Ice Golf - only the coolest need apply!
Want to try the ultimate golf challenge on a course where you'll have no trouble staying cool over even the most testing putt? You should consider taking up Ice Golf - the most amazing development that the golf world has seen for decades.
Every year thirty six golfers (or lunatics, depending on your viewpoint) gather in Greenland to play in the World Ice Golf championship. This year's event takes place in late March and early April. The course is marked out on the ice of the frozen fjord and you can expect icebergs or the occasional polar bear for company! As the organisers say: "if you've played on the greens of Europe, then you'll find the "whites" of Greenland rather special."
The World Ice Golf Championship was the brainchild of Mr. Arne Neimann, a local resident and hotel proprietor on a small island called Uummannaq, off Greenland's North West coast. He and a friend designed the first course in 1997 and the sport took off from there.
The world championship is played on the ice in years when the conditions make the ice fields safe and predictable. Players compete over two days and play thirty six holes of stroke play. There is a "warm up" tournament the day before although "cool down" might be a more applicable phrase to describe the effect it has on the golfers. In March, when the world championships are held, the average temperature is minus 13.9 degrees Celsius, but temperatures as low as minus 25 can occur. The dry climate and the strong sunshine can make it seem slightly less cold than that - but not by much!
The organisers also try to keep the golf course open and accessible for several weeks each year for other open icegolf tournaments.
The greens are white and the balls are red. The "whites" are defined by a small wall of snow or by a red line on the ice. Players are allowed to use a scraper to smooth the snow on the white in front of their putt - the only time in golf that a player can legitimately improve the line of his putt. The snow and ice conditions underfoot vary from hole to hole and contestants need to wear polar ice gloves, artic boots and countless layers of clothing. Anti-glare sunglasses are also a good idea.
One contestant a few years ago quipped that "the only hole in one I scored was when one leg disappeared through a seal's breathing hole in the ice." There is also a local rule to deal with the unlikely situation of a polar bear interfering with your ball!
The organisers are looking for a new sponsor this year but in previous years the Drambuie liqueur company took the lead. Players and spectators were able to warm themselves by sampling some of the sponsor's finest product. As always however, even that feature has a twist to it. Rather than ice cubes in the drink, the drink was served in "ice cubes" or glasses carved out of ice to be more exact. Trophies were presented from tables carved out of ice and the scorer's tent was to be found in an igloo!
If you get the chance to visit Greenland for a game of ice golf then sieze it with both hands. It'll be the most unique game of your life.
Gary Hill plays most of his golf in Scotland and thinks that winter on the links of East Lothian is more than cold enough for him.
Check out his european vacation website for information about more civilised golf and about Ireland golf vacations
Gary also contributes to a medical website on the theme of whiplash injury