How Iceland is reshaping the world of golf

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Brautarholt Golf Course is located half an hour’s drive north of the capital Reykjavík. Brautarholt straddles the cliffs and is the brainchild of founder Gunnar Palsson.

Read: Leona Maguire: The 26-year-old who shocked the golf world as an undefeated rookie in the Solheim Cup

Does the course need 18 holes?

Brautarholt was originally opened as a nine-hole course in 2011 and later expanded to 12 holes, designed by the famous Icelandic architect Edwin Roald.

In recent years, Roald’s “Why play 18 holes?” has attracted widespread attention. The concept of sports shows that if architects are committed to creating the best courses for the space they have, instead of insisting on the “outdated” notion that each course must be 18 holes long, then golf course design will be improved.
Roald told Links magazine in 2017: “When your resources are limited, you have to use what nature gives you. It would be great if you can get rid of the restriction of letting others tell you how many holes you must build.”

“It’s the same as writing a book or making a movie. Imagine if all books had to be exactly 200 pages, or a movie had to last 95 minutes. Would they be equally good?”

Despite only 12 holes, Brautarholt has been internationally recognized as one of the best courses in the world. In 2020, it is ranked 64th in Golfscape’s list of the top 100 courses in the world, tied with courses such as Pebble Beach and St Andrews.


Iceland has a short golf season and long winters. Golf clubs in the country are looking for innovative ways to extend the season and allow young players to enjoy golf throughout the year.

Iceland’s men’s football record in the 2016 European Championships made the world’s headlines, breaking into the quarter-finals in 2018 and qualifying for the World Cup for the first time. The women’s team also qualified for the European Championship for three consecutive times from 2009 to 2017, which has never been eligible for a major competition before.

The remarkable success of the national team is largely attributable to the country’s investment in state-of-the-art indoor facilities and excellent coaches. This blueprint may eventually be replicated in golf.

The GKG Club in Reykjavik is one of the largest golf clubs in Iceland, consisting of an 18-hole course and a 9-hole par-3 course. With a thriving youth program and active membership, the club recently invested $10 million in state-of-the-art indoor facilities, allowing members to practice throughout the year.

The indoor facilities located below the clubhouse include a putting green, chipping area and 16 Track Man golf simulators, allowing users to play approximately 100 courses from all over the world.

Ulfar Jonsson is the sports director of GKG and he has witnessed the impact of the facility. “We have seen our young players become more advanced and better technically. So we have seen better swings.

“We obviously encourage all our players to participate in as many games as possible in the summer, but they can come here to learn skills in the winter.”

Haukur Orn Birgisson, President of the Iceland Golf Federation and the European Golf Association, has had limited success in the world’s largest tour. He believes that investment in facilities like GKG can bring Iceland players the highest results. grade.

“Think about it, we have a golf season of about five or six months. So having indoor practice facilities is of great significance, and with the advent of new technologies, these facilities have become so advanced. GKG is a perfect example. So now You have club members playing golf in the winter, although it is indoors and in simulators, but this is important for their development.

“This is also important for the development of young people. For example, you can look at football. Fifteen years ago, they started to own these indoor football facilities. A few years later, our national team qualified for the European Championship and the World Cup. So. Okay, this is important,” he said.

GKG’s facilities also provide valuable social elements for the club. “Now, we have a facility that is open all year round-before, it was mainly a summer sport… Now, all the golfers have come in, and they and their friends are playing in the simulator, Then enjoy food and drinks. So this is great for the morale of the club,” Johnson explained.

GKG's indoor facilities use simulators.


In addition to being recognized as one of the best courses, Brautarholt also hopes to become the most sustainable golf course on earth.

“In Iceland, all of our energy is more or less renewable, so we think it’s a good idea to move in this direction here,” Parson explained.

Due to the use of hydropower and geothermal energy, nearly 100% of Iceland’s electricity comes from renewable energy sources. In order to use the country’s clean energy, Palsson invested in 30 automatic electric lawn mowers.

read: The world relies on huge carbon fans to clean up our climate chaos. This is a big risk.

“We are now at the point where electric lawn mowers handle approximately 98% of golf courses,” Palsson said.

Managing a fleet of small orange lawn mowers is the job of court manager and green goalkeeper Einar Jonasson. “Yes, our kids. They just have a different way of thinking about mowing.”

Electric lawn mowers used at the Brautarholt golf course in Iceland.

By laying a series of cables around the court, the lawn mower is programmed to stay on the fairway and run around the clock. In addition to providing environmental benefits, they also allowed Jonathan to focus on other elements of course maintenance.

In addition to a near-zero carbon footprint, Brautarholt has kept chemicals free, and Iceland rains throughout the year and hardly needs any irrigation.

“Our golf course is located in a spectacular location, and tourists come here to enjoy nature. We don’t want to damage the environment in any possible way, so we don’t care if you see any weeds on the fairway, we don’t want to hurt anything ,” Jonathan explained.

Recently, Brautarholt invested in state-of-the-art electric driving lawn mowers for tees and greens, hoping to set a new and sustainable standard for golf course management.

“I think we are the greenest golf course in the world,” Parson said proudly.

one of a kind

Although Iceland has a population of less than 400,000, the country has 65 extraordinary golf courses-some of the most spectacular courses you can find anywhere in the world.

“I will encourage everyone to come and play here,” Bill Giessen said.

“The nature here is second to none… When you play golf in Iceland, you can also experience that nature. You can play golf on lava fields, you can play golf on volcanic craters, on glaciers. On the banks of the river, there are hot springs erupting like geysers and water barriers made of boiling water. Playing golf, you can’t get closer to nature.”

Since this country is almost equidistant from the United States and Europe, will one of the major golf tournaments in the future have a chance to go to Iceland to host a game?

“One day, this is possible. Imagine that we held a PGA Tour event in the midnight sun in June and July, and that would be great,” Bill Gison said.

bright future

Given the standards of the Iceland course, golf has undergone tremendous development in the country and it is no surprise that it has now become one of the most popular sports.

“In the past 10 to 15 years, the number of golf has increased dramatically. In fact, in the past 20 years, our number has almost tripled,” Birgisson said. “But the past two years have been explosive, and now we have More than 6% of the entire population are actually members of golf clubs.

“But at the same time, we may have about 40,000 people who actually play golf. So 12% of the population play golf. I think this must be a world record.”

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“It’s also worth mentioning that the percentage of female participation rose from 10% to 33% during that time,” he added.

With increasing participation and innovation in new courses and facilities, Iceland is rapidly becoming one of the most exciting golf destinations in the world. With momentum, Birgisson believes things have just begun.

“We are very happy and can safely say that the future of Icelandic golf looks very bright.”

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