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Night-time golfing

North of the Arctic Circle you can golf in the middle of the night with the sun in your eyes. All you have to do is stay awake – the hole night.

A midnight swing

“Oops”, Geir Johnsen says whilst watching his golf ball fly into the seaweed. “You really have to be careful with your swings out here”, he says, shaking his head. The northern hobby golfer is right. We’re at Bodø Golfpark, way out on the beach with the massive Lofotenveggen mountains on the horizon. As Johnsen is closing in on the third hole, you can even see the scraps of an old fishery on the shore nearby.

Make one mistake out here, and the golf ball can easily end up in a creek or in a nearby forest – or perhaps hit an unknowing duck in the head. “But that’s the price to pay when you play around in untouched Nordic nature”, Johnsen says.

Magical light and mysterious graves

It’s one hour past midnight and we’re playing golf. As Johnsen once more tries his best to put in the third hole, the floodlight of the midnight sun is casting long shadows over the course, filling it with a warm light that is almost at its brightest. Suddenly, the green is no longer just green. It transforms into a landscape that looks like a fairy tale.

“It’s definitely magical. You just have to be here, words can’t describe it”, says Jens Kristian Hansen, a Norwegian veteran golfer. But he tries anyway: “Forget mindfulness. When you golf in the midnight sun, you get an intense feeling of being present in the moment.”

In light of the magical atmosphere, it seems to be no coincidence that there are hidden old burial mounds on this northern course, right next to hole number four. “So if you feel a sudden gust of wind, it can be the ghost of an old Norwegian Viking king”, Hansen jokes.

Stay up all night

In the northern hemisphere during the summer months, the earth’s tilt towards the sun is responsible for the midnight sun. Conversely, the winter is long and dark, though lit by a special light show of its own: the northern lights. There aren’t many golfers out then. But north of the Arctic Circle in summer, some golf courses are open 24 hours a day, exploiting the precious light for all it’s worth. Surrounded by the characteristic northern nature – the long coastline dotted with fishing villages in the shadow of craggy peaks – it makes for an extraordinary experience.

You’ll find Bodø Golfpark by the shore on the mainland. Lofoten Links is placed on sand dunes and faces directly towards the open ocean, whilst in Narvik, you golf below the steep mountains by the Ofotfjord. In Tromsø, too, the course has a direct view of the water.

“Being able to golf in nature in this way is an important part of the northern culture”, Geir Johnsen says. He’s not only a hobby golfer but also a director at Nordlands County Council. “When golfing, you’re active and social at the same time as you’re enjoying the nature. So golfing really helps to keep our nature alive and appreciated in the modern world.”

Spotting eagles

The northern greens are alive at night in more than one sense. Most of the courses are surrounded by teeming animal life. You may just have to put alongside an elk or an otter or try to ace while the gulls are howling out at sea. “By the west side of hole five and six at Bodø golf course, there’s the occasional reindeer running by”, says Johnsen. Besides, it’s not only on the green you can spot an “Eagle”. Look up at the sky, and you might see a white-tailed sea eagle cruising through the wisps of cloud.

“We are very concerned with sustaining both the animal life and our cultural heritage at the courses. The Viking grave is placed directly onto the fairway and we have had baby ducks raised at our clubhouses. Up here, golfing goes hand in hand with both nature and tradition”, Johnsen says. “And the midnight sun just makes the whole experience extra special and everlasting. It really proves that golfing in the north is enjoyable for everyone, not just the trained golfer.”

When the northern winter is as long as it is, it’s quite clear why people grab the days of eternal sun with both hands. Stay awake, and you may just make 18 more holes before breakfast.

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