Trade in your polo for a parka, your visor for a stocking cap

For the past few weeks, we’ve all been subjected to the fury of Old Man Winter. High winds, bitter cold, snow, and clouds have been prominently featured in weather reports and have made life less than perfect. As I wrote about a few months ago, it’s enough to send some people spiraling into depression. Even for the rest of us, I’m sure the warmer temperatures and vibrant colors of spring will be welcomed.

For many, spring weather allows us to pursue our favorite outdoor hobbies once again. I drove by a local golf course last weekend and took time to notice the impact of winter. I was struck by the sense of sadness that seemed to permeate the grounds. It lacked purpose, like a proud laborer who feels he has outlived his usefulness. Though I am not the avid golfer I once was, I still feel it’s a shame. I imagine holed-up golfers feel the same way, yearning to play the game they love.

Despite the difficulty, there are golfers who simply won’t let the weather keep them from the course. All over the world, especially in places like Greenland and the Nordic countries, people have been adapting the game to the winter climate. The resulting sport, snow golf, is the visual opposite of the one most of us are familiar with: instead of a vibrant course dotted by white balls, it’s a white course dotted by vibrant balls.

Snow golf is similar to the grass-based game we’re familiar with, but with some extremes. Take the whites, for example.  In snow golf, there are no greens. They’re called whites. Keepers of snow golf courses, much like they do with regular putting surfaces, shave the whites down smooth, allowing snow golfers to actually putt the ball across the snow. Of course, snow that is shaved down and then walked on tends to become very slick. I recall veteran golf announcer Gary McCord controversially criticized Augusta National, home of the Masters, for their fast greens, remarking that the groundskeepers appeared to have used bikini wax. I wonder how he’d feel about whites.

Areas are plowed to produce fairways, which appear to be rather similar to their short grass cousins, but the penalty for missing the fairways can be high. Any golfer is aware of the thick rough featured at U.S. Open courses or the hay-like rough present at some European courses. Dave Tindall, in a piece that appeared on the Sky Sports website, found out that those challenges have nothing on hitting out of a snow drift up to your waist. Snow golf appears to favor the straight-hitters.

As with most grassroots (is there a snow-based synonym?) operations, formal rules and structure are lacking. Enter Tine Blomme. Since 1996, she has been working hard to formalize the play of snow golf. She is currently setting up the Snow Golf World Tour to begin play in November 2015 and build a snow golf course network. I tried to reach out to Blomme via email regarding her efforts, but had received no response as of publication time.

In a turn from the expected, it seems that even a sport played in bad conditions can be cancelled due to weather. The World Ice Golf Championships, held in Uummannaq, Greenland, have not been held since 2009 due to the weather essentially being too nice. As reported by Matthew Knight from CNN, the organizers of the event can’t rely on the presence of ice.

Count snow golf as another thing ruined by global warming.


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