That’s an intentionally inflammatory and completely spurious headline but I’m claiming it to be "true" in the name of the infallible Internet. The World Ice Golf Championship hasn’t been held since 2006 and it’s not certain it will ever be held again. The sponsors have canceled it the last few years because of bad weather, meaning, good weather. It’s been too warm to play.
There really is a World Ice Golf Championship and it even has a website although the whole concept is in serious jeopardy. They didn’t even update if for the 2010 season. Why bother? Greenland is turning into a sauna, relatively speaking.
Actually I’m quite indifferent to golf, which makes me an anomaly with my cohorts who hit the links at every opportunity, so I find it interesting that this is my second golf article in just the last few weeks (I featured the so-called "world’s longest" golf course in Australia recently). The sport has little impact on me personally but apparently I have an intense interest in the topography of weird golf courses. Who knew?
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Ice golf is a fairly recent phenomenon although practitioners claim that it:
…was known right back in the 17th century. A painting by the Dutch painter Aert van der Neer (1603-1677) shows players with a club in their hands attempting to get a ball into a hole in the ice covering a frozen canal in Holland. At that time the game was called "kolven."
Well maybe, but I have a hard time believing that a few Dutch guys on a frozen canal in the seventeenth century Netherlands have a direct connection or correlation to its nascent cousin. I sense a little revisionist history happening here. I have visions of some modern ice golfer walking through a museum, spotting the painting, and suddenly deciding it created a noble pedigree. Whatever. We all know it’s just a contrived excuse to grab a couple of drinks at the 19th hole.
The championship dates only to 1997, the brainchild of a local innkeeper trying to attract tourists to a tiny island on the northwest coast of Greenland. This is the location of Uummannaq, a community of fifteen hundred people nearly six hundred kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. This sounds like a small town, and it is, but it’s still pretty significant to Greenland which has fewer than sixty thousand citizens.
Nonetheless it can’t be easy to attract visitors to a place requiring two airline flights and a helicopter ride without a marquee event to bring them there, especially during the winter. The World Ice Golf Championship filled that gap.
It became quite successful in those early years, delivering an international audience of extreme golfers and hearty adventurers to a highly competitive 36-hole tournament played over two days. Players used brightly colored balls that wouldn’t fade into the background of ice and snow, in case you were wondering. The championship even attracted a big-name sponsor, the company that makes the scotch whisky liqueur, Drambuie. I guess that’s one way to keep the players feeling warm.
Those were the golden years of the sport, when everything still seemed poised for international success.
The venue is chosen because of its unique meteorological and geological features. Strong frost makes the sea freeze and thus trap the magnificent icebergs that are en route to the open sea along the Disko fjord. 12 glaciers – among them the fastest glacier in the world – feeds into the fjord ensuring plenty of spectacular icebergs. A stable high pressure securing sunshine, blue skies and very little snowfall formulate the rest of the unique Uummannaq set up.
It sounds spectacular, but it requires a constant temperature at or below -25°c to form properly. It also lasts only a single season before it melts away. Each annual golf course is a unique creation that cannot be repeated. That wasn’t a problem until recent year but balmy weather has made it increasingly difficult to sustain. Oh, there also seems to have been some schisms in the organizing committee that may have contributed to the problems. That leaves Jason Cunningham of Brisbane, Australia, as the undisputed champion since 2006.
The survival of Ice Golf is hardly the most pressing global warming issue but It’s a sad situation for the aficionados of this extreme sport. Meanwhile the water skiing golfers rejoice.