Golfing in the land of the Gods - a Lofoten story

need_my_wedge

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I've already posted a few pics in the Your Golf Pictures section here but I know there's a few on here also thinking about a visit to play. With that in mind, I thought I'd tell you about our trip, if you're interested. It's a long read, not meant to be self indulgent, just the tale of the trip, some more pics and some useful info for anyone else thinking about going. Due to forum post character restrictions, I have to write this in multiple posts, this will take a little time to order and post them, please bear with as I work that out.


Ever since I first saw the episode of Adventures in Golf where Erik Anders Lang visits Lofoten, it entered high on my bucket list (if you haven't seen the video, it is well worth a watch - watch here). Adventures in Golf! he wasn’t wrong. This week, Mrs Wedge and I travelled 95 miles north of the arctic circle to play the wonder that is Lofoten Links, and it did not disappoint in any way whatsoever.

I'll will start by stating that Lofoten Links is absolutely by far THE most beautiful course I have ever played and has immediately become our favourite course ever.
 

need_my_wedge

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I booked the trip back in March, and we've been waiting impatiently for the best part of the year. The week before flying I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about a trip away and last Sunday it became reality. It takes two 2-hour hops to fly to Harstad from Gatwick via Bergen, there we picked up a rental car and headed out on the E10 for the 3+ hour, 200KM trip on the most amazing road I've ever driven.

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As we were arriving about 17:00, I'd booked us into a hotel for the first night, just a short drive down the E10. This turned out to be a good idea because we’d been up since 04:45 and travelling all day, the wind was howling, and the rain was hammering down and it was getting dark. We reached the hotel about 30 mins down the road, it was a lovely little hotel, set in an authentic old Norwegian fishing house on the side of a fjord. Not very busy, the rooms were small, but they were clean, the bed was comfy, and the shower was good. The food was OK, nothing super special, both dinner and breakfast were buffets with a limited number of options but eat all you want. The breakfast was included in the room, but the dinner was extra, as it was our first night, despite knowing they were expensive I thought we’d have a beer each, that worked out at £22 for two cans…...aside from that it was perfect for a layover.

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need_my_wedge

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We left out just after 08:30 on Monday morning and headed south. The road is a good one for the most part, but there are narrow sections which have no centre lines, this made it oddly unnerving at times, especially when large trucks were coming the other way as they are proper flying and don’t slow for anyone. The road quickly becomes one amazing view after another, huge mountains and peaks interspersed with lakes and fjords, tunnels and bridges. If you’re claustrophobic, beware of the tunnels, the first one was a little over 6KM (4 miles) long, there is also one about 3.5KM and two more over 1.5KM. The scheduled three hour drive quickly extends as we are stopping every 5 minutes to capture yet another view on the camera.

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There's pretty much nothing else between Harstad and Svolvaer bar a few houses here and there. I think there was one petrol station in between. Eventually we reached Svolvaer, which is the biggest town between the airport and the course, we stopped in a small Lidl like supermarket (Kiwi) for a few supplies. Well, a sixpack of beer, a couple of bottles of water, a large bag of crisps and 4 protein bars – a bargain at £42……

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Quickly we were back in the car and motoring towards Lofoten Links. Interestingly, the satnav in the car did not have the course listed as a Point Of Interest, we had to use the postcode in, which actually put us about 5 or 10 KM short of the course. Fortunately, there was a road sign pointing the way off the E10 but it was the only sign. With the satnav perpetually telling us to turn round, we follow the road to the sea, we choose left and run along the coast a short way to the course..


We arrived! The current clubhouse is built from porta cabins and maybe looks a little worse for wear, but it does the job. There are plans to build a new permanent clubhouse, but I don’t know how long that is due to take. We check in, we’re staying in the lodges owned by the course, so pay in advance for all accommodation and golf. The clubhouse food options are minimal, but we grab a quick cheese and ham toasty and coffee before our first round. You better like cheese & ham as it seems to be the main sandwich option in Norway.

