What the Hell Is “Snow Golf”?

Add the Swiss tradition to your post-pandemic bucket list

Two golfers playing snow golf at the Engadin Snow Golf Cup in Switzerland
The Engadin Snow Golf Cup will put your 50-degree rounds to shame.
Engadin Snow Golf Cup

This winter, Switzerland’s oldest golf club will host the 42nd Engadin Snow Golf Cup. It’s true: snow golf is a real thing, and the game’s had its own competitions since the late 1970s. Swiss officials at Engadine attribute their wacky tradition to turn-of-the-20th-century hotelier Peter Kasper — a manager at famed ski resort St. Moritz — who started optimizing snowy fairways and greens for winter golf as early as 1904.

It’s a bizarre pursuit, but it was never intended as masochistic. Switzerland’s ski runs are popular for the uncommon amount of sun they catch in the winter. Course managers supply orange balls, make the snow on the greens as compact as possible and enlarge holes up to three times their usual size. It all makes it possible for guests in the St. Moritz area to ski and play nine in the same weekend.

Those who really take to the game, meanwhile, might consider joining the Barnes Winter Golf Cup, which cycles between four different courses in the Alps (two in Switzerland, two in France). And as more golf courses open in mountain villages — in Europe, or here in the States — don’t be surprised if they start opening their links up during the shortest months of the year. For newcomers: remember to keep it light. In the event that you lose your ball, move on. Sand traps have nothing on snow banks.

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