Swinging in the Snow

How far would you go for a game of golf? John Jardine went to Arvidsjaur in the Arctic circle.

By John Jardine on 13 June 2005 in Travel Articles

When Jorgen invited me to travel to Arvidsjaur, Sweden's Lapland, for a game of golf, I of course agreed. It would have been rude not to. Afterall this was Rudolph the reindeer's home country. It didn't dawn on me until I took to the air with Scandinavian Airlines to Stockholm that I had actually agreed to play golf on snow in temperatures so far below freezing (-5 is a warm day) that it makes Blighty look tropical.

Though I would be dressed in warm clothes, thermals, earmuffs and gloves I still worried about the cold and also how so many layers would affect my swing. But none of that mattered any more when I saw the course - a wonderful expanse of white - a frozen lake made entirely from snow.

Sonia, my golf partner for the day, explained why the resort came to be "Jukkasjarvi is 250 miles north of here and they have a famous ice hotel. Arvidsjaur had nothing for the tourist. So five years ago our councillors decided to make a golf course". The course will never be Ryder Cup material but it is the northernmost golf course in Europe and, of course, you can play in snow!

I was grateful that I had been given a cap to keep my ears warm and to keep the sun out of my eyes because it meant I could absorb the crisp, golden beauty of the environment unhindered by the cold.

It was a delight to crack that first ball off the tee. It didn't get as far as I thought it ought to go but at least it was on the fairway. Off we went with a kick sledge. Sonia struck a clean five wood down the middle of the fairway. The game was on.

The balls weren't running very far this morning because it had snowed heavily the day before and the overnight course preparation had left the course slightly softer than normal. I got the feeling that I was playing on the desert in the old sand and oil mixture; but the ball lifted sweetly from the snow and before I knew it, we were on the green or should we call it 'the white'.

All sorts of preconceived ideas entered my head about putting on what felt like a smooth iced cake, but in reality it was just like the best prepared greens I had played on around Europe. Shame I missed! But then I put it down to the distraction caused by reindeer walking past in the nearby woods just a few metres away.

Up on the second tee, straight down the fairway - plop - into the rough. It was surprisingly easy to find the ball. All I had to do was look for the hole the ball made as it entered the snow. Out came the mitts and after twenty seconds of rummaging three feet ahead of the point of entry in the snow and up popped the orange ball.

This is where the local rules come into play. Place the ball on the surface in the rough, and play it standing in three feet of snow or lose a shot and place it back on the fairway. Needless to say I thought I would have a go from the rough. Surprise, surprise, it landed on the fairway. What I really needed was half a shafts' club and it would have made the job a lot easier.

We had lots of laughs as we went from fairway to rough surrounded by silence, crisp, clean air and brilliant warm sunshine. I never slipped up once and really enjoyed a challenging yet invigorating game of golf all the way to the tenth hole.

The tenth is a snow covered wooden chalet watering hole where warm drinks, reindeer meat rolls and hot toddys are available to set you up for going around the course a second time. Getting about the course is very easy, using small kick sledges that carry the clubs, you kick off with one foot and slide along with your other foot on the sledge track. You can cover the ground quickly and effortlessly.

Accommodation was provided by The Camp Gielas - a compact clean and very well run complex with very pleasant (warm) but basic accommodation with a tv, shower, cooker, fridge, etc. Its location just 1km from the town centre makes the complex an ideal base. You can go skiing on the town slopes only 4km away.

There are runs to meet all skiing levels with lots of safe areas for the kids. There are miles of snow mobile tracks all over the forests with some stunning views. It is one of those quiet, secretive little places waiting to be discovered. If you play golf, you've got to go.

Scandinavian Airlines flies from Heathrow direct to Stockholm. From Stockholm get a Skyways flight direct to Arvidsjaur. Scandinavian Airlines will book this for you. Costs vary but expect to pay c. £226.00

Camp Gielas Tel: 00 46 (0)960 55600 Fax: 00 46 (0)960 10615 www.laponia-gielas.se
emails: gielas@arvidsjaur
Camp Gielas is a 15 minute taxi drive from the airport. Camp Gielas also has ski slopes, snowmobile tracks, sports arena, a gym, caf3and solarium. The town centre is rich with restaurants, cafes and bars.

A taxi from Camp Gielas to the town centre costs 4 krona and takes around 3 minutes. Or walk if you don't mind the cold

Help and advice is available from: Swedish Tourist Board 00800 3080 30 80 www.visit-sweden.com


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