Text: Julie Nordby Egeland
“Oops”, Geir Johnsen says, whilst watching his golf ball fly into some 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 Golf course, way out on the beach, looking at the massive Lofoten Wall in the horizon. As he’s 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”, he says.
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 warm light – slowly creeping up towards its brightest. Suddenly, the green is no longer just green. It transforms into a fairy-tale-looking landscape.
“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.
In the northern hemisphere during the summer months, the earth’s tilt towards the sun is responsible for the midnight sun. Conversely, the winters are long and dark – though lit by a special light show if theirs own, the auroras. There aren’t many golfers out then. In summer, north of the Arctic Circle there are golf courses that 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 a truly special experience.
The course at the Lofoten archipelago is placed on sand dunes, facing directly towards
the open ocean. By the shore on the mainland you find Bodø golfpark, whilst in Narvik you golf below the steep mountains by the Ofotfjord. In Tromsø, too, the course has a direct view to 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 our nature. So golfing really helps keeping our nature alive and appreciated in the modern world.”
The northern greens are alive at night in more than one sense. Most of the courses are surrounded by a 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 the 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 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, while dreaming of those long summer nights out on the green. “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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Northern Norway is by far the largest and most sparsely populated part of mainland Norway, and covers more than a third of the country.
Norway may not have the best courses in the world by traditional standards, but playing at a white beach under the midnight sun is something you won’t forget that easily.