Just outside the city of Tromsø, Norway, is the northernmost 18-hole grass golf course in the world. Lying north of the Arctic Circle, Tromsø Golf Park is a must for golfers collecting unique courses of play.
The course opened on Aug. 17, 2002, near the end of the golf season in Norway, where the midnight sun permits golfers to tee off 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from late May to the end of July.
Swedish architect Jan Sederholm designed the course, incorporating the natural topography of the land. The course experiences the most bitter winter climate of any 18-hole grass golf course in the world. The coastal Arctic weather — which can be 25–30 degrees colder than the town of Tromsø, 30 miles away — batters the grass, and a foot of ice can accumulate on the greens in winter. The staff must chip away the ice or it will kill the dormant grass below. The best winter insulator is not ice but deep snow, which protects the roots.
Ivar Schroen, the general manager, shared some of the challenges of growing playable grass in this climate. The course superintendent waters the greens but not the fairways. In this short, cool season, grass grows at a snail’s pace. In 2006, the entire course had to be reseeded after a difficult winter.
Just beyond the course are the Lyngen Alps, famous for extreme skiing — but for extreme golf, Tromsø Golf Park is a must-play.
Hole 2 (363 yards, par 4)
This tricky dogleg left has a narrow landing area. You might be fooled into thinking drives to the left or right are safe, only to find trouble later. My golf partner, GT photographer Chris Ottaunick, found a drainage ditch when he drove his ball squarely along the left side of the fairway. The rough is heavy on this side and rolls off into the drainage area, where balls are left to remain in Norway — forever. The fairway dips down for about 100 yards to the elevated green.
Hole 3 (136 yards, par 3)
This is a rather simple par 3, with a little extra at the end. First, you need to shoot your ball over a small pond in front of the elevated tee box. With a clean shot, you will have no problem walking away with par. But if you push your ball right into the donut-shaped trap, you can have issues — like Chris! Take note of the wildflowers that appear prominently on this hole. They look like cotton balls on sticks.
Hole 4 (345 yards, par 4)
From the tee box it looks as if you might be able to carve off a little yardage by cutting the corner of this dogleg right, but a pond lies just out of view and will most likely catch your ball. We played the course twice, and both times on this hole I drove my ball like a rocket along the left side, finding dense rough and brush. The first time I had a clean lie and a decent shot to the green; the second time I was behind a tree trunk and had to chip back into play. A dry creek that runs across the fairway can also catch balls; the rough and small rocks there will make your shot out difficult. The green is elevated with a trap to the right.
Hole 8 (514 yards, par 5)
This tricky hole is ranked the most difficult. You need to drive your ball to the center of the narrow fairway and place your second shot left for a clean shot to the green. The hole turns slightly right, and the green is tucked below on the far right side, separated by a brush-covered hill. Two traps guard the elevated green, running from front to back. I had a decent drive and second shot but did not give my approach enough gusto. I caught the right trap, which caused me to miss par.
Hole 10 (505 yards, par 5)
This hole is intimidating and a test of your accuracy as you aim from the tee box through a narrow opening to the fairway, which is uphill just before the landing area. This hill is about 25–30 feet high; if you miss the opening left, you will be in the dense woodlands of Norway. Missing the hole right is a little easier, but a slightly lower plateau leaves you with a blind second shot. I took my 5-wood from this position and nailed a shot right center of the fairway, clearing the trees along the right side as I landed back into play. From here you either go for the green or lay up before the hill about 50 yards in front of the green. Many a ball gets tangled up in this area of brush and rough.
Hole 11 (332 yards, par 4)
This dogleg right presents a trio of traps on the right side of the fairway, one immediately after the other. My advice is to steer your ball left of these for a clean approach to the green. The green is slightly elevated with a flat spot in the middle and two traps flanking the right and left. Chris drove his ball far right and still had a shot to the green, clearing the right trap and the edge of the tree line.
Hole 16 (531 yards, par 5)
This is the most interesting hole on the course. It can be a real problem if you drive your ball off course. On our first round I sliced my ball right and had a difficult time recovering. The second time I was able to drive the ball straight to the fairway. From here the hole turns right as it wraps around a pond which is barely visible from the tee. Your second shot needs to land left center for the best approach to the green, which lies right of the hole and is mounded with a trap front right and water on the left side. Approach shots to the green can get unlucky bounces left to the second pond, which we witnessed.
Hole 18 (398 yards, par 4)
As we finished up our round at close to 3 a.m., it was a little brighter than twilight on the 18th fairway, a pleasant finishing hole. From an elevated tee box, you drive your ball to a wide and generous fairway. If you drive right, you will have trees and a large mound to circumnavigate to the green. The green has two traps, one left and one right, and is slightly angled, rising left to the rear right side.
Tromsø Golf Park Breivkeidet 9027 Ramfjordboten Tromsø, Norway tel 47 7763 3260
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