A SPECTACLE TO BEHOLD
I’ve played a huge number of tournaments during the course of my European Tour career, but the atmosphere at Made in Denmark is as good as it gets
his year I played in the ‘Made in Denmark’ event for the second time, and what a wonderful experience it was. This tournament blows me away with how good it is in almost every respect, and how big it has become so quickly. It really is a special week in a country where the natives clearly love their golf.
Why is it so exceptional? That’s an easy question to answer. It’s the crowds. And it’s not just their size, although this year we had around 86,000 people come through the gates over the course of the week – not far short of what we routinely see at Major Championships on both sides of the Atlantic. No, there is much more to it than that. For whatever reason, the Danish people have really embraced the tournament. The amazing atmosphere they create in what is quite a compact space is, at least in my experience, unrivalled in regular European Tour events.
The short 16th hole is the highlight. It only plays anything from 90 to maybe 115 yards, but with the high bank around the green packed with spectators, it is easily the most exciting hole. There must be 6 to 7,000 folk out there every day, and just about every one of them has a squeaky toy. When anyone makes a birdie, the noise is unbelievable.
As soon as the players – in every group – leave the tee, the crowd starts to applaud. Not just politely; they really go for it. And they don’t stop until the players get to the green. What a feeling that is! I would go as far as to say Made in Denmark is the best European event I have ever played in. In terms of atmosphere, in how the locals embrace the players and in how pleased everyone is to see you there, it is, for me, unmatched. I obviously can’t speak for every pro who has made the trip to the Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort over the three years the event has been part of the tour, but I have never felt so welcome away from home.
Having said that, what is interesting to me is that the pre-event publicity, the brochures and the advertising – posters, programmes and the like – is all about the Danish players. It isn’t the Major Champions in the field, or the likes of European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke, who I know loved being there this year. Clearly, the tournament organisers want everyone to come and see all the players, but especially the Danish boys.
To me, that philosophy makes perfect sense. Throw in the music festivals and concerts that go on every evening after
Tplay – 8 to 10,000 people attend in the tented village – and the event has a really remarkable feel to it, all of which is achieved without the organisers having to give away tickets for free or even cheaply. In British terms, in fact, attendance is quite expensive. It was €35-€40 per day to watch the golf this year.
That is even more amazing when you realise that the course is hardly the most accessible. We’re not talking about a venue that is anywhere close to the main centres of population. Himmerland is maybe 45 minutes from Aalborg and nearly four hours from Copenhagen. It really is pretty remote. But even that is no problem for all concerned. This year, some 350 spectators were paying €100 per night to sleep in tents provided by the tournament organisers. And, as one official told me, had they put up 1,000 tents they could have filled them too. I’m betting they have at least that many in 2017. Nothing is too much trouble. It’s just an awesome event.
Part of the success, it seems to me, is that there is only the one European Tour event in Denmark. In Scotland, there can be as many as four in a given year. That, of course, is terrific. But it can also be a problem when budgets are tight and fans are forced to pick and choose where and when they can go. Not many people can afford to go to as many as four tournaments, so there are choices to be made. I get that, even though I have been a little bit disappointed by the attendances at my match play event the last couple of years. Ours is the weakest field and the smallest prize money, so we are competing against bigger events, which is tough.
Anyway, when there is only one event in a country it becomes the focus of attention, no matter who is or isn’t playing. People take a week off work to attend. It becomes a family occasion that is part of the nation’s sporting calendar. As I said, Made in Denmark has only been around since 2014, but already it is well established as something every Dane must go to in the summer. It is just brilliant. But if they had another tour event there I’m not sure either one would work so well. Would the crowds turn out in the same numbers for a second week? Maybe, maybe not. One is the perfect number in a country that size. And because of that, it is a massive deal. Sometimes a little really is better than a lot.
“The amazing atmosphere they create in what is quite a compact space is, at least in my experience, unrivalled in regular European Tour events”
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