Playing golf in Sweden? You have to get certified

I am astounded. Utterly baffled. I am a supporter of Sweden’s social welfare state but this is government intervention gone one step too far.

You have to get certified to play golf. To play golf. You have to pay a couple of thousand kronor ($150-500) to take a special course, which requires you to attend classes, learn the theory and practicalities of the game, and then take a written examination and play a round of golf in order to pass. Only after you have successfully passed the course and obtained your green card (grönt kort) will you be allowed to play on courses in Sweden and abroad.

I only discovered this after watching an old travel show hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, whom you will probably hear me talk about again because I absolutely love his BBC show Top Gear. The show was mocking Germany’s many rules and its citizens inability to do anything without direction. His bit on the requirement for golf certification in Germany had me shaking my head and looking to my boyfriend to validate my incredulity.

He didn’t.

He just told me that Sweden has the same rule. And then couldn’t fathom why America did not have it.

Ohhh Sweden…

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Biathlon: The only time Swedes love their guns…

Every time it comes on, I giggle. I can’t help it. To me, it is a bit absurd. Skiing cross-country and shooting a gun? Jerry Seinfeld’s words ring in my ears…

“In the Winter Olympics they have that biathlon that combines cross-country skiing and shooting a gun. How many alpine snipers are into this? To me, it’s like combining swimming and… strangle a guy, why don’t we have that? That makes absolutely as much sense to me. Just put people in the pool at the end of each lane for the swimmers.”

The sport, which is actually incredibly difficult, began in 1767 and was a form of military training for the Norwegian military. And despite not being in the Olympics until 1960, it is immensely popular in Europe and in Nordic countries in particular.

I had never really seen the sport before, but after watching it several times on Swedish television this winter, I can say it’s actually pretty impressive. Though the distance they ski varies, when they cross the finish line it’s like hitting the power button; they all collapse to the ground, breathing heavily with their faces covered in slobber (no time to wipe I guess).

Swedes, in particular, love this sport. I received constant scolding from my boyfriend when I laughed, a habit I still cannot help despite understanding it a bit more now. But the only thing funnier than the sport itself, is the song that Swedes sing to root on their countrymen:

Heja Sverige friskt humör, skjortan hänger utanför!

Which translates to: Go Sweden healthy mood, his shirt is … hanging outside?

Ummm… ok.

Nothing but love for English football

The sports that figure prominently in Thailand are Muay Thai boxing, badminton and … football? Considering that this country doesn’t have professional football (or soccer for us Americans) teams to speak of, who do they follow? The English Premier League.

Not only do they follow the clubs, they garner a fan following that is on par with England itself. Team jerseys are sold at every sporting outlet; hats, towels and various gear are sold at street stalls and mall kiosks; and they even offer a Man U credit card.

But on this Saturday night, I witnessed an obsession with the Premiership that is as entertaining as it is puzzling. About 100 people were gathered on all five floors of the MBK Center shopping mall, one of the largest and most popular in Bangkok, to watch Liverpool take on rival Manchester United.

Two jumbo screens were broadcasting the game on both ends and Thai fans, decked out in Man U and Liverpool gear, sat around the railings with friends and cheered on their respective teams. Close goals and Liverpool’s eventual win drew hoots and hollers that could be heard at every level and inside every store.

This kind of rousing display makes me curious about what Thai football fans would be like at a Premiership game. Would they stick to their Buddhist instincts and cheer peacefully? Or adopt the behavior of English football hooligans, and start chucking beer and throwing an inebriated fit? Considering how cool and calm Thais are on a daily basis, I would totally pay to see the latter. We could bond.

Photo: AP