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need_my_wedge

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Off to the first tee about 30 mins early, there’s only a few people out on the course, by which I mean about 8….. The wind is still howling, but the rain has gone, and the cloud is starting to break. Everywhere we look, the only thing that comes out of our mouth’s is “wow”. I’ve never used that word so many times in a single day, literally every direction you look, the view is just stunning. There was no one behind us, so we had plenty of time to stop and take pics.
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There are 4 tees on each hole, numbered 61, 55, 48 & 42, the equivalent of black, white, yellow and red. I decided to play from 55 but wanted to have a look at the first from the tips. I had to break out the mountain climbing gear to get up to the tee, it’s located on top of a high rock with a very narrow path. There’s no grass up there, this one has a mat, but it’s a stunning view. I hit one ball just for the hell of it but had no chance of reaching the fairway playing into the very strong wind hitting me in the face. I quickly descended back to 55. Even then, this is an extremely challenging, perhaps intimidating drive, between two very large boulders, with a carry out over the rocks to hit the fairway a good 160 yards away, the wind still howling into my face. Fortunately, I made it, just, and got away with a par on the first.
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The second is the iconic island green, set on a natural rocky island, the wind howling across right to left, no good for someone who naturally hooks the ball. Somehow, we both made it onto dry land, couldn’t keep it on the green, but got away with bogies. Very happy with that. I won’t describe each hole, but from then on, it was just fabulous hole after fabulous hole. The course winds along the coast, over the rocks and through the rocks, it treks a little in land too, over and around natural lakes, lined with more rocks, heather and peat bogs. Everywhere you turn it is just stunning view after stunning view. I can’t think of any hole that I didn’t like, there was no bad hole on the course, all positioned perfectly, just picture-perfect hole after hole. The fairways were immaculate grass, and the greens were true, fast links greens, how Gerry keeps it like this in the location it’s in is beyond me, but he’s doing a fantastic job. My favourite holes are 1, 2, 5 and 8, although the others are not bad at all.
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Despite the wind, I managed to get round in 80, I was extremely happy with that playing the course for the first time.
 

need_my_wedge

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We were a little tired after the round, what with the drive and all beforehand, so we head straight for our lodge about 2 mins up the road. We pass the only restaurant for 50KM and arrive at a nice lodge perched on the side of hill with stunning views over the mountains and out to sea. The lodges are all set up the same. They have three twin bedrooms rooms, each with ensuite bathroom, and a large communal lounge/ dining/ kitchen area. The lounge has huge floor to ceiling windows so that you can take in the views.
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Our lodge had one other person staying that evening, a lady from Spain who was touring the Lofoten islands on her own. She wasn’t golfing, but she was chasing the Aurora’s, and had been for 5 years without success. Her Aurora app said we had a 50% chance of seeing it that evening. After a quick change and unpacking, we headed back to the Hov restaurant for our dinner reservation, we’d be eating there for dinner and breakfast each day of the trip. From the outside it looks like a typical red sided Norwegian build, but inside it’s like a big old Viking long house, high ceiling with big beams and long tables . A sign over the counter proclaiming “it’s OK to dance on the tables, but not to hang from the lights”, by order of Frode.

The menu is “compact”, 3 starters, 3 mains, and one dessert. I can only remember moules as a starter, which could be taken as a main too, the main options were fish - catch of the day. It’s halibut season, so halibut it is. The other options being grilled entrecote, or a bean dish for non meat/ fish eaters. The dessert is apple crumble, Norwegian style, which is nice but a little different to how we know apple crumble. We abstained from alcohol and after dinner headed back to the lodge where we had some beer and wine stashed.

