How Iceland could reshape the world of golf

With short summers and harsh winters, this island in the North Atlantic Ocean isn’t the most obvious location for manicured fairways and greens .

However, Iceland is experiencing a golfing boom unlike almost anywhere else in the world and the golfing culture here could help to reshape the sport as we know it.

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

"This used to be agricultural land, but that had been declining," Palsson tells CNN Sport . "This land has been in the family for hundreds of years and there were some generational shifts and we decided to build a golf course." Photos: How Iceland could reshape the world of golf Photos: How Iceland could reshape the world of golf Photos: How Iceland could reshape the world of golf Photos: How Iceland could reshape the world of golf Photos: How Iceland could reshape the world of golf Do courses need 18-holes?

Opening originally as a nine-hole course in 2011 before expanding to 12, Brautarholt was designed by renowned Icelandic architect Edwin Roald.

Roald has attracted plenty of attention in recent years with his "why 18-holes?" movement, a philosophy that suggests golf course design would be improved if architects worked to create the best course for the space they have, rather than cling onto the "antiquated" notion that every course must be 18-holes long.

"When you have limited resources, you are forced to use what nature has given you," Roald told Links magazine in 2017. "If only you could break away from the constraints of having someone else tell you how many holes you must build.

"It is the same as writing books, or making movies. Imagine if all books had to be exactly 200 pages, or a film had to last 95 minutes. Would they be as good?"

Despite comprising of only 12 holes, Brautarholt has been internationally recognized as one of the world’s finest courses. In 2020, it was ranked No. 64 in a list of the World’s Top-100 courses by Golfscape , alongside the likes of Pebble Beach and St. Andrews.

With a short golf season in Iceland and long winters, golf clubs in the country are looking to find innovative ways of extending the season and making golf accessible to youth players all year round.

The Iceland men’s football team made headlines around the world for their exploits at the European Championships in 2016, reaching the quarterfinals and qualifying for their first World Cup in 2018 . The women’s team also qualified for three consecutive European championships from 2009 to 2017 having never previously qualified for a major tournament.

Much of the national team’s remarkable success has been attributed to the country’s investment in state of the art, indoor facilities and excellent coaching, a blueprint that may end up being replicated in golf.

The GKG Club in Reykjavik is one of Iceland’s largest golf clubs, comprised of an 18-hole course plus a nine-hole, par-3 […]

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