Golf Above the Arctic Circle
Golf Above the Arctic Circle
Aug. 26, 1989
KIRUNA, Sweden (AP) _ Reindeer roam the area freely and snow patches still dot some north sides close to the rolling fairways during the short summer season.
You get a free drop if a reindeer moves the ball on the fairway, but have to play it as it lies if it lands on the snow.
Welcome to Bjorkliden Arctic Golf Club 156 miles north of the Arctic Circle, in the land of the midnight sun where in June and July it's possible to play 24 hours a day and where members boast having the northern-most golf course in the world.
''You just can't compare this course to any other that I've played. It's so different,'' said Mats Hallberg, a European Tour regular from Sweden.
''It was pretty rough out there,'' said World Cup ski jumping champion Jan Boklov, who recently took up golf and is a member of the club. ''The fairways reminded me of cow pastures.''
It's an unlikely place for a golf course, sitting in rugged terrain near the Norwegian border 156 miles north of the Arctic Circle in what's been called Europe's last wilderness.
The club, founded in 1985, has more than 4,000 members, but only a handful of them live nearby the course. Most of the members live in Stockholm, the Swedish capital, which is a 90-minute flight away. Some 300 are foreign members.
It cost only $150,000 to build the course. Membership fees are only $100 a year. The green fee is only $12 dollars. It doesn't include a pull cart, because they're not allowed here. So most golfers carry lightweight bags.
''We've even had inquiries from the United States and Japan,'' said Guy Eriksson, one of the club's founders and its current chairman. ''We are aware that this is an exotic place to play golf and we encourage all golfers to come here.'' In fact, several Americans have already played golf here. That was in the 1930s, on a pitch and putt course built especially for American tourists. Back then, they paid a green fee of less than 50 cents to play a round.
Sune Linde, a golf course architect who has designed about 50 courses in Sweden, was assigned to create the course.
Bjorkliden Arctic Golf Club has a short par-68, 5,511-yard layout. But with grass being difficult to grow in this area, Linde made the fairways narrow.
The greens, some of them two-leveled, are small and cover a total area of just 200 square yards. Only six weeks ago, one green was covered by 7 1/2 feet of snow.
''I designed the greens small on purpose because of practical and strategical reasons,'' said Linde. ''Since the course is rather short, you got to have tough approach shots on the small greens.''
Swedish scientists came up with a special kind of grass to survive the northern climate. It's supposed to keep the reindeer from grazing on the fairways.
''But maybe I should bring a shotgun as my 15th club in the bag just in case,'' quipped one hacker.
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