The 28th annual Arctic Open golf tournament will kick off in the small Icelandic town of Akureyri on June 27th. Golfers travel from all four corners of the earth to experience the unusual advantages and challenges of golfing in Iceland’s arctic environment.
You’ve probably never put golf and Iceland in the same thought, but the sport is surprisingly popular in this island nation – more than in the US or the UK. Reuters reports that about 10 percent of the country’s population plays golf, making it the second most popular sport (after soccer), even though cold weather limits the golf season to just four months. The vice chairman of the Icelandic Golf Union says “we joke that if just three or four people are living near one another, they’ll probably start a golf club.” It’s an exaggeration, but Icelanders’ love of golf is no joke: Iceland has the most golf courses per person out of any country. And Iceland leads the pack by a wide margin: the per capita rate is almost twice that of the next closest competitor – Scotland, the ancestral home of golf.
Akureyri hosts the most northerly 18-hole course in the world. The town is located just one degree south of the Arctic Circle, which experiences 24-hour sun during the summer solstice. During the tournament, the sun will set into Eyjafjordur Bay around midnight and rise only three hours later, meaning golfers can play all day and night. The moist climate produces lush green fairways that are naturally free of trees, which aren’t native to the island.
In addition to the surreal experience of golfing under the midnight sun, international players are drawn to the stunning landscapes. American golfer Kimber Bilby described the sheer cliffs, lava beds, and sea vistas of golfing in Iceland as “the most dramatic course I have ever played.”
Read more from Reuters about what it’s like to golf in Iceland. You can find details about the Arctic Open tournament on their website.