Why does it make us feel alive like nothing else out there?
I’ve spent most of my adult life defining, understanding, and seeking to experience one word. Adventure. Yes, it always begins on the tarmac. Yes, by definition it cannot be planned. But why does it pull us? Why does it define the best moments of our lives? Why does it make us feel alive like nothing else out there?
Part 1: Dropping In
It’s a skateboarding term that describes starting at the top of the halfpipe as opposed to the bottom. Oh, we did that in Iceland. As soon as our wheels hit the ground in Iceland, we were at top speed.
We didn’t realize it yet but that presented a problem. See, in the land of the midnight sun – Iceland in this case – we began with a sprint, but we were in a marathon. It was June 21 – technically speaking the longest day of the year. It was an auspicious landing date, coinciding with centuries-old festivals and rituals that held beliefs around fertility and religion. Those things say to me “life” and “purpose.”
The purpose of our lives after landing on what could only be called a “tossed red-eye salad” was to obtain nourishment, which for the Adventures In Golf Crew Plus One basically meant coffee, and whatever we could find in a foreign airport. An adventure in and of itself. We had learned well by this time, 33 episodes deep in the game, that if the food was iron, it must be stricken when hot. So eat as much as you can when the food is near, hungry or not.
When I say Adventures in Golf Plus One, I am speaking of a mysterious character in my life: Colt. You all know Stuart, our Chief Morale Officer. And David, our Director of Photography. I’m Gilligan. Merely in the sense that I make a few jokes and I don’t really want anyone to leave this utopia. Colt is kind of the Simon Pegg of Mission Impossible. He was doing some research for me on Iceland while helping me in LA with a few production gigs. He developed this great to-do list and I just figured he could come along. So Colt met us there with the list and lots of energy.
Part 2: Free Period
6 AM. Arrivals terminal. Freezing rain. A grey sky which was kind of the greyest thing I had ever seen. Next was the rental car. It was as if they knew what I was going to do more than I did because they kept telling me that we were not allowed to take the car off-roading, in any scenario. We laughed about it when we had this poor suburban pitched on a 30º face, climbing straight up a ski slope under a chairlift spinning a majority of the street designed tires bald, filming all the way. I’ll be honest – I was scared there and it wasn’t with regard to the deductible.
I live for a day with no plans
Anyway, that story is days away. For now, we are keeping this truly American vessel on the fresh, black asphalt that ropes around Reykjavik airport and takes us straight to the city center, some 30 miles away. City may be a strong word. Cute-ass big town is more like it. One problem though. We were stupid early. Like 12 hours early. So we had what they called in high school “Free Period.” I live for a day with no plans.
Free period got started quickly with an immediate ‘grass sighting’ with high potential for ‘actual links’. Imagine this: four jetlagged and frothing golfers in close proximity, who love to travel, try new things, in need of nothing other than a story, a coffee, and a divot – and we all see a golf course at the same time. We pull over with the immediacy of a golden retriever seeing a flash of his bone in their owner’s hand.
RGC Films was essentially born in some way on this day. June 21, 2018.
Pull in. Park. Don the rain gear. Exhale smokey steam. Note no cars in the lot. Realize the course opens in an hour. Easy unanimous call to wait for them to open in the parking lot. One thing to note here. This moment was not caught on film. We never pressed record. This period of time is now dubbed “PV” – Pre Vlog. The vlog life as it were, wouldn’t start until later that day in the steps of our airbnb where I casually mutter to the camera “Alright get ready Iceland, you’ve got five and a half hours of memory on this card,” as if to say, the world is our canvas now. This is a watershed moment in the RGC fam’s life. Brought about by none other than Free Period. RGC Films was essentially born in some way on this day. June 21, 2018.
We sauntered onto this course and our minds were literally excavated from our skulls
Part 3: Vlog Zero
We played the back nine of the 18 hole lava-filled course in the rain and wind and I learned a lesson I have learned over and over through the years. Expectations are no bueno mi amigo. Here we sauntered onto this course and our minds were literally excavated from our skulls. What I wouldn’t give to watch some footage from that first groggy Iceland round. I went through my phone and here is what I found.
We finished in awe. We had shown up expecting nothing and that is the key angle of the adventure – you have to expect nothing from the adventure itself. It’s what is called type 2 fun. This is not a perfect example, but in general, type 2 fun is an experience which is actually more difficult than fun, and when looked back on, was enjoyable. Hiking for example. Or golf in general. Joking? Traveling is difficult – if you do it right. With no expectations except the expectation that everything will go wrong and that we will figure things out. Indeed, our entire episode of Adventures In Golf went wrong. We came here to do one thing and that thing failed. You will have to wait for Episode Four of the Iceland Vlogs to see that.
