Have you ever heard of the World Ice Golf Championships? If you thought the 967 bunkers at Whistling Straits constituted ‘hazard hell’ then think again! Try swinging on sheet ice with a freezing wind cutting you in two and polar bears prowling on the fairway!
Ice golf is not a recent phenomenon. It dates back to the seventeenth century. A few Dutch golfers were so passionate about the game that they decided they couldn’t wait for spring to arrive and so began playing through the winter. Since that time ice golf has developed into a recognised winter sport with fans all across the globe.
A 36 hole-stroke-play competition played over two days, the first World Ice Golf Championship was played in 1997 with the front 9 holes being played in the morning and the back 9 in the afternoon on both days. The field was limited to 20 and the maximum handicap allowed was 36.
The venue for that inaugural event and for subsequent championships was Uummannaq in Greenland, six hundred kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. The course was designed on the fjord winter ice and stretched over huge icebergs. Golfers not only had to combat each other, but temperatures between -20° and -50° as well. Despite these extreme temperatures, every year, in the spring thaw, the course melted away completely, so although the venue remained constant, the course was totally different each year. It was somewhat shorter than a standard course and the hole was slightly larger. Most of the course was white, including the greens, so orange balls were used. Apart from these obvious differences, the rules themselves were basically the same as those laid down by the R&A.
Unfortunately, climate change has meant the ice has become too thin to play on and the last time the Championship was held was back in 2006.
However, that has not meant the death of the sport. Indeed it is very much alive and kicking in the USA and the invitation to play in the 2016 tournament to be held on Lake Inguadona, Minnesota in January, described as "a 2-person team scramble" is currently open.