Extinct volcanoes, the unforgiving rage of the Atlantic Ocean and unrelenting wind and rain. When it comes to golf, there’s no place more challenging – and rewarding – than Iceland.
An increasingly popular golfing destination, Iceland’s unique landscape offers challenges which golfers face in few other countries across the world.
On the Icelandic island of Heimaey, the largest of the rocky Icelandic Westman Islands, the opportunity to play one of the country’s most enchanting courses draws visitors from across the world – as well as right up the street.
Around 10 percent of the island’s 4,500 population are members of this spectacular golf course, nestled in between an extinct volcano and the Atlantic.
The wind is unrelenting, leaving even the most seasoned of golfers questioning how they can tame one of the world’s most enchanting courses.
“It’s the surroundings that makes this golf course so special,” the club’s president Helgi Bragason told CNN. “We have the volcano on one side, the Atlantic Ocean on the other and all the wildlife around here.
“In length, it’s only 5,400 meters which is a short golf course but we have the wind and the sea. It’s quite a difficult course and the best players aren’t getting great scores.”
As well as the locals, tourists from across the world come to Vestmannaeyjar to try their hand at tackling the harsh weather which makes this course so difficult.
A brief walk around the course, stumbling over volcanic rock and dodging sea spray, gives an indication of the challenges facing players.
But though the inclement conditions can provide a stern test, the beauty and the intrigue appear to win out with locals and tourists turning out regularly for a round or two.
“Here on the island, it’s because we have easy access to the course, it’s not too expensive and people can afford to play,” Bragason said. “It’s not occupied too much so you can get a tee time. It’s a public course, we get support from the community and town council and we’re also the third oldest golf club in Iceland so there’s some tradition.”
Back on the mainland, Keilir Golf Course in the town of Hafnafjordur, offers another dramatic scene for those who love to play amid nature’s most breathtaking scenery.
As in Vestmannaeyjar, the wind from the Atlantic Ocean and the lava rock provide the biggest challenges.
The front nine holes are some of the most testing with the course located in a lava field. The back nine is located on former farmland on the Hvaleyri peninsula.
First established in 1967 as a nine-hole course, it was extended to 12 holes in 1971 before another six were added in 1997.
Now the course, which is not far from the capital city of Reykjavik, is attracting visitors from across the world.
And if you get to Iceland in the middle of June, there’s also the chance to play “midnight golf,” with daylight remaining all night for around a fortnight.