Played by NCG: FjallbyNovember 11, 2017 Courses and Travel
Fjallby Golf Club in Lapland is like no other, as for several months of the year it is under snow. But that doesn't stop the locals, as Alex Perry found out
Reason for a Fjallby Golf Club review
I was in Lapland as part of a trip that included my now colleague Mark Townsend, and former Sky Sports Golf editor Dave Tindall.
I still remember the phone call. “Would you like to play snow golf in Lapland?”
It’s not very often the answer falls quite as quickly from my lips.
Where is Fjallby Golf Club?
Primarily a ski resort, Björkliden, roughly 100km north of Sweden’s northernmost city of Kiruna, is also home to one of the most stunning 18-hole golf courses in the world, boasting views across Swedish Lapland’s breathtaking mountain landscapes which frame Lake Torneträske.
Much to the dismay of many golfers up and down the UK, the lightest dusting of snow and the ‘course closed’ signs get their annual airing on the front gates.
So what do you do when you live somewhere that spends nine months of the year under an icy white blanket? You create snow golf, of course.
Welcome to Lapland.
What to expect from playing snow golf in Lapland
I really didn’t know what to expect in the weeks running up to it. Everyone I spoke to asked the same things. “Won’t the ball just bury itself when it lands?” was a popular one, as was “How do you putt on snow?”
‘I have no idea!’ I would scream on the inside, getting more and more desperate to get there and find out for myself. (I was also asked: “Can you get penguin caddies?” Don’t be ridiculous. Penguins are from the South Pole.)
It takes an incredible amount of effort to get the course ready for snow golf. Our host, Peder, and his crew have been preparing since 3am. Almost comically oversized machinery compacts the snow to create the fairways, while the greens – known as ‘whites’, of course – are smoothed out and checked to make sure they’re running about 25 on the stimp.
The rough is not somewhere you want to be in golf. It’s certainly not somewhere you want to be in snow golf. The balls are easy to find – just look for the black hole in the pristine white. Snow golf rules demand a penalty drop on the fairway at the point of entry.
Like grass, hitting off snow rewards good ball striking and it took a bit of time to get used to how the ball moves in the snow – particularly around the whites. And even when you find the icy dance floor, the speed and slope will test even the best putters.
But, above all, it’s incredibly fun. And slow play isn’t a problem here. Not with these views.
How can you choose? Every single one is so special in its own way. I am a huge fan of short par-3s over a cliff edge, so I’ll opt for the 5th…
That chunk taken out of the mountain range on the horizon is called the Lapporten Gap and not, as I hoped, Santa’s Halfpipe.
My best bit
Peder had decided that 18 holes on snow during the day wasn’t quite enough. So over dinner, and when we were all quite merry from the Apres Golf, he announced that we would be venturing back out at nightfall to finish off.
He handed us each a special golf ball that lights up when struck…
It was 10pm, pitch black apart from spotlights on the tee and ‘white’ of the par-3 opener, and a blizzard was whipping down the side of the mountain. Oh, and according to my phone it -32˚C.
But none of that mattered as we sent our illuminated golf balls off into the darkness.
At the third time of asking, we found a winner of our match after Peder – the winner of the 2011 Swedish Snow Golf Championship – rolled home a three-footer for par.
“He’ll have dreamed about this moment as a little boy growing up in northern Sweden,” we joked.
What to look for
This would be easier to answer if it was “What not to look for”. This was one of the most interesting, intriguing, exciting and downright off-the-wall golf trips I’ve ever taken comes to an end.
When I go back
Will I go back? It’s in the Arctic Circle for crying out loud. Of all the places in the world I’ve had the pleasure of visiting, this is No. 1 on my return list and I would love to play snow golf again.