Playing golf in the middle of the night? What madness! How do you play at midnight when you can’t even see an inch from your nose? Do you fill the field with spotlights? Do you play in the dark, with all that goes with it? No, impossible.
Impossible everywhere, it is true, except in Iceland. Not only is it possible to play at midnight here, but there are golf courses that have made this their strength.
Imagine green expanses and the sun shining at midnight
The “trick” to playing golf at midnight is all in all trivial: just go to a place where the sun never seems to want to set, even at midnight. Just go to a place like Iceland.
In northern European countries, it happens that summer nights are just as bright as daytime because of the proximity to the Arctic Circle. In the far north of Iceland, for example, in June and July the sun sets shortly after midnight and only for a couple of hours. The sky does not have time to darken that the sun peeps back over the horizon, bathing the greens in an almost surreal light that makes them even more magical.
Could this be why Icelanders are obsessed with golf?
There are 65 golf courses in Iceland, which would not seem like much. It wouldn’t seem like much, except that about 321,000 people live in Iceland, 60,000 of whom play golf at least once in a while. This is even more exceptional when you consider that the Icelandic golf season lasts only from May to September.
In spring and summer, Icelanders dive into the green expanses of their golf courses and stay there day and night. Literally.
Lose yourself in the flow
Iceland is such a beautiful country that you don’t need an excuse to visit it. Imagine expanses of grass as far as the eye can see, interrupted by black volcanic stone rocks and small wild shrubs. From time to time, the flow of green and black is interrupted, giving way to the blue of the Atlantic Ocean. If you close your eyes, you can feel the salty air filling your lungs and the wind pushing you backward, threatening to sweep you away.
Icelandic fields are wild, touched by the hand of man just enough to make them playable. Don’t make the mistake of thinking they are “home”: everything on those greens is a challenge to you, to your ball, to your game. Everything, including the light.
Playing golf on Icelandic summer nights, when the sun is high in the sky, is an almost transcendental experience. The sun remains there, fixed, as if someone had nailed it to the celestial vault. Time never passes, minutes dilate and become hours without you realizing it. When you look up at the sky to try to figure out whether it is morning or evening, you see only the blue sky and the sun.
You could have been playing for days and wouldn’t have realized it.
The tournaments that start when (not) the sun goes down
Such is the allure of the midnight sun that several tournaments have sprung up that take place precisely at night. Two of the most important are The Arctic Open and The Lava Challenge, both open to both Professional and Amateur and both 36 holes.
The two tournaments are held over two days; the first has tee time at 2:30 p.m. and ends around 11:30 p.m.; the second a tee time much later, around 8 p.m., and ends around 2 a.m.
Combining defiance against wilderness and challenge against very human opponents has its own appeal. If, however, you want to enjoy the beauty of Iceland at midnight without competing, no problem: several Icelandic golf clubs allow you to play even in the middle of the night, under that strange sun that illuminates the greens.