Our Spanish friends app was now stating 90% chance of Aurora’s, she was bouncing around the lounge super excited, with the door wide open and the very chilly wind blowing in. We all wrapped up in layers and blankets, grabbed a glass of wine, turned the lights out and sat down to wait. It all kicked off just after 23:00, the wind had blown the clouds away, we had an amazing clear sky, a large crescent moon, and this rather large white rainbow rapidly appearing overhead. Having been fortunate enough to read an article about the Aurora’s the week before, it mentioned that they are seen better through a camera lens. I grabbed the phone out and switched the camera on, low and behold, the SKY above lit up in a frenzy of green and purple light dancing around the sky. The show lasted for about 30 minutes as the Aurora’s passed by overhead, it was an awesome evening. We were all very happy as another bucket list action was ticked off. Mrs wedge and myself were extremely happy given this was our very first attempt to catch the Aurora.

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need_my_wedge

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Day two at breakfast, I’m chatting to three chaps dressed up in golfing gear, turns out one of them is a famous photographer (and golfer) there to take picture on the course for a few days. He was out the night before capturing amazing pictures of the Auroras over the course. His pictures are way better than mine.....

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We head to the pro shop, check in, the wind has died down a little, and switched direction, now behind us on the first. With the sun peeking through the clouds we head off for round two. Without the headwind, I nearly drive the first, come up about 30 yards short, chip on and two putt for a par, great start. Over to the second, wind behind again, a little punch shot straight at the pin, no really…. straight at the pin……. It’s going in…..going in…. it hits the hole, aaarghhh, it stays up, stopping about 3 feet behind.
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Mrs wedge kindly offers me a gimmee, but I’m hoping to put a card in, so putt it…. only to miss and finish with a par. We continue round, the views from yesterday completely different because we now have the sun shining through grey clouds, giving an eerie feel to the landscape in parts. Still absolutely stunning to view. The round just flows, we see about 6 people on the course and eventually we walk off 18, and I’ve shot a very respectable 78…… :eek:

We’ve got a little time, so we mooch around the clothing on sale in the pro shop looking for souvenirs. Perhaps we’re a little late in the season (intentional for the Aurora’s) which meant that most of the stock was either XS or XXXL. After pretty much checking every item on every shelf, we both managed to find a top that fit, so we left happy.

After returning to the lodge, our Spanish friend has been replaced by A French lady, over visiting her niece, who is doing a summer job working the horses at the lodges. There are a lot of horses, with quite a few people here doing all day rides around the area. Rewind and track repeat! Dinner in the Hov, back to the lodge for beer and wine but alas, no Aurora’s this evening, so off to bed ready for round three.
 
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need_my_wedge

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Day 3 started off where day one began, 34 mph howling wind and absolutely hosing it down with rain. Not to be deterred, we headed over to the pro shop to check in. We were not the only insane idiots heading out to the course, there was already an elderly American out there, and the photographer chaps were getting ready to go again. We headed for the first….. bloody hell, wind straight in and rain like bullets, anyone at Cooden last year will have an inkling of the conditions. We were there, and unlikely to come back (although we will if we get a chance) so we just head out for a laugh. The conditions are ridiculous, no chance of any sensible scoring, so we just plotted our way round as best we could. I somehow managed to par the second again, we managed a few pars when the wind was behind, but it was bloody hard going. By the time we got to 15, Mrs Wedge was on auto pilot, unable to talk and barely able to walk, it was all we could do to get back in. FWIW, Galvin Green waterproofs, just aren’t. By the time we get in, we are both drenched to the skin, but after a hot chocolate in the clubhouse we’re sitting there with grins like the Cheshire cat, it was such an amazing course to experience.

We headed back to the lodge for change into dry, warm clothes, and a short rest, before heading out for a drive down to Henningsvaer. Gerry, the head greenkeeper had recommended it to us. It’s a quaint little fishing town set on a group of tiny islands, accessed through some large cuts in the rocks and a series of bridges. It’s famous amongst other things for the football pitch located on its own island. As it was late when we got there, most of the local stores were closed or closing, we just about managed coffee and cake in a local café.
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We had more new guests in the lodge on our return for the last evening. This time a couple from the Czech Republic. He publishes a Czech golf magazine and is a mad links golf fanatic. They’ve done the southern islands and driven up to Lofoten Links, with a three day stay planned. He was an interesting drinking companion that evening as we finished off our beer and wine at the lodge after dinner. Unfortunately, the wind and rain put paid to any more Aurora’s, but we were not upset having seen them at first try.

