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Three islands, two countries, three days


It became a golfing trip to a holiday paradise where you can see from one island to the next. Islands that surprisingly turned out to  be completely different. On the golf courses, on life around them and on the price tags. Join us to the islands of Danish Fanø and Rømø and German Sylt.

We are in southern Jutland, a little more than four hours by car from Copenhagen or Hamburg. Outside the coastline are the northernmost of the islands in the Wadden Sea, the world’s largest tidal area. It is a protected world heritage site with a wide range of islands from The Netherlands and up to the Danish city of Esbjerg.

Just outside Esbjerg we find Fanø, the island that was the nobility playground and summer retreat in the early 1900s. The plans were to become a luxury paradise in line with Cannes and Trouville. Some major spa hotels were built between the golf course and the beach. In the 1920s, rich families from Vienna, Hamburg, Dresden, St. Petersburg and Copenhagen stayed in their great holiday villages on the island.

Thus, one of the hotel’s service staff described life in a letter in 1922: «The  hotel was classy and pompous with the grand wing towards the sea and a large balcony. A 10-man orchestra played dinner every night. Special clothing was required. At dinner at  7:00 PM on weekdays the gentlemen would have a tuxedo and on Saturdays they have to wear tails. The ladies were wearing beautiful robes with diadem. It was like in the fairy tales. I remember one Saturday when a very wealthy gentleman wore a tuxedo  for dinner, and was denied access due to incorrect dressing.»

12 minutes crossing to the islands

The ferry from Esbjerg to Fanø only takes 12 minutes. Shortly thereafter we we are at the first tee on. Behind us are hotels, holiday apartments, long sandy beaches and the North Sea. The old houses have got the company of state-of-the-art villas. Some with thatched roofs, that pop up between the dunes. This is a well-considered part of Jutland.

The golf course stretches between, and sometimes over, the dunes. If we go up on a dune we only see one or two holes at a time, even though the holes are close to each other. We play between the dunes, and sometimes over them with blind shots towards small landing areas in the fairway or to a confined green. This is a golf course that nature has created with the help of Donald Dunlop, who laid out the first nine holes in 1901. And, in principle, the course looks the same today. Here there is no need for bunkers, it is more than enough with all the sand outside the fairways.

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GOLF COURSE AND HOUSES: Fanø GC is Denmark’s only true links course. Poto: Torsten Pamp

From the golf course we drive south along the coast, and suddenly we have a road ahead of us like a bridge straight into the West Sea. For about six kilometers we drive with water on both sides of the road before reaching Rømø. Almost flat, 6 by 12 kilometers, with a population of 700. Here tourists go for camping and swimming on the huge beach, which extends along the west side, or for unique nature experiences in the National Park.

The golf resort has a large clubhouse with shop, restaurant, bowling alleys and bathing facilities with 220 privately owned, terraced houses for rent. Ann also with apartments among the best we’ve stayed in at a golf course.

Rømø Golf Links is no links course as in the normal term. It’s more like a seaside course open to the sea breezes. The course has a base of clay, with well-tended fairways and bunkers. Between the holes, the land is links style with lots of high grass that extinguish several golf balls. In addition, water is in play at all holes. In the form of ponds or ditches along, or straight across, the fairways.

On a summer day with a gentle breeze from the sea you can probably walk off the 18th green with a smile on your face. In hard wind it’s a tougher challenge.

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TRUE BEAUTY: Rømø GC pictured from the highest tee. Photo: Torsten Pamp

To Sylt in the German islands

The ferry from Rømø to Sylt takes 40 minutes. The island is in many parts completely different from Rømø, shaped like the letter «T» with the base against the land side, and the arms stretched out. On the ocean side the lily-covered sand dunes rise in varying sizes.

The communities have a total of 12,000 permanent residents, the typical houses with thatched roofs are on the sides and tops of the dunes. It’s charming and luxurious, renowned for being the most expensive place in Germany. At least according to our new German friend, just before stepping into his big BMW.

The village life is at the same high level, with signs advertising Hermes, Bulgari and Joop fashion houses and Michelin restaurants.

The golf course that attracted us to the island, Budersand, is located at the southern tip. Ten years ago, Claudia Ebert, the heirloom of the family who owned the cosmetics company Wella, stood on the Budersand dune just north of the harbor in Hörnum.

Between her and the harbor lay the remains of what was a German military base during World War II. As she looked out over demolished baskets and cemented ground, she suddenly said: «I’ll buy the area and will build a golf course. But then a hotel is also needed.»

Rolf Stephan Hansen was assigned to design the golf course. Thousands of tons of sand were driven in, bulldozers shaped the land. And  in 2009 the true links course opened around a hotel in top luxury class.The turf  is as we’re fmailiar with from the British Isles, and with pot bunkers with peated edges and undulating greens with good roll.

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LOVELY LOCATION: The Budersand golf course and hotel. Photo: Torsten Pamp

The hotel has 77 rooms, in price range from 355 € for standard rooms to 1,300 € for the largest suite. With your private patio on the roof and complimentary drinks from the in-room bar cabinet.

Our plan was to take the ferry back in the late afternoon. However, the weather forecast warned of storm in the afternoon. Already at nine o’clock in the morning the rain fell almost horizontal in the winds, and the hotel had to close off the main entrance and all weather windows.

From the breakfast table we saw the waves go high, with foamed tops. We packed the car and drove fast through Sylt, and boarded the ferry as the last car. And then drove over all the bridges before finding the last one, the Øresund bridge, closed for traffic.

The weather made us escape in a haste. But the three islands and their golf courses keep calling us back.

There is an alternative route to Sylt, by the way. From the German mainland, a railway goes straight into the sea, similar to the road to Rømø. Your car goes on the train, and in high season there are 20 daily departures to and from Sylt.

Web sites for the islands

Fanø Tourism

Rømø Tourism

Sylt Tourism