If you already played at Pebble Beach, St. Andrews, Augusta, and all the other top courses in the world, you may wonder what’s left and where to find the next challenge. It’s time to play golf in the snow, ice, and bitter cold of Greenland. The World Ice Golf Championships takes place every year in Uummannaq, Greenland (pop. 1,700), which is an island 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Temperatures during the event get down to -25 °C (-13 °F).


The World Ice Golf Championship is no joke. A local hotel owner, Arne Niemann, created the tournament to attract people to the tiny island, but it became a big event now on its twentieth year. The hazards on the course aren’t like the boring sand traps and tall grass on the standard course. You could potentially hit your ball into a seal den, a crevasse hundreds of feet deep, or freezing water that will give you hypothermia in minutes. Just stepping out the door and onto the course is hazardous. Make sure you’re prepared to play golf in the cold and layer up.


On the first day of the tournament, the players can get used to the cold and conditions. They play the course to get a feel for it in a Ryder Cup style format called the Niemann Cup, so named for the founder of the event. Four players tee off in two-man teams. Every golfer plays their own ball, but the best score is recorded for each team. Before teeing off, every golfer learns how to spot the early signs of frostbite. For many players, this is their first chance to play on snow and ice. Each player uses a bright orange or pink ball, for obvious reasons, and no one uses clubs with graphite shafts. The low temperatures can shatter them with ease. What most players learn after the first swing is it’s hard to hit the ball. Layer after layer of thermal clothing restricts movement, and simply taking a practice swing takes effort.


Every year, the nine-hole course is laid out in a new pattern. It’s largely determined by the icebergs and natural position of the snow and ice. The rules are the same as normal golf, but it does have some exceptions. If a player hits a ball within 10 yards of a glacier, a drop is permitted. Tournament directors decided it was better to allow a drop rather than have someone fall through the thinner ice around the glacier.