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The green is white!

by Michael Holder

The popular game will be largely familiar, apart from the fact that the ball is not white and the green is not green. Naturally the special conditions also have to be taken into consideration in other ways when the surface is ice and not grass. All the lengths are reduced by 15-20 % and the green - or the "white" - is prepared in a specific way. The golf ball is in strong colors so that it does not disappear against the white background.

The Drambuie World Ice Golf Championship just might be the most unusual, spectacular and rewarding golf event that man has yet created. Think about the fact that glaciers, seals, other golf fanatics and a warm coat are your companions and you are just scratching the surface. The venue is in the middle of nowhere, confirmed by the fact that it takes 40 sleds and 350 dogs two hours just to get you from your hotel to the first tee!

Competitors in the Drambuie World Ice Golf Championships will take a great deal of time preparing for the days they'll spend in the heavily publicized biting cold, the extreme golf conditions. What they can never be prepared for, however, is the moment they have to leave the kindness and generosity of the people of Uummannaq, the unsurpassed beauty of the glacial backdrop, the camaraderie of their fellow competitors. It turns out the environment isn't a competitor's worst enemy, but rather becoming too attached to the environment. I was deeply sad to have to go.
Sean Kelly, USA

This past March in Uummannaq, Greenland, 600 km north of the Arctic Circle in a spectacular landscape described as "like playing on the moon!", Challenge Tour golfer Roger Beames of Scotland beat the cold and hair-raising competition from American pro Jack O'Keefe to win The Drambuie World Ice Golf Championship 2002 by just one stroke.

The first player ever to shoot par on the 9 hole course, which is determined by nature and changes every year, Roger was behind by two strokes in the third round before hitting two eagles and very nearly making the tournament's first hole-in-one. His brilliant play with a score of 30 in the fourth round saw him storming forward to claim the title and prove that even in the most extreme conditions skill remains crucial to success.

"Golfing on top of the world is one of the most unique experiences I've ever had in my golfing career. The scenery is simply spectacular, the food outstanding and the golf challenging. What a unique experience!"
Art Stricklin, USA

"I knew I might have been in with a chance, but never expected to win. There have been some serious golfers out here this year. Jack played so solidly throughout the tournament, and it was all down to the last hole that decided the winner - it was nail biting stuff!"

Second place Jack O'Keefe of the United States had streaked into the lead on the first day of the 36 hole, two day tournament with a display of consistent and controlled golf despite temperatures of minus 17 degrees Celsius. Playing under glorious blue skies in surroundings that reminded him of "the final scene in the Superman movie where Clark Kent flies back to Krypton," Jack kept up the pressure to gain a strong lead of 4 strokes over Roger at the beginning of the second day.

But despite a solid performance by Jack, luck was on Roger's side. After the event Jack was disappointed but philosophical. "I've played on fast and hard greens when it gets cold in Kentucky but nothing can prepare you for this. Despite the difficulties, you can't get frustrated. Just look around at this amazing country and you remember why we are here."

Top Ten Scoreboard (Course Par 140)

1 Roger Beames Scotland 140
2 Jack O'Keefe USA 141
3 Rudi Sailor Austria 148
4 Chip Thomson USA 153
5 Annika Östberg Denmark 155
6 Daniel Davies Wales 162
7 Dave McDowell England 162
8 David Beamish Ireland 164
9 Stephanie Comstock USA 165
10 Jeff Louwman New Zealand 168
Once the winner had been announced, Annika was congratulated and toasted, with glasses made of thousand-year old ice. All the competitors and spectators were offered a glass of Drambuie at the spectacular ice bar. Not in the traditional way, however, with ice cubes, but vice versa - the Drambuie actually in ice. A Greenlandic ice sculptor fashioned glasses from thousand-year old ice and constructed tables and chairs of ice to stand beside the judges' tent and the information tent.

The Uummannaq layout has one characteristic most normal venues don't have: it changes every year depending on the movement of the icebergs. The 2001 course record of 37 strokes, set by Tom Ferrell, will stand forever, for that ice melted in May and June, and in February and March nature created a new background for the 2002 ice golf course.

Greenland alone is worth the trip. What a spectacular setting. Add to it a very professionally run golf event, and it's the adventure of a lifetime.
When people trot out their golf stories, you'll always have one to tell.
Tom Ferrell, USA

The Drambuie World Ice Golf Championship was held for the first time in 1998, since then this unusual golf tournament has made its mark as one of the most spectacular events in the golfing year. Basically, ice golf is very similar to ordinary golf, but there are some significant differences. The "green" is white, the ball is pink and the course has been marked out on the ice-covered fjord, where icebergs have been seized by the cold on their way out to sea from the seven glaciers at the head of the Fjord. The rules of play are based, with a few slight adjustments, on the rules for golf on grass.

My montage of memories are many and varied. The first was finding a travel agent in Canada who would beleive me that there was a place called Uummannaq and an event "Drambuie World Ice Golf Championship". Then the long trek eastwards from Edmonton, Alberta via Ottawa and Iqaluit, Nunnavut to Kangerlussuaq. Waiting three days at Kangerlussuaq for the enthusiastic competitors to arrive. The helicopter flight from Quaatsut to Uummannaq. The challenging golf course amidst the majestic icebergs and unsculptured rough terrain. The background howling of the tethered huskies. The moving choral singing of the church choir. An unbelievable dog sled trip around the island full of tranquility and spectacular beauty. The most cherished memory of this uniquely beautiful part of the world is the camaraderie, laughter, kindness and new friendships.
  Herbert Sacks, Canada

The Drambuie World Ice Golf Championship 2003

The 5th Drambuie World Ice Golf Championship will take place in Uummannaq, Greenland on March 27th- April 1st, 2003. Set in one of the world's most spectacular landscapes, 600km north of the Arctic Circle, 36 players from across the globe will come together to compete for the coveted title of The Drambuie World Ice Golf Champion. Reigning champion, Roger Beames summed up the 2002 event. "I cannot even begin to tell you what an incredible event this has been! We have all been egging each other on and the team spirit has been brilliant" Roger has been invited by Drambuie to return in 2003 to see if he can repeat his success but he'll have a tough task ahead of him with demand for places coming from top golfers all over the world. The tournament is set in the most amazing and challenging environment. Freezing glaciers and huge icebergs frame the course and continue to move slowly all year round - even in March the "green" is cut literally days before the event. Playing golf on a frozen seascape is not the only task at hand. Coping with extreme temperatures, which can fall to minus 50º C with wind-chill factor, challenges players both physically and mentally. Special kit an absolute essential! Other factors to consider are that the 'green' will of course be white, the ball is fluorescent orange and there is always the unlikely risk of losing a ball to a polar bear! Jonathan Brown, Regional Director for event sponsor Drambuie sums it up, "Playing golf on ice takes a traditional sport to a new dimension. Drambuie has a programme of sponsorships that invite the consumer to reappraise the traditional values of the brand and also encourages them to drink Drambuie 'on ice' ".

Eager to participate? The field is limited to 48 and more than half the slots are filled. You can get more information by contacting:

Tournament information
Uummannaq Ice Golf Committee
Project Coordinator Preben Kaspersen
Local information
Hotel Uummannaq
Tel.: +299 95 15 18
Mobile: +299 48 29 48 and +299 54 95 82.

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Photo Credits: Drambuie World Ice Golf Championship