Golf under the midnight sun
If golf brings to mind the snowbird-filled expanses in Arizona or the dulcet southern-accented courses in North Carolina, you may be missing out on one of Canada’s hidden golf delights: Arctic sun. That’s right, in June and July golfers can golf around the clock in the land where summer daylight never gives way to night.
And golf is popular – if eclectic – north of 60º, with more than 25 courses to delight sports fans. Of course you have to watch out for the ravens – they sometimes steal the balls. Here are some of the highlights of Canada’s arctic golf scene:
This club, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2008, has to be imbued with the spirit of golf. Fifty golfers first brought the game to Yellowknife in 1948, with the boyish sense of adventure and innovation that settled the country: members hauled an old DC-3 fuselage onto the smooth Precambrian rock and used it as the first clubhouse.
Legends surround the course – there are reports of ravens stealing balls, and visits by the occasional black bear over the years. But as its website reads, “We have yet to lose a golfer.” Visitors are welcomed at the club, whose most famous tournament is the Canadian North Midnight Classic, played on the June 21st weekend of each year. Golfers tee off at midnight and play as long as they can – in 1970, Sandy Hutchinson made club history with 171 holes of golf played during a 33.5 hour marathon.
The course is carved out of the Canadian Shield: a sand golf course of 18 holes, set among beautiful Jack pines and beside Long Lake.
Mountain View Golf Course, located in the city of Whitehorse, offers an 18 hole course containing three sets of tees, rolling tree-lined fairways, scenic views, and a variety of tournaments, including their own midnight sun event. Other events include the Peter Gzowski Invitational, the Klondike Cup (which includes the Meadow Lakes course), and the longest-running stroke play tournament in the Yukon – the Coca-Cola championship.
Ulukhaktok has one of the oldest golf histories in the North. In 1969 a trader for the Hudson’s Bay Company named Billy Joss brought the game to the community, playing out on the ice by himself. By 1983 golf had become popular enough that when the community received funding for recreational facilities, they spent the money on a golf course, establishing the world’s most northern course. Of course it brings its challenges – golfers sometimes have to putt around a muskox. The course is located right on the tundra, with specially crafted woven mats provided for teeing off.
Each summer the Billy Joss Open Celebrity Golf Tournament is held in the third week of July, and has included participants from the Edmonton Oilers, and Alison Gzowski who continues her father’s tradition of participating in golf tournaments to raise funds for literacy programmes in the north. The three-day tournament includes both day and night golfing, again under the 24-hr sun.
The Hay River golf course is the only grass course north of 60º. Hay River is located south of Yellowknife, across the Great Slave Lake. It is a nine-hole course and includes a clubhouse.