Part 4: Vlog Learnings
So we made a vlog. We never showed it to anyone. I don’t quite know why it has taken two years to surface. I really have no great answer. We did wait, but it wasn’t intentional waiting. We ran everywhere with the camera in hand. For me, a photographer turned documentary filmmaker turned golf travel show host, it was invigorating. Like the Wim Hof method for my creative outlets, running a camera everywhere was like a sketchpad. It was the perfect embodiment of the most important rule of improvisation: YES AND. We just Yes And’ed all over this island for a week.
Per capita, Iceland has the most golf courses in the world
Speaking of island, is that the origin of the name Iceland? There are many theories as to where the name Iceland came from. Some believe a Viking named it that after seeing a large piece of ice as he was leaving the island. Some believe it was to stop people from coming. To make intruders think it was just ice. Or some believe it comes from ‘Iceland’ literally meaning island in many languages. Per capita, Iceland has the most golf courses in the world, 1 for every 6,700 people. Of the 65 properties, 50 of them are less than 18 holes. Locals are more concerned with the quality of routing than quantity.
The food in Reykjavik was something. And by something, I mean fantastic, which surprised us all. It wasn’t just the restaurants – it was coffee shops, corner stores, and gas stations. Yes – the gas stations had crazy good burgers and pie and fries. The delicious food did have a downside. It was expensive. Crazy expensive. Like ‘we paid $30 for fries expensive’. That said, a location’s food is a big part of the traveling I look forward to, and at the end of the day, I challenge anyone to put a price on experience. So that is to say, we ordered a large plate of fries for the table as our appetizer, followed by hot bread and butter (that salted room temperature kind that must have descended from Heaven) as an entree and hot water for desert. I kid you not, we were not quite ready for the high food costs. Luckily we all loved fries.
Part 5: A (New) Sense Of Normal
Once we got back to the room, the exhaustion was obvious. We did what we normally do, make the room look like a bomb went off. You’d think we’d been there for weeks. Right off the living room was a deck, looking out over the town. This was our first look at the – sun bounce (?) – effect of the Iceland summer. It was an odd visual watching the sun fail to drop out of the sky. It just bounced off the horizon like brick breaker in super slow motion. Or maybe I was just super jet lagged. It would take a long time for me to get used to that. Not even until the next year when, Stuart, David, and I visited Lofoten for Season Four of Adventures In Golf would we sort of be ready for this mental puzzle.
When it never gets dark, it’s tough not to think about playing golf. It’s kind of an RGC litmus test. Like, a golf addict SAT question – if it never gets dark, when do you stop playing golf? The correct answer, C – NEVER. So, here we are, 1 AM, awake for something like 30 hours. Joints feel like an old torn cord grip. Eyes like a sandy wedge. Mouth like a sweaty sock. But – more important than that – golf. Right that second. Let’s leave right now. Tee it up. Go.
“What would Old Tom do?”Stuart Kerr
So that’s what we did. Made it impossible not to – once Stuart said “What would Old Tom do?” It’d be disrespectful to the man himself. So we packed up the gear. Packed the car. And we were off at 1:30 AM to play golf. Still sounds weird to say. There was a course nearby that Colt had on his radar – Ness. A little niner in town that looked like a nose (Ness in Icelandic) from above. We drove there not really curious if they were open – that never really occurred to us. Strange when I think back on it. It was like – we are going to golf no matter the cost.
We pulled in, no one. Empty parking lot. Well, I guess not empty. Just lacking a human presence. I can try and describe the golf to you, but it makes more sense for you to watch this experience, my first experience of midnight golf, and my first vlog. Quite a pairing. I can safely say – this round was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
It wasn’t until 3:30 AM when we made it back to the car. Light as day. Well, I guess it was day. Again, it’s a lot to get used to. Stay tuned for three more videos and articles like these and make sure to let us know down below if there are questions you have, places you want us to visit, or just say hi!
Thanks for reading, watching and listening. Erik
The fourth of a five part series highlighting Erik’s travels in Scotland.
Storyteller, artist, filmmaker, 6 handicapper and one of the fastest growing names in golf content. Erik created the show Adventures in Golf for the PGA Tour, traveling around the world finding and telling the most outrageous and unique stories in golf. His YouTube channel is focused on both long and short form golf videos from in depth interviews, wild golf trips and personal challenges. He is the co-founder of Random Golf Club a rapidly growing golf media and product company.