Ljunghusens, one of the oldest golf clubs in Sweden and the first to have 27 holes, was founded in 1932 and is a blend of true links and heathland holes. The club is located in a nature reserve and is just a few metres from the Baltic Sea's white sandy beaches. On a visit to Sweden, Peter Driver visited the club and spoke with club officials to see what makes this such a popular golfing venue
Situated about 20 kilometres south of Malmo on the Baltic coast, Ljunghusens Golf Club came into existence in 1932, when the original 9-hole course was opened. In 1957, a further nine holes were added and then, in 1965, to coincide with the opening of a new clubhouse, the club became the first across Scandinavia to feature twenty-seven holes of golf. At that time, the membership was around 400 but, today, it boasts 1500 playing members, of which 300 are juniors. In 2008, the clubhouse was rebuilt and now features excellent social facilities with over 100 staff working at the club during the summer, including four golf professionals.
Managing this extensive operation is Magnus Jivén, my host for the visit. "We are proud to be one of the most progressive clubs in Scandinavia," he said. "I have ten full-time staff, including seven on the golf course, which is supplemented by a further four in the summer season."
"We are particularly pleased with our junior policy and our commitment to bringing young players into the game. Over the Easter holiday period, we regularly have between forty and fifty here for intensive training. We also have a junior exchange programme with Royal Liverpool and Formby golf clubs, which is a great initiative for the youngsters."
"Also, to provide a greater understanding of golf and to help them appreciate what it takes to maintain a course, we have them divoting and raking bunkers on a rotational basis."
"Every year, we invest at least €250,000 on the golf course, which is funded from our annual membership fee of SEK 6,300 (€682-£480), plus a four times annual fee as a one-off joining fee. We also have in the region of 7,000 green fee guests a year and are in the fortunate position of having a waiting list for membership, so I think we are heading in the right direction."
"Some facts you might like to mention - the course record is held by Luke Donald, who carded a 63 back in 2001, and we hosted the PLM Open in 1987, won by Howard Clarke and, in 2000, the Telia Grand Prix won by Henrik Stenson."
"Our investment in the course is ongoing and major course improvements are supervised by consultant Peter Chamberlain, who has been responsible for the design and upgrading of many courses in Scandinavia and northern Europe."
"I have an excellent greenkeeping team, led by Course Manager Lars Knutson. During the winter of 2014-15 we only closed for two weeks, which was a great credit to the team. We are located in a nature reserve, so they have extra pressure on their maintenance practices as environmental issues are high on the agenda in Sweden."
Lars began his career in the golf industry in 1990 at Söderslätts Golf Club near Vellinge and, in 1994, he was promoted to First Assistant. In the spring of 1996, he was appointed Head Greenkeeper at Fjällbacka Golf Club on the Swedish west coast. He moved to his current role at Ljunghusen in 1999. A member of the Swedish Greenkeepers' Association, he has continued his professional development and attended many of their training programmes.
Like many Scandinavian greenkeepers, he has a passion for golf, especially links golf, and has played seventy of the top 100 links courses in the UK and Ireland. At Ljunghusen, he hosted Challenge Tour events in 1999, 2000 and 2002 and the European Mens Amateur Championships in 2001.
He has also volunteered at other major tournaments and has been part of the maintenance teams at the Scandinavian Masters in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2010, the Dunhill Links at Kingsbarns since 2006, Women's British Open at Royal Liverpool in 2012, The Open 2006 and 2014 at Royal Liverpool, the British Mens Amateur Championship at Royal Cinque Ports in 2013 and the Irish Open at Royal County Down in 2015.
This has given Lars access and an insight into some of the most iconic links courses in Europe and, for the past five years, he has worked on renovations and improvements at Ljunghusen.
"Our aim is to continually improve the playing surfaces over all twenty-seven holes," comments Lars. "We have lengthened some holes, repositioned some greens, including our 18th, which borders the Baltic Sea. It actually took five years to get approval from the local authorities for this to happen. Phase 1 of our renovation is now complete and we are continuing with holes 19-27 to reinforce the links feel of these holes, which are the original links holes at Ljunghusens from 1932. I would say that of the twenty-seven holes here at Ljunghusens, fourteen are true links, whilst the remaining thirteen are heathland in nature."
"As Magnus said earlier, we are located in a nature reserve, so we take our environmental responsibilities seriously. To demonstrate our commitment, in June 2009 we became the first club in Sweden to achieve the global eco-label, GEO Certified, and six years on, in July 2015, we are the first club to have been twice re-certified."
"We have a very good working relationship with our local Jacobsen dealer, Gräsvårdsmaskiner AB, and have purchased three Eclipse 322 hybrid greens mowers. This fits in very well with our environmental policy as this mower is completely free of hydraulic oil. It uses a small diesel engine to power a generator that provides the electricity to drive all the components on the mower. That means there is absolutely no chance of an accidental oil spill on our greens. Also, by using a smaller engine we are using significantly less fuel and, therefore, reducing emissions."
"The other major advantage is that we can control the number of cuts per metre as the mower passes across the green. Once we have determined the optimum number of cuts per metre, or frequency of cut as it's also known, we can lock this into the mower and it will cut every green exactly the same, giving our members consistency of ball roll. It's a very impressive machine and ticks many boxes."
"We don't encourage use of golf buggies on the course, but we do have six E-Z-GO RXV vehicles for use by older members and anyone with a medical condition. In keeping with our environmental credentials, these are electric, so no emissions at the point of use."
GEO re-certification for a third time is obviously a source of great pride for the club. The process is carried out by an independent verifier and is dependent on the club showing not only continued commitment to its sustainable practices, but also enhanced improvement to sustainable management.
Following the renovation of the clubhouse in 2008, when the floor space doubled in size, the focus on renewable energy saw the installation of a large-scale ground source heat pump, which led to an annual saving in electricity consumption of around 4000kWh and a reduction in fuel bills by €4,000. In 2013, they switched to a new supplier and now use 100% renewable sourced electricity. Consumption of diesel fuel has reduced by almost 25% after the introduction of the E-Z-GO electric golf carts and Jacobsen hybrid greens mowers, whilst the on-site geo thermal ground source pump heats the clubhouse and provides ventilation in the kitchen.
The greenkeeping team have transitioned to the use of organic fertilisers on the course, whilst the recycling of food waste from the restaurant is turned into biogas. An annual audit of their waste contractor ensures the maximisation of recycling and the club's environmental committee lead on a broad range of sustainability issues.
The final words go to Magnus Jivén; "We are thrilled to be recognised for our sustainability work by achieving GEO Certified® for a third time. We have seen continual benefits from achieving this coveted standard. We are proud to be part of the GEO programme and will continue to focus on sustainable, environmental development of Ljunghusen Golf Club."