The Hvaleyrarvöllur course of Keilir Golf Club is located in Hafnarfjordur, a 25-minute drive from the international airport and 10 kilometres south west of Reykjavik. The course consisted of nine holes when the club was formed in 1967 (with the farm house of Vesturkot as a clubhouse) but this was extended first to 12 holes in 1972 then to 18 holes in 1994 by local architect Hannes Þorsteinsson. In 1996, the club added a further nine holes and this slightly shorter loop is called Sveinskotsvöllur. Mackenzie & Ebert has recently undertaken a major renovation.
The new front nine was constructed over lava fields “Kapelluhraun” so if you stray off the fairway you are bound to have a difficult recovery shot. The back nine holes – the original course – were built on old farmland beside the sea so water comes into play at many of these holes.
A beautiful new clubhouse was built in 1993 overlooking the property with spectacular views out over the Atlantic Ocean across the bay to “Snaefellsjokull” the glacier where Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” took place.
The toughest hole on the card is played before you have had a real chance to warm up, at the 384-yard, par four, 2nd where a decision must be made on the tee. Play safe down the left with a fairway metal, leaving a long approach to the small green, or take out the driver and aim the tee shot right, over a lava ridge to a very tight landing area which then allows an easier second shot to the green?
Arguably top 1-2 courses in Iceland. Know for its fast and fair greens (on Icelandic standard), well maintained course with fantastic views over the see and the mountains around the Reykjavik area and for its unique front nine holes that tread their way through a 1000-year-old lava field.
There are no bunkers on the front nine, the lava surrounding the fairways and greens are deemed as enough of a hazard and obstacle for most golfers and it is a good advice for everyone, keep the ball on the green part of the course. Good friendship with the elves (that the locals claim live in the rocks) is sometimes helpful and throw the balls back into the fairway (or if you do not believe in elves, you can be lucky with the bounce from the rocks). The lava gives each hole its distinct look, feel and difficulty. To mention three holes, the second hole with its two lava fields on each side waiting for mishit drives and the rock splitting the fairway right next to the green. The fifth hole is the most difficult on the front nine with difficult landing area and big and slopy green. The seventh, par 5, is usually the best chance for birdie if players are willing to take the chance and play their second blind over the lava and try to reach the green in two but that plan often fails and high scores recorded on the scorecard.
The second nine are totally different. The course takes the players around a small peninsula with links style bunkers and greens. Three new holes opened in 2017 and one more in 2020 and one is scheduled in 2021. In 2023 two more new holes will be opened and the redevelopment of the second nine will finish. To mention three holes here also, 11th hole, dog leg to the left out towards the end of the peninsula with beautiful views over the see (this hole will in 2023 be connected to the par 3 10th to make a long par 5 hole). 14th where the drive needs to carry 180 meters over see from the members tee with tricky green to hit in the second. 15th is a par 3 with deep bunkers on the left and the coastline on the right.
Even though the second nine often seem more harmless and people think they are easier then is the average score generally higher there than on the front nine (lava) even though the back nine are par 35 but the front nine par 36.
The clubhouse is nice and friendly and the restaurant is one of the better ones in the neighborhood and fairly priced. The diving range and practice facilities are top class.
Keilir is surposed to by the top golf course in Iceland, but to be honest I was a bit disappointed. Not that the facilities, the fantastic view over the Atlantic, or the service was bad, all that was perfect, and the front 9 “Lava course” was just out of this world. However, If you wish to design a golf course you need to have enough space to do this, and not get greedy, and I think this was exactly what happened when Keilir decided to make the back 9 of the championship course as well as a separate 9 hole golf course making it a total of 27 holes. The back 9 and the separate 9 hole course is squeezed into a relatively small area resulting in the fairways being very close to each other and quite dangerous to play, as most of the holes are blind. Hole 10, 11 and 16 are fantastic holes, but the rest on this back 9 are blind and between 15 and 16 there is a no go OB area in the middle of the course (!)
Having said all this, in fairness I also have to express my joy in playing the front 9 “Lava course”. This is definitely an experience and an adventure you must play. The fairways are gently “moulded” into the lava, and the greens also protected by lava rocks – no green bunkers are necessary on this part of the course. It is absolutely necessary to stay on the green stuff, because if you end up in the lava you either need a lava iron, if you have one, or it is a none playable ball. It may sound like I had a bad day on the course, but I did not, I played really well on the entire course even though there was a strong wind from the north, but I challenge that Keilir is the best course in Iceland.