Golfing in Gjoa Haven

Photographs and Text by Jackie Dives

Golf has seen a steady decline over the past 10 years, but the men of Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, are turning that trend on it’s head, and keeping the game alive on the most northern golf course in North America. Gjoa Haven is a community of about 1300, and was originally founded by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. Amundsen spent two years wintering here between 1903-1905, in what he called “the finest little harbor in the world,” on his way to being the first European to traverse the Northwest passage.

The young men of Gjoa Haven have now brought the traditionally European game of golf into the fold of their daily summer traditions. When the snow disappears, a passionate group of men hit the golf course every summer evening to play 9 holes. Most of them have been playing on this course for 5-10 years, and use any excuse to get out and hit a few balls, get some fresh air, and hang out with their friends. They say the course could use some sprucing up, as it’s dusty and there is no grass, only sand and rocks. The greens are made of dirt, and the fairways require the use of a tee with every swing.

Simon has been playing for 17 years. He went to school in Ottawa but returned to Gjoa Haven be with his family. He says his son is happier here in the north. “I enjoy playing with the guys here, and having a night out with friends. I go hunting when I can. Right now I am a stay-at-home dad with my daughter, and I play ice hockey in the winter. I wish they would expand the course, and make the greens smooth for putting. Also the course is very rough, we have to use tees for every shot. Hopefully my son will play, but I haven’t played with him out here because he shoots left handed, and I don’t have any left handed clubs.”

Scott golfs every evening in the summer in order to get some fresh air. He plays a lot of sports, including hockey, soccer, basketball. He goes out hunting for caribou and seal every week.

Andy is a hunter, and has been golfing for about 10 years. He likes to golf in the evenings to be with his friends. He says he really loves living in Gjoa Haven.

Angus is a substitute teacher at the high school who has been golfing for about 10 years. “I started out behind the house with one club and one ball, and when I was about 15 years old I came out to the course here. Then about a year later I started golfing with these older guys. I like to walk around and get a bit of exercise, some fresh air. He spends a lot of time on the land hunting geese, caribou, seal, fish. Likes the friendly people in Gjoa Haven.”