on the premises can all be sampled in 10cl glasses for €5.
DAY FORE!: “TIME, GENTLEMEN!”
On our last day we drive about 35 minutes southwest of Copenhagen towards Ledreborg Allé, to check out Nick Faldo’s first Scandinavian course design, Ledreborg Palace Golf. Opened in 2007, the 18-hole championship-standard course is styled as an ‘inland links’ and weaves its way through the sumptuous grounds that border 18th century Ledreborg Palace, a landmark still home to an aristocratic Danish family. For Faldo, the process of bringing the course to life was an interesting one and demanded a keen sensitivity towards a site that is steeped in history. With ancient burial grounds and several points of archaeological interest, the Faldo team worked with a ‘do not disturb’ approach.
“The natural contours of the property here required nothing more than subtle sculpting to produce what is a highly engaging round of golf,” says Sir Nick. “The design blends in comfortably into the existing landscape – in fact, I would say it was more a case of ‘finding’ the course than creating it.” For those of you with the appetite for more golf, we were told by several Danish golfers that the Skjoldenæsholm Golf Center at Jystrup – which offers two 18-holes courses, both situated in a historic atmosphere around Skjoldenæsholm Manor – are highly rated. The more recent of the two was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr, and is a top quality risk/reward layout set within a forest.
Sounded terrific. For us, there was just time for another round... and it didn’t involve golf clubs. ‘Skol!