After breakfast on Thursday morning, back to the pro shop to check out, one more lingering look at this amazing place, and then it was off on the 3+ hour drive back to Harstad and a two-hop flight home to Gatwick via Oslo. The drive back was just as awesome as the drive down, seeing more stunning views from the opposite direction.

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I can honestly say that I haven’t stopped thinking about the place since we returned. I would love to go back and play again.

All I can say is go…. Sell your kids…. Sell your partners…. Re-mortgage the house… just do whatever you need to do to fund the trip, you will not regret the visit.
 

need_my_wedge

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Useful info if you’re planning a trip there:

None of the companies or facilities we booked in advance took any deposit apart from the flights. Everything else was booked, with payment due on arrival.

Flights: I booked directly with Norwegian Air. Gatwick to Harstad/ Narvik.

Car Hire: I used Sixt. Originally booked in March, I checked again two weeks ago and got the same deal £130 cheaper. They let me change the booking with no additional costs. At the airport, once they heard we had golf clubs, they gave us a free upgrade to a larger 4x4 free of charge too. In the weather conditions we had, I was really glad I booked a 4x4.

Petrol: a couple of service stations by the airport. One between Harstad and Svolvaer, none between Svolvaer and Lofoten Links.

Hotels: Booked the Sandtorgholmen Hotel at Harstad via Booking.com. Recommend it for a first night stay.

Lofoten Lodges & Golf: All booked directly through the Pro shop at Lofoten Links. Approx £430 per person for 3 nights accommodation, breakfast, and 3 rounds of golf. Very much a bargain. All the other peoples staying in our lodge booked via booking.com, none of them had breakfast included. It’s £20 per breakfast if you pay when you eat.

Hov Restaurant: Is the only place to eat in the whole area - book in advance via the pro shop is recommended as it gets busy. The menus is limited, and main courses are approx. £30 each. Beer is approx. £11 per can; the cheapest bottle of wine is approx. £40.

The best tip we have, and used to great effect, was to buy a couple of cheap bottles of wine in duty free (£6 - £8 each) and carry them over with us. Also, to buy beer in the supermarket in Norway, still expensive at £24 for 6 500ml cans, but way cheaper than paying for 6 cans in the restaurant.

If anyone plans to go and has questions that are not answered here, feel free to PM me and I’ll do my best to answer.
 
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need_my_wedge

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Probably not somewhere I would visit but unsure whether you are working for The Lofoton Tourist Board!

I promise I’m not. It’s just that they’ve done such a bloody good job up there, they deserve all the support they can get.

Bit of a dichotomy really, they need people to visit to fund and improve ( new clubhouse, more course infrastructure etc) but having too many could ruin it…
 

Rlburnside

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Great write up and glad you both got the chance to see the lights, I’ve been lucky enough to see them a few times a magical experience.

I’ve watched the video of the course and it is a stunning , unusual place, I can imagine the experience of visiting and playing there will be one you’ll remember forever.

We sailed past Lofoten when the sea was flat calm and mist hanging over the isle a beautiful experience.
 

hairball_89

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I "discovered" the course by finding a ball on a random course somewhere from there. Googled it because "Lofoten" sounded different and was blown away. Quite frankly all I have to say now I've seen your photos and got a glimpse of probably 10% of the experience?

You git.
 

nickjdavis

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Thanks for a great write up. Lofoten has been on my bucket list for about three years now (actually its hardly a list....only ever had two entries on it and I crossed the other one off back in 2020!!!).
 

Backache

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I've seen lots of great pictures of Lofoten from folk on ski trips and I've always thought I should visit.
Not sure if I'm up to the skiing but your photos have given me a huge appetite for trying the golf.
 
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