Golf in Iceland: A Brief History And DIY Guide

Iceland is a country tragically suited for sports. The objectively beautiful landscapes are – when viewed up close – tailored by nature to make any sort of sport-like endeavor lead to grievous injury to all involved.

The tundra is frozen and knobbly in winter, then boggy and knobbly in summer. The lava fields are half-covered with ancient moss, waiting for you to step on the wrong patch where it will slip away to reveal a jagged rock, skewering your calf, gouging your kneecap or slitting your throat.

The glacier will open up with no notice, dropping you several hundred feet into a gradually narrowing crack where you finally come to a stop, wedged between city-sized blocks of ice flowing over the landscape, eventually ejecting you a few hundred years later in the form of silt in a glacial flow. And the weather always sucks.

But then at some point in the 20th century, golf was introduced to the island.

Golf lends itself beautifully to Iceland, a country which during summer is all green with no trees so everywhere is technically golfable. The Icelanders have taken advantage of this and the country currently has 65 golf courses (fact: Iceland has 5 times more golf courses per capita than the states – 0.0002 courses per capita in iceland, compared to 0.00004 per capita in the US).

However, the variety of courses in Iceland is very limited compared to the states where you can find cheap, run-down courses – where the clubhouse is a shack, your cart comes with a beer cooler and the fairway is littered with cigarette butts on one hand, and amazing resorts where the dress code is all-white and the balls are pearls on the other.

In Iceland it’s still strictly a yuppie affair. If your bag isn’t spotless and clean, if your clothes don’t say Ping or Nike, if your gloves have so much as a grass stain on them you will get snickered at. You will see less of this the further you get from civilization, not because the culture is different, but simply because there are fewer people.

So I would like to suggest an alternative for the golf-curious, financially disadvantaged and car-less individual.

Hljómskálagarðurinn is a park located just south of the pond in downtown Reykjavík. It is a peaceful little place, plenty of neatly cut grass, some public grills, a few rows of trees, none taller than 20 ft. and a few statues tossed in the mix. It also happens to be completely empty at night, Sundays through Thursdays.

The “Goodwill” in Reykjavik is called “Góði Hirðirinn” (the Good Shepherd) and they always have a few old golf clubs available for next to nothing. With a few stitches, an old curtain can be made into a lightweight golf bag in minutes. Finally, Laugavegur, the main shopping and drinking drag in town has a dollar store called “Tiger” that stocks golf balls.

Once all these things are in place, you need to wait for a sunny weekday, one where you don’t have any pre-noon obligations the following day. You wait until 11 p.m. (keep in mind that for most of June and July it will stay bright enough to golf 24 hours a day) when most of the park-goers will have gone home for the day. And then you strike.

The grass is what would most likely be referred to as rough, nothing resembling a putting green at least, which means most of the “holes” will not be holes inasmuch as they are objects to hit such as a grill, a trash bin, the small patch of dirt where a sapling has been transplanted, and so on.

I thought of writing up a map of my old course, but I would hate to deprive you, dear reader, of the pleasure of making you up your own. Just remember one thing, don’t fear the water hazard.

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