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Sweden: The Best Kept Secret of Golf in the World

Stockholm has scads of courses, but you must play Ullna and Bro-Bälsta--in that order. Ullna, just twenty minutes from downtown Stockholm, is a too-seldom-seen jewel. "The last time I played Ullna, I was still an amateur," Annika Sorenstam told me. "I would actually like to play it again to see how I would do. It's really a fun course, with a lot of water and tricky shots."

One standard for great golf holes is that when you get to their tees, you don't want to play. You just want to stand, slack-jawed, and look at them. At Ullna, numbers three, four, five, six, sixteen and seventeen meet this test. The latter two--running beside a miles-wide lake--evoke the closing holes at Pebble Beach. The four water-locked beauties on the front nine are unique to Ullna. The island green at number three predates, and surpasses, the famous seventeenth hole at the Players Club.

Alas, I didn't get a chance to play Bro-Bälsta, but everyone recommended it, including the pro at Bästad. It's generally considered the number-two or number-three course in Stockholm (after Ullna, which is the consensus number one), so your "ultimate Sweden golf" itinerary would be incomplete without it.

No matter how long you stay, you won't "finish" Stockholm. So you'll just have to leave because the best golf, by far, is a lovely 350-mile, six-hour drive away. You could do this excursion in one gulp. But why should you when you can stop halfway, near Jönköping, at the base of twenty-six-mile-long Lake VÉttern, and choose from several courses with a mountain-and-lakes feeling? Near Jönköping, Swedish pros recommend the Hooks, Jönköping and A6 golf clubs. (Yes, its name is A6 Golfklubb.) However, for $28, why not also play craggy, picturesque Gränna, which you glimpse from the E4 highway. It's a sporty, conversation-piece course with blind shots, huge mounds in the greens and funky sidehill lies. The eleventh hole, its fairway carved out of mountain rock on both steep sides, gives new meaning to "elevated green"; try hitting a wedge to the roof of an apartment building. That the twelfth hole was voted the "Most Beautiful Hole in Sweden" three years ago gives you a jolt. It's about the fifth prettiest hole at Gränna.

On your overnight stay near Jönköping, it's tempting to make a big production over accommodations. Should you stay at the restored castle-turned-into-a-hotel called Västanä, on the coast of Lake Vättern?(The third time you stay there, you get to meet the ghost of the castle.) How about the Provobis Stora Hotellet, opposite the cathedral near the center of town overlooking Vättern?Perhaps you shouldn't waste the effort. Leaving Gränna on the E4, I stopped for gas at the mountainside Motell Vätterleden. It had two nice dining rooms and dazzling 180-degree views of the lake. Why not here?

"How much are your rates?"

"Two hundred forty kroner a night, including breakfast."

"How much is that in dollars?"

"Thirty dollars a night."


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