Golf has been played in the seaside town of Oulu, on the western coast of the Gulf of Bothnia, since 1964, when the grassy airfield of Oritkari doubled up as a rudimentary 9-hole course. Four years later, the club moved to Kaukovainio, where members played on a 12-hole course (later reduced to a more manageable 9-hole layout).
As the numbers of club golfers grew, the club decided to move to Sankivaara, engaging American designer Ron Fream’s Golfplan Company to lay out a 27-hole complex and this opened for play in 1992. A further nine holes were added in 2005, creating the Sanki and Vaara 18-hole courses.
Described by Jari Rasinkangas, a member for 30 years, “the Sanki course is laid out in the beautiful surroundings of Sanginjoki River and the layout flows naturally through pine forests and hilly moors, alongside riverbeds and ponds, making the round a pleasurable experience close to nature.”
An annual 36-hole Midnight Sun tournament is held every summer (the Oulu course is only 125 miles from the Arctic Circle) starting around 4.00pm with prize giving not taking place until after 4.00am the following morning!
Ron Fream - course architect writes: "The northernmost 36 holes of golf, near the Arctic Circle. Golf at Oulu is an enthusiastic, eager local activity and in midsummer, golf is played almost 24 hours a day over 36 dramatic, natural holes. It is a tribute to the entire Oulu community that most of this play is by the locals due to the remoteness of the location, though tourists are always welcome.
Oulu provides two complementary 18’s, each for average players, seniors, youths and competition play. Nature as untouched forest vegetation encircles most holes and best of all, there is no intruding housing, roads or other signs of civilization
The surroundings are often pine woods, some fir trees, clusters of birch along the river edge and snow berry underfoot. Rock outcrops, the remains of ancient glacial action, are present on some holes because we tried to incorporate these “marvels” and more irregular granite blocks into play.
Early season - late April, May - play can at times be a challenge depending upon the winter Gulf of Bothnia actions. Some years see less snow and little ice. Other years an ice sheet can emerge in late winter that damages the turf. Autumn play is grand with birch in their golden hues and the bright purple berries on the ground."