The lowdown on dates and tee times
To play most of the greatest courses in Sweden, you must go in the first three weeks of June or the last three weeks of August. During the six weeks that Swedes call "the season"--the last week in June through the first week of August--everyone from shopkeepers to billionaires goes to the same fabulous spots on the southwest coast, which is called the Swedish Riviera. Then, the day after the Water Festival in Stockholm, as if on some shotgun-start signal, the Swedes all return home--and leave some of the most delicious courses on earth half empty.
If you go to Sweden in those first three weeks of June or the last three of August, the average temperature will be sixty-seven degrees, the invigorating breeze will be about fifteen miles per hour, and the head pro at any Swedish course will get on his knees and beg you to play his track. Out of season (if you can call June and August out of season), American tourists are rare as hens' teeth and valuable as gold.
"Traditionally, the Swedes have been very private. However, in the last couple of years, they've made a conscious decision to try to open up more to tourism," says Thomas Siebert, U.S. Ambassador to Sweden until last year. If you fax a tee-time request to any course in Sweden, you'll get a polite response within twenty-four to forty-eight hours--perhaps with one minor grammatical error, otherwise in perfect English--probably giving you exactly the time you want. If you ask for "something between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on the fourteenth," you'll get 10 a.m. You need no connections, no name-dropping, no club affiliation. Just ask. Late May and early September are nice for golf, too, and utterly uncrowded. However, the days won't be eighteen hours long, and it'll be a mite brisk: fifties.
Note: You'll have to walk. Just as every course is public, only Ullna has electric carts. Even at Ullna, you need a doctor's letter proving disability before you can ride. (Blisters don't count.) There may be a caddie in Sweden, but if so, he hid from me.
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