Union Glacier in Antarctica is one of the most tranquil places on the planet. I was lucky enough to be down there to cover the annual Antarctic Ice Marathon, now in its 13th year. Having been several times before and played football, volleyball and cricket with the runners as they relax and wait for the main event, I thought perhaps this year it was time for a spot of golf.
So after some research, I came across the rather forgotten game, that of clock golf. It is unknown who exactly built the first clock face course but the game is believed to have originated in the mid 19th century, supposedly by the English upper class who wanted to practice their golf putting in a more intimate way. Whatever the origins – the game became quite a success in Victorian Britain.
So after purchasing a hole and flag for the princely sum of 10 pounds and borrowing my son’s putter (it’s the only one that would fit into my luggage), I packed all my goodies along with my thermals and headed off.
The Antarctic version of the game revolves around 4 tees marking starting points to reflect the clock face. The object was to take the least amount of shots from the 4 starting points to sink a putt with strokes combined to complete their round. In this context, like in Speedgolf, the flagstick was left in during play. In the extreme conditions of the Antarctic, with temperatures of minus 25°C, players had just one round to establish their superiority as in those conditions the game has to be quick.
Aside from the icy conditions and rutted Heath Robinson course, the Inaugural Antarctic Clock Golf championship took place with a competitive field of players. Each player used the same putter and highly visible golf ball (thanks to visiongolfball.com) for their round. In the end, it was Pal Skyrud from Norway who took the men’s title and Sally Orange from Britain who took the women’s crown.
So despite coming up with the championships and practicing more than the others, I came in 3rd – close but no cigar. Still, at least, when I missed the target I didn’t miss the beauty of the landscape.