Shetland has a growing reputation as an unusual and interesting golfing venue. And of course, there is the possibility (depending on weather!) of indulging in some ‘midnight golf’ during the ‘simmer dim’ (summer twilight). The three main courses all have their own special characteristics, spectacular views and unique challenges.
Shetland Golf Club is based at the 18-hole Dale Golf Course, just outside Lerwick. The varied and challenging course was built in the oil boom years of the 1970s and has a large and enthusiastic membership. It covers both sides of a dramatic valley, at the head of the sea loch of Dales Voe. A comfortable, well-equipped clubhouse has a cheerful welcome for visitors - who are usually astonished at the value for money when they see the green fees.
Just over the hill to the west, in the fertile and historic valley of Tingwall, the 9-hole course at Asta Golf Club is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. As at Dale, the charges are modest, to say the least, by mainland standards, and a bonus is the beautiful view of the Loch of Asta with its swans and other wildfowl.
Britain's most northerly golf course is run by the Whalsay Golf Club at Skaw on the rugged northern tip of this busy fishing island off the east coast of Shetland. The view is an epic panorama, but you may be distracted from your game by gulls, skuas, seals and the porpoises that often swim just offshore from the greens. This original and enjoyable course was largely constructed by the islanders' volunteer labour. An unusual feature is that it includes the Whalsay airstrip - so play must stop if there's an incoming charter flight. Visitors are always welcome and there's a regular ferry service from Laxo on Mainland Shetland.
4. The Knab, Lerwick
Just 10 minutes’ walk from Lerwick’s historic town centre, you can play golf on the fairly short nine-hole course at the Knab. It’s laid out on the westward-facing slopes of a promontory and overlooks Brei Wick (the sea inlet to the south of Lerwick) and the south mainland beyond. The course is basic, with no clubhouse, and the fairways and greens are quite rough and, in places, steep. However, it’s convenient, the views are very good and (best of all) it’s completely free to use. You simply turn up and play.
Even further north, in Unst, local folk can sometimes be found playing perhaps the most traditional form of golf among the sand dunes and links at Burrafirth, a spectacular, fjord-like inlet at the north end of the island. Although not an official golf course, it's a special experience to play a few strokes here at midnight in the midsummer twilight, or 'simmer dim'.