The R&A - Working for Golf

Iceland makes its mark in golf

Haraldur Magnus will make history when he tees it up at The Open this month, becoming the first Icelandic man to compete in a Major championship.

He booked his spot at Carnoustie through Final Qualifying at Prince’s and in doing so signalled the success of a 15-year effort to grow the game in Iceland.

Magnus, who finished one stroke ahead of former US Open champion Retief Goosen, compared the challenging links of Prince’s to golf courses back home in Iceland - the country boasts 65 of them. However, he was quick to point out that Carnoustie is likely to produce a more difficult landscape to conquer.

“I grew up playing in exactly these conditions and I love links golf,” said Magnus.

“I played at Carnoustie in the 2015 Amateur Championship and there was no wind that day, so it wasn’t too tough. But you could see that when the wind is blowing it can be absolutely horrifying.”

Since the year 2000, the Golf Union of Iceland (GSI), which is affiliated to The R&A, has more than doubled the number of registered members of a golf club to 17,000, which equates to around 5% of an approximate 300,000-national population. Further, the GSI estimates around 40,000, more than 10%, play golf in Iceland.

All of Iceland will be watching

Magnus’ inclusion in the starting field at Carnoustie helps solidify the country as a nation that loves golf. As the President of the GSI, Haukur Örn Birgisson, puts it “All Icelandic eyes will be on the leaderboard at The Open” when he makes his debut.

Iceland’s arrival at golf’s original championship shouldn’t come as a surprise, however, with several of the country’s top women’s players already having appeared at major. Olafia Kristinsdottir who became the first from her country to secure her playing rights on the LPGA Tour in 2017 and the Ladies’ European Tour’s Valdis Thora Jonsdottir have been inspiring a generation at home. Women represent a third of all golfers in Iceland, which has risen from 10% in the past 15 to 20 years.

The association has bigger ambitions as Birgisson suggest, “We made an effort in our strategy 15 years ago to increase female participation so we are very proud that 33% of our registered members are women.

“We have an objective of making it 50/50 so that is the goal we will be working to over the next few years.”

As the final few places in the field for The 147th Open begin to fill up, every golf fan in Iceland will be excited to see Magnus’ name on the draw. Come Sunday, could the country be thunder-clapping a top ten finish or even an historic new Champion Golfer of the Year?