THERE are more than 60 golf clubs throughout the country offering seventeen 18-hole courses and fifty nine-hole golf courses in Iceland.
Golf in the Nordic nation began on December 14, 1934, when a number of distinguished gentlemen met in Reykjavik to establish a golf club, the first one in Iceland – known today as the Reykjavik Golf Club.
But it may come as a surprise to learn that Iceland now has a greater percentage of its population playing golf than Scotland with 17,000 registered players from a population of just over 300,000.
And, with the financial support of The R&A, a two-tiered driving range was added to Iceland’s golfing infrastructure, as was a heated, indoor, short-game area, which now serves as a facility in which to conduct winter training for elite players.
The development programmes that are utilising these facilities are reaping the rewards. In July, Iceland finished second at the European Boys’ Challenge Trophy, an event held at the Estonian Golf and Country Club to which The R&A contributed £10,000.
Then, in September, Gudmundur Kristjansson of Iceland won the Duke of York Young Champions Trophy at Royal St George’s, home of the 2011 Open Championship.
“With relatively little outside assistance, Icelandic golf has grown and prospered over the past 20 years,” explained The R&A’s Director of Golf Development, Duncan Weir, “though we are pleased the money we have contributed has been well utilised.”
R&A support of Icelandic golf began in 1994 with a grant of £4,000. Since then, annual grants of up to £12,000 have been awarded, as well as £15,000 to help with their hosting of the 2002 European Boys’ Team Championship, and £30,000 towards the construction of a driving range at Keilir Golf Club.
In return, the Golf Union of Iceland has been a long-time supporter of The R&A, regularly sending delegates to the Working for Golf Conference and the annual Referees School.
Building a golf course in Grafarholt proved to be a very difficult task. There was hardly any soil that was usable for cultivation, let alone for a golf course.
Nevertheless, the members persevered and with great effort were able to build a beautiful and challenging golf course.
Play started in 1963 but only on a few holes. However, more and more holes were gradually added. Today, Grafarholt – designed by Swede Nils Skold – is a golf course that has received international recognition, practice facilities that are second to none as well as a club house of the highest quality.
Foreign golf reporters, who have played or visited the golf course, all say the same thing: “Never have they seen such diversity on a golf course like there is in Grafarholt.”
The course is very undulating and therefore quite heavy on the foot, especially from the back tees. Grafarholt is not the longest, measuring 6650 yards par 71 from the back tees, but requires great levels of accuracy if you want to play well.
To illustrate that, the course record from the back tees is 67 or four under par.
The club has hosted a few international tournaments at Grafarholt, the Nordic Team Championships three times, European Team Boys Championship once and The European Senior Amateur Championship once. This more than anything shows the level of recognition that the Grafarholt golf course and Reykjavik Golf Club have overseas.
But seeing is believing, so golfers must judge the quality of course for themselves after playing it. And with the huge increase in the number of golfers in Iceland in recent years, the Grafarholt course could no longer handle the number of golfers playing there every day.
To cope with that problem, in 1993 the club decided to build a new 18-hole course at Korpulfsstadir and golf architect Hannes Iorsteinsson was hired to design the layout.
Everything went according to plan and in July of 1996, play started on nine holes at Korpa and a year later, all 18 holes were opened. The Korpa golf course was formerly opened in July 1997 when it hosted the national championships.
The city council allocated the east end of the historic Korpulfstadir building for the golf club. Today, the club’s offices, indoor practice facilities, restaurant, pro shop and locker rooms are all located in the east end.
The Korpa golf course is 6.185 meters (6.800 yards) par 72 from the back tees and has its own unique characteristics.
The front nine holes are played along the Atlantic Ocean while the back nine are played along the Korpa River.
There are many beautiful holes on the course, where each player must tackle the various challenges, bearing in mind that the most innocuous looking holes are usually the ones that punish you the most.
Trees have been planted around the course and every year they come more and more in play. Korpa has an outstanding layout and is becoming more and more beautiful every year.
Reykjavík Golf Club is by far the largest golf club in Iceland with 2500 members, it has two different but magnificent golf courses and it will not be long until the Korpa golf course will be hosting international tournaments.
The biggest driving range in the country, Básar, is located at Grafarholt. It opened in 2004 and has over 70 mats to hit from. The club has two short practice courses, one at Korpa (Litli völlur) and one at Grafarholt (Grafarkot) where players can improve their short game.
Playing golf in Iceland is an adventure you will remember for a lifetime. Do you think playing golf at midnight surrounded by lava fields sounds too strange to be true? Not in Iceland and the midnight sessions are available in summer due to the country’s northerly location.
The golf season in Iceland generally runs from late May to early September and midnight golf is generally playable between early June and late July.