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Golf with a difference… ice golf in Greenland

We only talk about golf when it comes under the ‘extreme’ handle; bad behaviour, tantrums and whether you mark your golf card correctly or not do not come under this catagory!

However, playing in the World Ice golf Championships certainly does. This is golf with a difference… extreme golf. Something we would like to know a little more about…

The World Ice Golf championships have been held yearly, since 1997, in Uummannaq, Greenland in March, 600 km north of the Arctic Circle. Uummannaq is the world’s northernmost golf course and the course is re-designed every year on shelf ice. This spectacularly different tournament attracts golfers from across the world.

Freezing glaciers and huge icebergs frame the course and continue to move slowly all year round – even in March the ‘green’, or, in the case of snow golf, the ‘white’ is cut literally days before the event.

The World Ice Golf Championships in Greenland

Playing off a 'white' : photo courtesy of greenland-guide

“The sun shines and sitting on the hotel balcony in Uummannaq looking at the most amazing golf course in the world makes you wonder if it is all real. But real it is, and if you are a golfer and are looking for the ultimate game, Ice Golf in Greenland is something not to be missed,” says Fraser Ballantyne from Scotland.

The huge icebergs form an important part to the layout of the course as do the weather and sea. The organisers are convinced that nowhere else in the world could produce “such a spectacular, extreme and beautiful setting for an international golfing championship”.

Icegolfer Kasper Hermansen and Mr. Niemann are the founders of the World Ice Golf Championship, and they have recognised the growing trend for the search for something different. “The interest in playing golf in spectacular surroundings is growing, and though the course is a little shorter, the holes a little larger, the ball is orange and the green is white – it is just like regular golf.”

It is possible that we can thank Rudyard Kipling for this extreme form of golf. He was a keen golfer and in the 1890’s was living in Vermont writing the wonderful ‘The Jungle Book’. Needing to get outside for exercise in winter he hit upon the idea of playing his favourite game. He painted the golf balls red and used red cups for the holes. However, even earlier than this there are records of snow golf, or ‘kolf’ or ‘kolven’, being played. 17th century painters Aert van der Neer and Hendrik Avercamp both show examples of people on ice holding clubs and hitting a ball. This game had been played since the middle ages.

Back to the present game…

Anyone with a handicap of less than 36 can take part in this 2-day, 36-hole championship. This opens the field to amateur players, but the field is also limited to only 36 players.

The couse is a nine holes par 35 or 36 and consists ideally of 5 par 4’s, 2 par 3’s and 2 par 5’s. The distance is about 5-7% shorter than a normal average golf course. The ground the players play over can be very variable. There can be a lot more snow on one side of an iceberg to the other and the ice is not of a consistent surface. On top of that there will almost certainly be a thin layer of frozen powder snow which makes the surface rough and uneven.

However, it only takes the players a few strokes to get a feel for the game, and the competition is on!

In March, when the world championships are held, the average temperature is minus 13.9 degrees Celsius, and can drop to as low as minus 25, but because the climate is dry and the sun shines brightly, it does not feel that cold. Teeing off in sub-zero temperatures, however, calls for plenty of layers of thermal wear, so wrap up well. Snow blindness is also a risk but a pair of good strong sunglasses will prevent that.

One interesting thing about this extreme golf competition is that records made hole-by-hole, day-by-day or even event-by-event are impossible because the course is constantly altering as the pack-ice moves which causes new jutting outcrops of ice to emerge into the course.

A challenging game indeed!

This is a great video of the 2011 tournament. It’s long, but I can assure you it doesn’t seem that when watching it…

… and if you might be tempted to try get a place next year, perhaps we can tempt you further with some fabulous photographs on this extreme golf tournament. You’ll have to follow the link to the World Ice Golf Championship.

For further information on this fantastic tournament I suggest you go direct to their website: Greenland – World Ice Golf Championships. I hope you get a hole in one!


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