UUMMANNAQ, GREENLAND – Dreading the thought of another Southeast Texas summer? Feeling the horrible twin H's, heat and humidity, already being to creep up on you before the official summer season actually arrives.
Have we got a golf destination trip for you.
Billed as one of the most unique golf events in the world, the Drambuie World Ice Golf Championship certainly lives up to its name.
While most of the golfing world focused on Tiger Woods and his chance for history at the 2001 Masters this April, the tiny village of Uummannaq (1,400 population) on the West Coast of Greenland, 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 300 miles south of the North Pole, was part of the international ice golf tournament, which drew 24 golfing participants from five countries.
The title world ice golf championship may have been a bit of a misnomer as the trip and tournament was open to all and included five Americans (including yours truly), for a golfing adventure any of us won’t soon forget.
To be sure, it’s a long way to Uummannaq where dogs, mainly used for the local transportation system of dogsleds outnumber people 5 to 1, and its real cold when you get here (average temperature –10, without a day over zero). But just thinking about the 2002 trip and tournament may be enough to carry you through the impending hot summer.
The world ice golf tournament was first held in 1999 and was created by local hotel manager Arnie Niemann, a man who had never actually played golf, but had seen it on TV back in his homeland of Denmark.
“I knew everybody played golf and everyone enjoyed it, so I thought it would be fun,” he said. “People thought I was sure crazy when we started.”
Now golfers from all over the globe are trying to get in this crazy event.
The Uummannaq course, which is laid out on top of the local port, changes every year depending on the movement of the many local icebergs. The port stays frozen until mid-May and then refreezes again for play by the end of November, leaving locals and visitors a new golfing challenge each year.
There is more than five miles of space for the course, leaving plenty of room for a regulation length nine-hole course with two par 3's, one par 5 and four par 4's. The course, which is governed by the Danish Golf Union and the Royal and Ancient of St. Andrews, Scotland, is laid out in meters with some special local rules.
The many icebergs, which dot the layout, are treated as ground under repair and golfers are given a free drop with no penalty. The balls themselves are orange to stand out from the miles of white ice and snow and brooms are provided on each green to sweep off your path to the hole. The holes themselves may also be cleaned out from the blowing debris.
And one more thing, no graphic shafted clubs, as they are prone to shatter in the extreme elements.
But surprisingly, a well-struck ball off the tee will fly as far near the top of the world as it does in your regular Saturday foursome. Where it lands, either on solid ice or in a snow bank, will certainly determine its post-shot roll. Putting and chipping are another matter, as the hard-frozen greens, whites, don’t lend themselves to any feel putts. The harder the better is the key to putting success on the Uummannaq links.
The defending champion, a Danish schoolteacher who attended UCLA on a golf scholarship, turned in the winning score for this year’s tournament. She fired rounds of 76-81 for a nine-shot victory. Yours truly was second in the B flight with two rounds in double figures.
Players are regularly warned to watch each other for frostbite and to be careful of stepping in seal holes.
But the scenery is truly spectacular, the golf is most unique and the journey to the golf course is one not likely to be repeated anywhere in the world. Because there are no direct flights from the U.S. to Greenland, the only route is the go through Denmark, which still treats Greenland as an independent colony.
From Copenhagen, Denmark, you fly direct to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland which has the only airport in the country big enough to handle jumbo jets. From there, you catch a turbo-prop Dash-7 50-seater for the one-hour trip to Illuissat. It’s only a 15-minute helicopter ride from there to Uummannaq or a 45-minute four-wheel drive trip over the heavily rutted roads, then a 15-minute walk to the only hotel in town.
The food is a mixture of just about any type of seafood your can imagine from fried bluefish to whale filet and tournedos of reindeer (reindeer liver), which are usually reserved for special occasions.
“We could have one tournament in Uummannaq and one somewhere else,” Greenland Tourism Information manager Soren Thalund said, “we certainly have enough room up here.”
Spots are still available for the 2002 trip and tournament. For more information, visit www.visitgreenland.com and you can sign up for the coolest golf adventure you will ever experience.