Midnight Golfing at Lofoten Links
We traveled half way around the world for the KJUS “Realize Your Adventure” competition. At least vertically, from the almost southernmost to the northernmost tip. Our second-place winner, Thilo Brunner, had the pleasure of going to Lofoten only a few days after we made Kasper’s dream of the Extreme 19th in South Africa come true. He met with our Norwegian athlete Caroline Martens for a round of midnight golfing.
The best way to travel from Zurich to Gimsøysand is by plane. Or rather, three planes. At least. We meet Thilo Brunner and his golfing buddy Philippe Bächli early in the morning at check-in. Thilo places his tour bag on the belt with a smile in anticipation of his win. “Northern countries have always attracted me a lot. Lofoten has been high on my list for ages.” The product designer spends his days tinkering on the perfect running shoe and during his free time, on the perfect drive. That is how he met Phil with whom he traveled to the best golf courses in Scotland. So they really are a winning team.
During the layover in Oslo, we grab the first cinnamon buns, which are considered the national pastry in Norway, when suddenly Caroline appears, filling the gray gate with her smile. A smile that sends turquoise lightning bolts straight to the heart and unites her inner and outer beauty. Uncomplicated, without airs and a great sense of humor, the professional golfer simply doesn’t fulfill any clichés one may have. So she took the subway to the airport, directly from her home in Oslo. She is one of the standard greats at the European and Symetra tour in the USA. Her mother got her started with golf. She also seems to have inherited the superwoman powers from her: Ms. Martens senior didn’t start playing the sport until she was over 30 and she took off fast.
We also take off; Bodo is our next destination on this leg. After the last, bumpy prop plane toward Svolvaer, a single-lane road leads past craggy rock formations, through rough, misty mountains, over deep blue inlets and finally, to our destination: Lofoten Links. One of the northernmost golf courses in the world.
24 hour green fee and tee times just before midnight
And one of the most naturally untouched. “We didn’t subjugate nature to the course, but rather the other way around,” explains Frode Hov, owner of Lofoten Links and one of the people responsible for the layout and design. “We simply used what was there. The golf course is designed directly into the landscape. The beach is the largest sand bunker for some fairways, the boulders often build the rough and a real island forms the green directly into the ocean.” What makes Lotofen Links even more attractive: the 24-hour green fee between June and August when the sun never goes down in the north.
“I will play here until I fall down,” Thilo announces and is already outside the clubhouse, in golfing clothes with his bag on his bag, an hour after arriving. Our first round of golf is scheduled to start immediately. Tee time: 10 pm. Caroline can also hardly wait. “This here is my dream. I am happy Thilo wanted to come here. I have always wanted to golf here.”
When the heavens silently touch the Earth
Thilo, Phil and Caroline are immediately a dream flight. Love at first drive, so to say. And the latter is not easy at all. Before we can even tee off, we have to climb. As soon as we’ve mounted the small cliff to tee off, the entire special, surreal and intractable beauty of Lofoten manifests itself. At the same time, the light tricks your body and makes you think it is early evening only. Like a blurred lens, it lays over the coastal landscape which looks as though a giant fist had slammed down on the surrounding mountains and then thrown fragments of rock around.
It is just before midnight. Large dark clouds devour the blue sky and constantly push themselves in front of the imminent natural spectacle. But then, at twelve on the dot: The gleaming but gentle sunlight paints the rocks, fairways and mountains with surreal colors. Dark green becomes neon green, gray and blue become deep purple and beige becomes gleaming white. A bright strip of burning yellow sun is almost touching the horizon. Or, as Eichendorff once wrote: “It was as though the sky was silently kissing the Earth.” Perception flips upside-down for a moment.
In fact, the midnight sun even affects the game. Distances seem farther and the ball seems to disappear into nothing. Not to mention the general level of distraction and fatigue. Around 2, we decide to accept that we should have been asleep a while ago and fall into our beds. Everyone but Thilo and Phil. Those two keep playing another 9 holes and dope themselves with more cinnamon buns.
With full plastic bags so we don’t run out of balls
The next morning, we start a bit smarter into the next round. We reach deep into the wooden barrel in the clubhouse and fill several plastic bags with second-hand balls. Because we had learned one thing: A hole you could finish with one ball was a sensational hole. On average, we lost two to three.
The fairways are long and narrow. To get on the green, you have to get past whole fields of boulders, natural saltwater lakes and hills. “This is a real challenge,” Thilo summarizes while Caroline carefully watches his every swing and every movement. “You have to keep your shoulders still and focus on the ball longer,” she coaches. In fact, his next drive suddenly no longer pulls to the right, but instead lands just before the green and Thilo finishes the hole par.
Where the wild Vikings lived
Until one year ago, the course with its picturesque seaside front 9 and the back 9 in a moon-like landscape was just a 9 hole course. Built on old Viking burial grounds. That alone makes Lofoten Links so special and mystical. The entire environment is named after Frode’s surname and ancestors. The course itself goes around two old Viking graves.
Thilo lives up to the Nordic ruffians’ legend. “It pushes you to keep going,” he says during a short break at the clubhouse, clearly tired with bags under his eyes. We have all thrown in the towel. But Thilo plays and plays and plays and plays. Always into the midnight sun. For a moment, we worry he might step straight into golfer’s Valhalla and fall into the next tee box from exhaustion, but there he is at the breakfast table the next morning after only three hours of sleep.
Under a blanket
“I travel around the world a lot, but this place is unique,” says Caroline. “Especially the people that you meet here, whether at the clubhouse or on the fairway. Everyone is friendly, open-minded and happy to see new faces. And the natural surroundings are mind-blowing.” We head out to play our last 9 holes. At hole 6, Caroline spontaneously lays a blanket over the two guys. We underestimated the cold in the far north a bit.
But our hearts were still forever warmed: Seldom had golfing been so relaxed, so challenging, yet satisfying. Perhaps it is exactly that which one finds all the way up there, far in the north, where the clock plays no role during the summer: the time, serenity and environment to play the best golf of one’s life.
Photo credits Mike Meyer Photography