Golf in the snow? Vermont has it covered, so to speak

Vermont is a lovely spot for golf, though usually not in February. But if Rudyard Kipling and Arthur Conan Doyle could play in the midst of winter, as they did it back in the 1890s, why not the rest of us?

The creator of Sherlock Holmes was visiting his friend when Kipling lived in a Dummerston, Vermont home called Naulakha (Hindi for “jewel beyond price). There was snow on the ground, so the pair painted the balls red and whacked a few around the hills, much to the neighbors’ puzzlement, since golf was little known in the U.S. at the time.

Teeing off in Snow Golf in the heart of winter in Vermont.

Naulakha is still around, now owned and operated by the Landmark Trust USA, and open to visitors for extended stays. They can lounge in Kipling’s actual furniture — indeed, sit at the very desk where he composed The Jungle Book and other works, and where, in a glassed-over upstairs closet, Kipling’s very clubs are on display. The clubs he used, says the USGA, to invent snow golf.

The Trust is a nonprofit, so last year it came up with a fundraising idea, Snow Golf, to replicate to some degree Kipling’s and Doyle’s escapade. It worked, so they’ve turned it into an annual event, now with the participation of the Brattleboro Country Club, and as part of the town of Brattleboro’s week-long Winter Carnival. This year’s tournament is set for Feb. 25.

For visitors heading into Vermont from the southeast, the Brattleboro Country Club is the first golfing opportunity, an 110-year-old public course that in 2000 expanded its Wayne Stiles design to 18 holes (with 10 new ones designed by native son Steve Durkee).

Director of golf Mike Zaranek says the club will help the Trust with design ideas, flags and prizes.

“Whatever we can do to just make it fun and realistic,” Zaranek says. “Using the foam golf balls is a different thing, but it’s just a good day to go out and have some fun with your buds.” (Teams can register here.)

The full name of the event is Snow Golf: Chip, Drive & Putt for Preservation, and the proceeds will help the Trust’s various U.S. properties, including Naulakha and Scott Farm, a working farm since 1791. The event is actually held there, down a dirt road a piece from Kipling’s place. Known for cultivating more than 130 heirloom apple varieties, the farm was used as a location for the film “The Cider House Rules.”  

So among other goodies, Snow Golf participants can look forward to some steaming hot cider along the way (hard or sweet), as they try to chip, drive and putt their way to glory. The top individual prize is a two-night stay at another Trust property, the Amos Brown House in Whitingham, Vermont.

As for the layout of the various holes of a snow golf event the big question is, will there be any white stuff on the event’s big day? The tournament will proceed in any case, but Zaranek says he’ll head over to the site closer to the event, “To see what we’re working with. Just like real golf, it’s all Mother Nature-oriented. We’ll see what she brings — a field we’ll have to mow … or plow.”