By Rick Young
NORWAY, LOFOTEN ISLANDS
Do you recall hitting a golf ball with a mountain or ocean backdrop for the first time, or that perfectly struck nine-iron that reached high into the sky before descending 150 feet to a green below? In golf travel terms, those moments are known as “experiences within the experience.” They’re personal snapshots that provide colour and context to memories that are forever yours.
But does golf have a quintessential bucket-list moment that you can’t find at a mainstream resort? Is there an engagement so rare, so distinctive, that it stands out like an albatross on a scorecard?
You’ll have to understand that remote travel is required, but how appealing does this sound: The opportunity to tee off late in the evening under the dancing green glow of the spectacular northern lights!
For golfers who love unique destinations, what lies in prospect at Norway’s incredible Lofoten Links is an epic adventure over unspoiled land rich in Norse history and Viking inhabitancy.
Often referred to as the world’s most spectacular and coolest course, Lofoten Links has remained a fixture on virtually all of Europe’s top 100 course listings since it opened in July 2015.
Amazingly, this brilliantly conceived, Jeremy Turner-designed, 18-hole seaside links is more than 100 miles inside the Arctic Circle. It’s a geographical anomaly for golf—traversing terrain surrounded by stunning ocean and mountain vistas, granite outcroppings and swathes of sandy beach that double as naturalized bunkering.
To play the minimalist, links-infused routing by day, surrounded by these awe-inspiring panoramas, is already sensory overload. But for a really special experience, in May through July you can play Lofoten Links in the evening or early morning hours, with the midnight sun showing the way (24-hour tee times). The aforementioned northern lights providing an eye-popping show from August to mid October—equal parts unforgettable and, for some, even emotional.
“It’s all here,” Lofoten Links ambassador and LPGA Tour star Suzann Pettersen explained on CNN’s Living Golf. “It’s fresh, it’s untouched. It’s just very peaceful. In one way you want to keep it a hidden spot, but at the same time you would love to showcase it to the world.”
Photo ops are everywhere
Mindful of the spectacular scenery, maintaining focus on your game at Lofoten Links is no easy feat. The par-71, 6,092-metre layout boasts strong shot values from start to finish, and corridors of play that require precision accuracy and smart course management.
Walking? It is a privilege here. With the beach acting as a playable buffer, seven of the course’s holes butt up to the ocean, while the remaining inland holes take advantage of the uneven terrain, rocky outcrops, natural lakes and nearby mountains. The random element of the seaside wind only adds another welcome layer to the game. Even in Norway: No wind, no gold.
The signature hole at Lofoten Links is unquestionably the par-three second. It’s better that “Arholmen” comes early in the round than not at all, because the 140-metre hole is widely considered one of the world’s most spectacular short holes. Resting on a rocky ocean-side bluff, the multi-tiered green site will test anyone’s short game. Par here is a very good score.
Equally impressive is the challenging par-four 16th hole. “Arvikflesa” plays directly into the prevailing wind, with the green set on an islet surrounded by water. There’s also no napping on “Arvikvannet” and “Moltemyra,” the back-to-back par-fives at seven and eight. Not only are those holes great birdie opportunities, but they also present another set of unique landscapes.
The amenities here might surprise some, considering the remoteness of the location. Lofoten Links has a range of luxury and deluxe accommodation options for golf groups big and small, plus a café and clubhouse bar with an array of fine meal options and locally brewed Lofoten beer. A short walk from the golf course is the Låven at Hov restaurant, set in a renovated barn, which serves up traditional Norwegian fare and modern cuisine.
The mystique of this northern Norway destination is undeniable. However you play Lofoten Links—under the Northern Lights or at 2am with a midnight sun—both “experiences within the experience” will have you making a bee-line back to the pro shop with one question (beyond picking up a few souvenirs): “When can I go again?”
Award-winning golf writer/author Rick Young is one of Canada’s most trusted voices on golf and matters related to the golf industry. A founding member of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada, Young’s articles have appeared in publications throughout North America.