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How Iceland could reshape the world of golf

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Located half an hour’s drive north of the capital metropolis Reykjavik is Brautarholt Golf Course. Laid out throughout a dramatic cliff-lined peninsula, Brautarholt is the brainchild of founder Gunnar Palsson.

Do programs want 18-holes?

Opening initially as a nine-hole course in 2011 earlier than increasing to 12, Brautarholt was designed by famend Icelandic architect Edwin Roald.

Roald has attracted loads of consideration in recent times along with his “why 18-holes?” motion, a philosophy that implies golf course design could be improved if architects labored to create the very best course for the house they’ve, relatively than cling onto the “antiquated” notion that each course have to be 18-holes lengthy.
“When you could have restricted assets, you might be compelled to make use of what nature has given you,” Roald told Hyperlinks journal in 2017. “If solely you possibly can break free from the constraints of getting another person inform you what number of holes you should construct.

“It’s the similar as writing books, or making films. Think about if all books needed to be precisely 200 pages, or a movie needed to final 95 minutes. Would they be nearly as good?”

Regardless of comprising of solely 12 holes, Brautarholt has been internationally acknowledged as one of many world’s most interesting programs. In 2020, it was ranked No. 64 in an inventory of the World’s Prime-100 programs by Golfscape, alongside the likes of Pebble Seaside and St. Andrews.

A blueprint?

With a brief golf season in Iceland and lengthy winters, golf golf equipment within the nation wish to discover revolutionary methods of extending the season and making golf accessible to youth gamers all yr spherical.

The Iceland males’s soccer group made headlines all over the world for his or her exploits on the European Championships in 2016, reaching the quarterfinals and qualifying for his or her first World Cup in 2018. The ladies’s group additionally certified for 3 consecutive European championships from 2009 to 2017 having by no means beforehand certified for a serious match.

A lot of the nationwide group’s exceptional success has been attributed to the nation’s funding in cutting-edge, indoor amenities and wonderful teaching, a blueprint that will find yourself being replicated in golf.

The GKG Membership in Reykjavik is one in all Iceland’s largest golf golf equipment, comprised of an 18-hole course plus a nine-hole, par-3 course. With a thriving junior program and energetic membership, the membership has lately invested in a cutting-edge $10 million indoor facility to permit members to follow all year long.

Located beneath the clubhouse, the indoor facility consists of a placing inexperienced, chipping space and 16 Monitor Man golf simulators, permitting customers to play roughly 100 programs from all over the world.

Ulfar Jonsson is GKG’s Sporting Director and has seen firsthand the influence the ability has made. “We see our youthful gamers are getting technically extra superior and higher. So we’re seeing higher swings.

“We encourage clearly all our gamers to play as a lot as they will out on the course over {the summertime}, however then they will are available in right here and work on the method throughout the winter.”

Having had restricted success on the world’s largest excursions, Haukur Orn Birgisson — the president of the Icelandic Golf Union and the European Golf Affiliation — believes that the funding in amenities just like the one at GKG may result in outcomes for Icelandic gamers on the highest degree.

“When you consider it, now we have a {golfing} season that spans for about 5, six months. So having indoor follow amenities means lots and with new expertise, these amenities have grow to be so superior. GKG is an ideal instance of that. So now you could have membership members taking part in golf in wintertime, albeit indoors and in simulators, however it’s vital for his or her improvement.

“It is vital for the junior improvement as effectively. You’ll be able to have a look at soccer, for instance. Fifteen years in the past, they began having these indoor soccer amenities and some years later, our nationwide groups certified for the European Championship and the World Cup. So there you go, it is vital,” he says.

The power at GKG has additionally offered a helpful social factor to the membership. “Now, now we have an all-year facility — earlier than, it was primarily a summer season sport … Now, all of the golfers are available in they usually’re taking part in with their pals within the simulators, having fun with a meal and a drink afterwards. So it has been unbelievable for the morale of the membership,” Jonsson explains.

A simulator is used at the indoor facility at GKG.

Sustainability

In addition to being acknowledged as one of many most interesting programs to play, Brautarholt can be trying to grow to be probably the most sustainable golf course on the planet.

“Right here in Iceland, roughly all of our power is renewable, so we thought it will be a good suggestion to maneuver in that path right here,” Palsson explains.

Having embraced hydro and geothermal power, almost 100% of Iceland’s electrical energy comes from renewable sources. Seeking to make the most of the nation’s clear power, Palsson has invested in a fleet of 30 automated electrical mowers.

“We’re at a degree now the place mowers operating on electrical energy care for roughly 98% of the golf course,” Palsson says.

Managing the fleet of small, orange mowers is the job in fact supervisor and head inexperienced keeper Einar Jonasson. “Sure, our little pals. They’re only a completely different mind-set of slicing the grass.”

An electric mower used in Iceland's Brautarholt golf course.

With a sequence of cables laid out across the course, the mowers are programmed to remain on the fairways and will be in motion across the clock. In addition to offering an environmental profit, they’ve additionally allowed Jonasson to focus on different components in fact upkeep.

Along with a carbon footprint that’s near zero, Brautarholt can be maintained with out using chemical substances and with Iceland’s year-round rainfall, there may be no need for any irrigation.

“Our golf course is in a spectacular location and guests come right here to get pleasure from that nature. We do not wish to hurt the setting within the anyway doable, so we do not care if you happen to see any weeds within the fairway, we do not wish to hurt something,” Jonasson explains.

Having lately invested in a cutting-edge, electrical, ride-on-mower for tees and greens, Brautarholt is trying to set a brand new, sustainable customary for golf course administration.

“I feel we’re the greenest golf course on the planet,” Palsson says with satisfaction.

One in all a form

Regardless of Iceland’s inhabitants of lower than 400,000, the nation is house to a exceptional 65 golf programs — and amongst them are among the most spectacular programs you are prone to discover anyplace on the planet.

“I might encourage everybody to come back to play right here,” says Birgisson.

“The character right here is second to none … While you play golf in Iceland, you get to expertise that nature as effectively. You’ll be able to play golf in lava fields, you’ll be able to play golf in volcanic craters, on the banks of glacier rivers, with sizzling springs blowing up like Geysir proper subsequent to you with water hazards which can be made out of boiling water. You’ll be able to’t get nearer to nature whereas taking part in golf.”

With the nation located virtually equidistant to the US and Europe, is there any likelihood of one in all golf’s main excursions taking a match to Iceland sooner or later?

“Sooner or later, it might be doable. Think about a PGA Tour occasion being performed within the midnight solar that now we have right here in June and July, it will be unbelievable,” says Birgisson.

Shiny future

Given the usual of the programs in Iceland, it is little marvel that golf has skilled big progress within the nation and now ranks as some of the widespread sports activities.

“Golf has risen enormously over the previous 10-15 years, and we have really virtually tripled our numbers previously 20 years,” says Birgisson, “However the final two years have been explosive and now now we have over 6% of the complete inhabitants which can be really members of a golf membership.

“However on the similar time, now we have in all probability about 40,000 that really play golf. So 12% of the inhabitants performs golf and that I feel that is — that have to be a world report.”

“It is also value mentioning that the extent of feminine participation has arisen from 10% to 33% in that point,” he provides.

With participation persevering with to develop and revolutionary new programs and amenities, Iceland is shortly changing into some of the thrilling {golfing} locations on the planet. With momentum on his aspect, Birgisson is assured that issues are simply getting began.

“We could not be happier, it is secure to say that the way forward for Icelandic golf is wanting very vivid.”