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The Swedish Success Story

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Contributor:
Stan Sutherland
Stan Sutherland
Sandy Lyle

Monty reckons Sandy shouldn’t get a whopping great fine. Mark Reason at The Telegraph writes, “Colin Montgomerie steps in as Sandy Lyle faces hefty fine for Open comments”

So what’s this Scottish stoush got to do with the success of Swedish golf?

Absolutely nothing except for the fact that it was the only news item that I was remotely interested in until…I went to BBC Sports/Golf and read that, “Henningson clinches Czech title- Sweden's Oskar Henningsson claimed his first European Tour title when he won the Moravia Silesia Open by two strokes in the Czech Republic.”

Aha! A light went on.

I’ve often thought, how come the Swedish success story? And now’s a good time to investigate the matter and hopefully you’ll find it interesting.

Didn’t do a lot of Googling but this “Swedish Golf. Past, Present, and Future” (It’s a PDF file) article looked very interesting. It’s by Peter Hassmen and Peter Mattson, Department of Psychology, Stockholm University.

Here’s some wee bits of information that caught my attention.

With a population of only around 9 million, Sweden has an amazingly high per capita number of golfers 475,000 in over 400 clubs. It’s definitely much higher than the U.S.A and I would be interested in knowing the per capita figures for NZ and Scotland given that these two countries have per capita a very large number of golf courses.

Ergo, one reason for the Swedish success story. Lots of golfers for a wee nation.

Question: Why do the kids start playing golf?

Answer: It’s a fun thing, rates very highly.

Question: Why do they stop playing?

Answer: Because it stops being fun-Not surprising given 5 hours for a round is becoming the norm and the average age of the club golfer, in New Zealand anyway, is about the age of their grandfather or grandmother.

Question: What did the Swedes do right in the 1970s and 1980’s to explain their high per capita success rate in professional golf?

Answer: Read the report. But here’s some tidbits. Most of the pros started early and played with their parents, and didn’t start to focus on golf as their only sport until their mid to late teens.

And how about this from Annika Sorenstam when asked, “Is it possible to score a birdie on every hole during a round?”

Answer: “For sure it is possible; it’s mostly a mental thing.”

What’s significant about that reply is that just like Ben Hogan, Annika absolutely believes it’s possible.

Hassmen and Mattson asked the question, “According to your judgement, to what extent are physiological and psychological factors responsible for the performance during a competition?”

The collective answer was a very strong preference for psychological factors. Some would say that’s a no brainer but when you see the response in percentages on black and white it is somehow makes more of an impression. 

There’s another factor not mentioned by Hassmen and Mattson which I believe helped create a success culture for the Swedish pros.

Some time back, and I’m not sure if it’s still the case, I read that the Swedes have/had a house in the USA which most of them collectively used while in the States. Getting together with their mates rather than separately living in motels, or their own houses if they’d made enough money to buy them.

It can be a lonely life for those starting out on the pro tour. Witness Brian Keogh talking to Irish Open champion, Shane Lowry. “Probably the most difficult thing is not having the people around me,” he said of his transition to the pro ranks.”

Now here’s a thought about how to create a successful Kiwi golfing culture.

Would someone care to ask Michael Campbell if he’d like to part with some of what’s  left of his millions to buy a Kiwi golfing community house in the US or the UK, for aspiring Kiwi golfers?

No free lunches or free rent just something better than Earl’s Court, London or wherever it is hard up Kiwis go to these days while doing their OE (for non Kiwis, OE is NewZild for Overseas Experience)

Paraphrasing Marcellus in Shakespeare’s, Hamlet, “Something’s not quite right in the state of Scottish and New Zealand golf.”

OK so Sweden in both cases has about twice as big a population but per capita neither Scotland or New Zealand comes near the success rate of the Swedes on the pro tours.

You may recall that Horatio’s reply to Marcellus was, “Heaven will direct it.”

And only heaven knows when, or if, it will ever get better for the Kiwis or the Scots.

Golfing tip for the weekend? Take a tip from the Swedish kids-have fun

Slainte

Stan

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