Fano Golf Links,
Fano, Denmark

Eleventh hole, 500 yards; The first at Fano is a stout 550 yard three shotter that was formed when Lassen combined Nonboe’s first and second holes. On the return nine, here is the course’s other three shotter with its fairway pleasantly weaving low through the dunes, very much in the manner of how many fairways  are routed at Royal Birkdale in England. However, the golfer may appreciate this one more because of the manner in which the other fairways go up and over dunes at Fano. Essentially, it’s the variety of ways that the holes interact with nature that makes Fano both special and challenging.

The serene valley that the eleventh fairway zigzags through is in fine contrast to some of the other holes at Fano.

Thirteenth hole, 280 yards; Fano has ten par fours that measure under 350 yards in length which is where it loses distance relative to other par 70 courses. One’s esteem of the course is shaped largely by these holes as they in fact represent more than half of the course. Take the challenge posed here at the thirteenth. Unlike many of the other holes, the golfer has a clear view of the green with the trouble in plain sight. Recently, two golfers played it in opposite manners. One took driver off the tee, trying to reach the green. The tee shot sailed slightly right on the wind and the golfer had to scramble out of the wetland just to salvage a hard fought par. The other player hit five iron off the tee and then a full wedge close to the hole. Though the putt didn’t drop, both players liked how they respectively played it. If such a chess match is appealing , then the player will no doubt join the many who have gone before in holding Fano in high regard.

What is the best play from the elevated thirteenth tee, given how wetlands crowd in on both the left and right sides of the fairway? Certainly the day's wind factors into the answer.

Heather covered mounds diagonally run in front of the thirteenth green. Ala Royal Ashdown Forest, who needs bunkers when there are so many other attractive hazards?!

Fifteenth hole, 410 yards; Like the eighth, this is a hole of unrelenting difficulty with a high ridge seventy yards short of the green turning it into an Alps hole. While it may not be strategic in the sense that there isn’t a safe way around the ridge or a way to gain sight of the flag from anywhere on the fairway, the hole’s key feature (i.e. the ridge) acts as a do-or-die central hazard, forcing the need to find the fairway off the tee if the average club golfer is to entertain hope of scaling the ridge with his second and getting near the green in two.  The golfer keeps expecting the course to stumble yet Dane Nonboe’s stretch from thirteen to fifteen is as good as any three hole sequence on the course. According to research provided by Meister, Nonboe was paid with life insurance for his work as money was in short supply in 1930 – what a bargain the club got!

Launched over a tall dune, the golfer's approach shot must carry all this broken ground to reach the green.

Seventeenth hole, 350 yards; Played as the eighth in 1930, this exemplary teaser was the handiwork of Nonboe, who must be commended for incorporating another classic architectural feature into a hole.  In this case, a hog’s back fairway is the standout feature. A good drive hits on it and is thrown left, giving the golfer a clean look down a long narrow green wedged between two dunes. The golfer whose tee ball is kicked away to the right is still in the fairway but his approach into the thirteen yard wide (!) green is from a materially worse angle.

What smart thinking to incorporate this hogback feature into the seventeenth fairway. As is evident above, the golfer very much wants his tee ball to land on or left of the hog's back as ...

...the pitch is much easier and straightforward than one from the right. Credit belongs to Dunlop for this green location.

Who likes what in golf courses is a personal matter. Those who place importance on the setting and of re-establishing a strong connection with nature will obviously adore Fano. Even the most seasoned campaigner might find himself scampering up and down the dunes like a kid, hopeful to find his ball lying in an advantageous position but always wide-eyed with amazement as to his surrounds. Fano is simply great fun and golf is surely still about fun, yes?

Of course, others place priority in a course’s ability to test the best, which requires a course to possess a certain amount of brute length as well as greens that reward a deft touch around them. Such people might not readily embrace Fano as one of the few must-play courses in Scandinavia – though they might be surprised to learn that Fano hosted the first European national open!  Alas, it is fair to say that Fano’s weakness lies in and around the greens. With greens averaging little more than 2,000 square feet and with the green speed commensurate with greens that aren’t mowed every day, the golfer won’t find his interest held at the same high level as the long game.  Also, the little recovery shots posed around the greens are often more straightforward than the shots asked of the golfer to get to the green itself.

In the end, so what? The land movement, vegetation, and soil might place Fano among the top two dozen or so raw sites in world golf. Throw in how the holes play around and over the dunes and how other fairways play through the valleys and the golfer is constantly given something to accomplish. Some of the blind tee shots like at the fourteenth are over the tallest dunes on the property and some of the blind approach shots like at the eighth and fifteenth are uncompromising in nature as they play over long patches of broken ground. There is an in-your-face challenge posed at Fano that is distinctly old-fashioned and all the better for it. The golf has not been dumbed down to cater to all tastes and playing levels. Hence, there is a sense of adventure that very few courses obtain.

Rightly so, Fano's clubhouse makes it clear how proud the club is of having been founded in 1901.

While on the island, if you feel like treating yourself, by all means stay or at least have a meal at Sonderho Kro (www.sonderhokro.dk). Located at the southern tip of the island, cottages fan out from the main thatch covered building. Dating back to 1722, this fourteen room establishment evokes a period of time far removed from today’s clamor.

The cottages at Sonderho Kro won't disappoint - just remember to duck when walking through some of their five foot tall doorways!

One of the game's most fun drives is from Sonderho Kro along the beach to Fano Golf Links.

This mine at the edge of Sonderho Kro's property reminds the golfer of darker times.

The End