Golf Destination: Iceland

As the saying goes “Who would’a thunk it?!”  But the fact is, Iceland is quickly becoming a hotspot for golf considering it’s 60+ courses strewn across the island attracting over 4000 annual visitors.  Two of these courses feature 27 holes (made up an Executive course and a Championship course) and 16 of these clubs present a traditional 18-hole course.

The closeness to the Arctic Circle might be a turn off for some golfers, especially for those that traditionally seek the sun and warm to hot weather with plentiful courses found in Florida, Arizona, Mexico, and the Caribbean.  However, Iceland’s golf season is surprisingly long with an average of 6 months in the northern half of the island and up to 7 months further south. Some courses can even be played year round if the weather holds out.  While it’s obvious that you won’t find landscaping that contains palm trees or cactus, the courses are incredibly scenic with mountain and ocean views.

The creation of Golf Iceland happened in 2008 when Iceland’s tourism board saw the opportunity to use the island’s courses as a means to draw a new type of traveler.  Though the hype took a while to catch on, eventually it worked, with increases in tourism steadily increasing over the years, to the current estimate of 4000 golfers annually.

IAGTO  (International Association of Golf Tour Operators) Chief Executive Peter Walton has said: “Very much like the destination itself, Icelandic golf is often spectacular! There are a number of high-quality courses that will appeal to avid golfers and trophy hunters, as well as golfers who love to experience unique and interesting environments with some tremendous views. We nicknamed the excellent Keilir Golf Course near Reykjavik ‘Lava-Links’ because the front nine negotiates its way through lava fields, transforming to a true links experience on the back nine. The Grafarholt and Oddur golf courses are also close to Reykjavik and are well worth playing for those visiting the capital.”

Walton went on to say, “Playing golf among volcanoes and even within ancient volcanic craters, such as on Heimaey in the Westman Islands, or within sight of angry towering geysers is not an every-day occurrence, which is why they live long in the memory. Interestingly, most courses in Iceland offer a special rate for couples which is significantly less than the cost of two green fees.”

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