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Sweden: The Best Kept Secret of Golf in the World

As a result, like most European courses, those in Sweden tend to demand more imagination and shot making than American courses. At home, I'm a typical U.S. hacker, trying to repeat the same swing for almost every shot. Experimental I'm not. Yet, starting at Ullna, then increasingly as I traveled Sweden, I found myself shaping more and more shots to suit the circumstances--changing my grip and stance to hit a low draw, a high fade with the wind, a punch or a bump-and-run. At times I felt more like a real golfer than I can ever remember.

But I also had moments of unnerving disorientation when I'd stand over the ball after improvising shots and say, "What am I doing? What is my basic swing?" I've never hit so many first-rate chips and pitches to save pars. But, pressed to my limits and often beyond, I also started hitting some chili-dip, shank, skull horrors.

In my own mediocre game, I was playing out the argument between American and European pros over the last twenty years. The American pros understand the intricacies of the golf swing better and can repeat their strokes more frequently. We tend to be technicians and range rats. That serves us well at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, which measure accuracy and often punish aggression. The Europeans tend to have more feel for their swings, more willingness to try the daring shot or the creative trajectory or spin around the green. That tends to work out well at the Masters or the British Open.

Conclusion: Spend some time on your shot-making skills before you come, and nurture your inner European.

Money & Meatballs

Even going completely first cabin, any golf vacation in Sweden is going to be relatively inexpensive by American standards. The golf is dirt cheap, and on the southwest coast, bed-and-breakfasts are a charming option and a bargain. So you've got a tough choice. Where are you going to blow your dough?Why not spend some of it on a grand hotel, specifically the Grand Hotel, in Stockholm? Nobel prize.-winners stay at this flag-topped quayside masterpiece on the Strömmen overlooking a small harbor. How stunning is the view of museums, yachts and hilltop ramparts from your twelve-foot-high picture window?The Royal Palace stands on the opposite side of the quay, so the king and queen sometimes wake up and look back at you.

Even if you don't stay at the Grand, you must have a long, slow smorgasbord lunch on the Grand Veranda, overlooking the heart of downtown. Also, a ferry leaves the Grand at 7 p.m. for a water tour, then dinner at the Feather Islands Restaurant. Of course, you could also rub elbows with the crème de la crème at Erik's, in Old Town, or sit in a fifteenth-century cellar while dining at the Golden Piece.

should have someone write a whole sidebar on the glories of Swedish cuisine. It won't be me. The fried fillet of reindeer with stuffed cabbage and mushroom sauce is probably just ducky, and how could you top the pine nut flan with plum compote?Or, of course, you can have your reindeer smoked, with horseradish cream. The Swedes have a way of preparing dishes that sound perfectly appetizing until you get to the final Scandinavian accent, which tends to be something like "with raw egg yolk." When in doubt, just go for the kottbullar, which is Swedish for "meatballs."

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