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|Simons Golf Club is in Humlebaek, Denmark, a former fishing village. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)|
HUMLEBAEK, Denmark - Like many golf courses in Denmark, Simons Golf Club stays open year-round, even during the freezing winters.
Still, the club reserves the right to close the golf course when the fairways and greens lie under thick blankets of snow and ice.
That, in a nutshell, tells you a lot about the hardy Danish golfers - plunging temperatures, swirling snow and jagged ice are taken in stride here; it's the grass they're worried about.
Simons Golf Club is located in the town of Humlebaek, about 20 miles north of Copenhagen, the terminus of the coastal area popularly known as the Whiskey Trail. The winding, coastal road from the Danish capital to Humlebaek shows off some of the grandest homes in the country; the area is also informally called the Danish Riviera and Millionaires Row.
That's the idea behind the name: drink your beer in Copenhagen, but in these fancy digs where some of the richest people in Denmark live, you can afford whiskey.
Humlebaek is a former fishing village, which happens to have the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. No, there are no crawfish exhibits, only one of the greatest art collections in the Nordic world. (The name comes from the former owner of the museum grounds who had three wives, all named Louisa).
And, of course, it has the golf club.
Simons is one of the most expensive clubs in Denmark and, consequently, has quite a few wealthy businessmen as members. You have to be a member to play here, as is the case through much of Europe, but don't worry about it if you're only Danish is spirit. You can get on easily.
It's one of the better-known courses in the country and was picked to host the Nordic Open from 2003-05, the first time the European PGA Tour was played in Denmark. However, the tournament didn't much interest the Danes, who have only very recently warmed to the game, and the tourney went bankrupt after the first year. A women's European Tour event is scheduled to be played at Simons this fall.
Simons opened in 1992 with Ian Woosnam hitting the first shot. It's a very green course with some nice, moderate elevation changes over gently rolling terrain. It's a little inland, but you can still see Sweden across the narrow Oresund Strait from some of the higher spots.
In the early spring, you'll most likely encounter quite a few Norwegians and Swedes, since the golf season starts a little earlier here.
Simons is a 27-hole facility, with three nines labeled A, B and C, with tentative plans to build another nine. The course is in decent shape - Americans might want to re-think their ideas of pristine conditions of top-tier U.S. courses - with few houses, though traffic noise does intrude on parts of the layout.
The greens are relatively small and tricky and slow early in the season, with some sporting multiple levels. But, the greatest obstacle here is the fescue rough, which grows to a near-impossible 3 or 4 feet in the summer. You definitely want to keep it in the short grass here.
The high points of the course, for me, are the closing holes of the B nine, both reachable par 5s that wrap around a scenic lake.
Simons was designed by Martin Hawtree and has some very nice facilities: a driving range, three putting greens, a par-3 course with six holes, an indoor training center with a golf simulator, a restaurant, a great, two-story, pub-style bar called the Albatross, a bistro, pro shop and a library.
It also has a terrace overlooking No. 18, hotel, locker rooms and a meeting/conference room.
You're in Denmark, so you want that royal connection, right? The Hotel Store Kro is minutes from Humlebaek but right down the street from the Fredensborg Castle, the "Castle of Peace" in memory of the end of the Great Nordic War in 1720. It's so close, you could hit a five-iron and knock the big, fluffy hat off one of the royal guards patrolling the royal grounds. They hold the changing of the guards every day at noon.
The hotel was originally called "The King's Inn," built in 1723 to accommodate the overflow of guests at the castle. The royal history around these parts has all the drama you'd want, including the scandalous tale of young Anna Sophie Reventlow, who caught the glad-eye of King Frederik IV.
Her mother locked her up for a year after their first "date," but she escaped and married the king, becoming his second wife. They paid the price for this, though, with the public and other royalty turning against them. After the king's death, poor Sophie was banished and given only a pathetically small staff of 66 to care for her needs.
The inn has all sorts of antiques, paintings of the king and Sophie and a restaurant called the Anna Sophie.
It's also close to a number of attractions, including Copenhagen, Hamlet's castle in Elsinore, Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerod and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.
If you'd rather sample the fast life of old Copenhagen, the Imperial Hotel is very convenient for a walking tour of the city. It's a short walk from the main train station and a short walk away from the world-famous Tivoli gardens.
It's a 4-star hotel of classic Danish design, and was renovated in 2006, including all 214 rooms as well as the restaurant and lobby. The rooms are rather small, but you'll be spending most of your time outside. The hotel has conference facilities for up to 200 people.
SAS Scandinavian Airlines is the biggest airline in Scandinavia and specializes in non-stop travel from North America and Asia to Stockholm and Copenhagen. The airline serves Copenhagen non-stop from Newark, N.J., Chicago, Seattle and Washington, D.C., and Stockholm non-strop from from Chicago and Newark, with Airbus A330 and A340 aircraft. SAS and its partners offer connecting service to cities throughout Scandinavia, Europe and the world from the SAS hubs at Copenhagen and Stockholm. For more information, see Flysas.com or call (800) 221-2350 (from the U.S.), or + 1 201 896-3600.
June 11, 2008
Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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