Longyearbyen — the world’s northernmost disc golf course
Playing disc golf at the world’s northernmost course in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, has lots of advantages. If you catch just the right conditions in the winter, you could strap on a headlamp and play under the Northern Lights. During some summer months, the 24-hour sunlight lets you get a round in at literally any time. No matter what, you’re surrounded by a dramatic landscape of rock, mountains, snow, and ice.
Another benefit is that your chance of being attacked by an apex predator is extremely low.
“There’s always a risk of polar bears, but you don’t have to bring your rifle,” explained Lene Dyngeland, a resident of Longyearbyen for the past six years. “The course is just outside the schoolyard, so a polar bear would have to go through the whole center of town or come from the glacier behind us, which is not really logical.”
Dyngeland is the manager of Aktiv i friluft in Longyearbyen, which at latitude 78˚ North is one of the most northern permanent human settlements in the world. Her job is to facilitate outdoor recreation opportunities for the town’s over 2,000 residents.
The disc golf course was put in under a year ago, and installing it was Dyngeland’s first project when she started her manager position in September 2021. We spoke with her about what building the course was like, her hopes for improving player experience, and how the track’s DiscGolfPark baskets are holding up in some of the most extreme conditions imaginable.
The idea to build a disc golf course in Longyearbyen came out of a collaboration between the local school and Dyngeland’s predecessor who no longer works in the town. But though there were baskets and a design saying where the baskets should go, the course had never been set up.
That task fell to Dyngeland, who knew nothing about disc golf before starting her current job.
“My first day was in September last year, and the first thing they showed me was a storage area with frisbee golf baskets,” Dyngeland recalled. “They said they’d been there a long time and that maybe it could be my first project to get them up.”
She was given coordinates where the original course designer (not affiliated with DiscGolfPark) planned for the baskets to go, and she got to work figuring out how to install them. Because winds can gust at very high speeds on Svalbard, she needed to make sure the baskets weren’t in danger of blowing away.
The solution she found was planting the baskets in concrete-filled tires.
“One tire is about 200 to 250 kilos [440 to 550 pounds], so you have to use a tractor to lift them,” Dyngeland said.
Due to Svalbard’s harsh terrain, placing the course’s nine baskets with these machines took about a week.
How the course can improve
Though the course has DiscGolfPark baskets, it wasn’t planned by one of our designers. And, just like we said in a recent post with tips about building a town’s first disc golf course (check out tip #5, specifically), not working with a professional on the layout has led to avoidable issues that’ll cost time and money to fix.
Of the course’s nine holes, five are over 95 meters/310 feet. In a place like Longyearbyen where almost no one has played disc golf before, that sort of length has led to a lot of players ending their rounds early.
“People start at basket one and they kind of give up by basket three,” Dyngeland said.
Because of these issues, Dyngeland said she hopes to get the course redesigned to be more appropriate for beginners.
Despite the need for some course updates, the simple fun of disc golf has sparked the interest of more than a few people in Longyearbyen.
“Two of the shops in town have started selling discs, and I know a lot of people have bought their own,” Dyngeland said.
School groups often play the course when the wind is calm, too.
We were also happy to hear that the DiscGolfPark baskets passed the major test of enduring a harsh Svalbard winter.
“They look identical to when I put them out,” Dyngeland said.
If you’d like to see what it’s like to play this course located in an almost otherworldly landscape, check out this video from Guru Disc Golf:
Article featured image credit: Sune Wentzel and Bjørn Lærum, Guru Disc Golf