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Lofoten Links: Golf in the Land of the Midnight Sun

Golfers love the feeling of teeing off with the sun at our backs, but how about doing it at midnight? Even the suggestion seems pretty far-fetched, right? Well, that is what awaits at Norway's number-1 ranked golf course.

In the northern reaches of Norway, on the 68th parallel of north latitude, firmly within the Arctic Circle, there lies a remote and beautiful golf course that almost defies logic.

Situated at Hov on Gimsøy island, an old Viking settlement known for its many historical relics, Lofoten Links has been lovingly sculpted in an Arctic paradise which sees golfers flock from all over the world for an unrivalled experience.

At almost 100 miles above the Arctic Circle, the sun rises on May 23 and doesn't set again until July 25 providing a little more than two months of unbroken sunshine. This gives golfers the unique opportunity to tee off at midnight - or later - and play through the night if they want (assuming they can handle the sleep deprivation).

Lofoten Islands probably shouldn't be a golf destination. The highly rocky surrounding area doesn't exactly lend itself to golf course creation. The mountainous backdrop and the rugged terrain bring to life the sheer scale of the task of designing, developing and maintaining this course.

Therefore, you could say Lofoten Links is a golf course built against all odds.

Savage arctic temperatures and damaging permafrost would generally spell disaster for plans to build a golf course anywhere positioned along 68 degrees latitude.

Thankfully, the Lofoten Islands has an ace up its sleeve - the archipelago is perfectly positioned within the Gulf Stream (a strong ocean current that brings warm water from the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic Ocean).

As for how the golf course plays, narrow fairways will require some accurate hitting from the tee, and if you're struggling with your tee shots, best make sure you have plenty of golf balls. With very little rough, errant shots will be lost to the sea or among the rocks, marsh and heather that line every hole.

While it's perhaps unusual to encounter a golf course's signature offering on the second hole, Arholmen is perhaps in keeping with the entirely unconventional experience at Lofoten Links.

Measuring 138 yards from the tips, it's a hole with beautiful duplex beaches, where it's better to be long than short, and, if you're lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a sea eagle perched high up on the rock.

The wind direction means this hole can play very different from one day to the next, and the low-lying midnight sun might add a further degree of difficulty.

The season is short here, with the course closing for at least four months of the year. Still, golfers and non-golfers alike are attracted to the region for another standout reason - it's one of the best places on Earth to watch the swirling rivers of greenish-blue light offered up by Aurora Borealis - better known to us all as The Northern Lights.

The course's genesis was as a 6-hole facility; however, owner Frode Hov always harboured ambitions to expand to 18 holes. His first task was to build a smaller golf course in the harsh environment and then demonstrate that it could entice golfers to visit the area.

After the initial venture proved a success, Hov secured additional funding and worked with architect Jeremy Turner under the guidance of management company Troon Golf on the planned expansion.

The 18-hole Lofoten Links golf course officially opened on July 4, 2015 and has quickly obtained the recognition of being a golf course without compare.

World Golf awarded it the title of World's Best New Golf Course in 2015, and in 2016 it was the 61st ranked golf course in Norway. It rose to 20th place one year later before finally cementing its position as the number one facility in Norway in 2018.

Finding your way to Lofoten Links is no easy task. Most visitors will need to brave at least two flights - one direct to the Norwegian capital, Oslo, before a 2-hour internal flight - and then a three-hour 125-mile car journey.

Those who do make the trip will be well-rewarded. Over the past 24 years, Lofoten Links has evolved from being nothing more than one man's dream to now becoming Norway's number one golf course and a true golfing nirvana.

While the golf course isn't as internationally renowned as perhaps it should be, it deserves to be highlighted for the sheer voyage of discovery it takes every golfer on. If you manage to make the trip, you'll leave with vivid memories of playing golf in one of the world's most remote and unspoiled regions - and those memories will last a lifetime.


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