Icelandic golf continues to prosper

The Icelandic team at the 2008 Espirito Santo TrophyIt may come as a surprise to learn that Iceland has a greater percentage of its population playing golf than Scotland. As recently as 1990, the country had no more than 1,000 golfers. But today, from a population of just over 300,000, there are as many as 17,000 registered players, while roughly 25% of the population say they play the game at least twice a year.

Recently, with the financial support of The R&A, a two-tiered driving range was added to Iceland’s golfing infrastructure, as was a heated, indoor, short-game area, which now serves as a facility in which to conduct winter training for elite players.

And the development programmes that are utilising these facilities are reaping the rewards. In July, Iceland finished second at the European Boys’ Challenge Trophy, an event held at the Estonian Golf and Country Club to which The R&A contributed £10,000.

It may come as a surprise to learn that Iceland has a greater percentage of its population playing golf than Scotland.

 Then, in September, Gudmundur Kristjansson of Iceland won the Duke of York Young Champions Trophy at Royal St George’s, home of the 2011 Open Championship.

“With relatively little outside assistance, Icelandic golf has grown and prospered over the past 20 years,” explained The R&A’s Director of Golf Development, Champion Gudmundur Kristjansson with the Duke of YorkDuncan Weir, “though we are pleased, of course, that the money we have contributed towards the development of the game there has obviously been well utilised.”

R&A support of Icelandic golf began in 1994 with a grant of £4,000. Since then, ever-increasing annual grants of up to £12,000 (2010) have been awarded, as well as £15,000 to help with their hosting of the 2002 European Boys’ Team Championship, and £30,000 towards the construction of a driving range at Keilir Golf Club.

In return, the Golf Union of Iceland has been a long-time supporter of The R&A, regularly sending delegates to the Working for Golf Conference and the annual Referees School.