For golfers looking for a totally different type of challenge, and for outdoor enthusiasts seeking an adventure unlike any other, the world of extreme golf beckons.
Just what exactly is extreme golf? It depends on who you ask. In my case, it’s virtually every round I play. Sooner or later, I’m going to wind up “off the beaten path,” hitting out of the woods, the desert, the street, a ditch, someone’s yard, even Steve Wynn’s swimming pool!
The first time I played Shadow Creek, long before Steve Wynn’s #MeToo debacle sent him packing from the casino bearing his name, I smash-hooked a drive into the gated back yard of a home I was told belonged to Wynn. Our caddie was fairly certain I parked the ball in the pool. Needless to say, I took an unplayable, dropped a fresh Titleist and went on to triple bogey the hole. But the story far outweighs the score—something I can say about just about every one of my golf rounds!
Back to the explanation of extreme golf… Any specific hole, course, or overall golfing experience that takes place on what is NOT considered typical “playing surfaces”—fairways, roughs, greens, etc.—can be encapsulated in the extreme golf category.
Additionally, golf courses that are subject to extreme temperatures, have extreme terrain variations, are built-in dangerous locations or involve hazards beyond sandtraps and the other “usual” golf course pitfalls are also filed in the extreme category. People have been playing so-called “extreme golf for ages.” There are stories dating back to the 15th Century, around the time the modern game of golf was developed, where golfers traversed all manner of ungodly terrain with sticks and balls, vying to see who could accomplish the Point A to Point B task in fewer strokes. There was no mention of a proper hole to end up in, just a point of origination and a terminus.
Similarly, Roman historians reference the ancient game of paganica, hitting a small leather ball with a curved or bent stick across all sorts of uneven and unimproved terrain. But for this story, the modern version of extreme golf is our focus. And that yields two categories: extreme by design or extreme by the environment.
The following courses, events, and challenges will fall into either of the two—or both. They are…
The Hottest Course In The World
Furnace Creek Golf Course Death Valley, California, USA: Temps can hit 125+ in the summer, and a world-record-setting ground temperature of 201 degrees was chronicled in the early-70s. Make sure you hydrate, hydrate again, and for good measure, hydrate some more. Then, you can take your swings and putts between liquid fill-ups. Or, just stay home that weekend, watch the PGA Tour on the telly, have a few beers, and pray for all the idiots playing golf in Death Valley.
The Downhill Blitz Course
Elfego Baca Shootout Socorro Peak, New Mexico: Named for former gunman/sheriff/businessman Elfego Baca who survived a shootout in the late 1800s, the inception of this nutty event dates back to 1960 when it was first played to hype the Socorro Open at the nearby New Mexico Tech Golf Course. But as is often the case with wacky ideas, the event took on a life of its own. Now, for $100, you get 10 specially marked balls and a lift from a 4×4 to the top of the 7,423-foot-high Socorro Peak. It’s up to you to hit/hack your way down the mountain—a vertical drop of 777 meters—without losing all your balls (or marbles!). Golfers are allowed to tee up every shot on a small piece of turf or carpet. Any ball not found after 20 minutes is deemed lost and counts as one stroke. An average score is in the realm of 18-21, and 75 strokes is the max. The record, set by Socorro resident Mike Stanley, is 9 strokes, however, that figure comes with an asterisk as it was achieved before scorekeepers were assigned to registered participants.
The Forbidden Course
Pyongyang Golf Course Pyongyang, North Korea: You’ll have to use their clubs (total pieces of shit) and hire a “tour guide,” and for the duration of your round you better hope relations between the United States and North Korea (or at least between Trump and Kim Jong Un) stay warm and fuzzy. By that same token, pray that a civil war between N. Korea and S. Korea doesn’t kick off while you’re out on the links, otherwise you’ll be dealing with much more than penalty strokes.
The Ice Course
Uummannaq, Greenland: On this tiny island off Greenland’s west coast, approximately 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle, golfers who share bloodlines with penguins and polar bears gather each year for the World Ice Golf Championship. Red balls, “whites” instead of greens, thermal underwear, and hand- and foot warmers are the norm. Frostbite is just one of the many hazards. There’s a rumor about a golfer who lost a “nether region appendage” due to extreme frostbite when he attempted to hit out of any icy fjord, but because photo evidence was not available (or desired!), that story can neither be confirmed nor denied.
The Ridiculously Long Course
Nullarbor Links Eyre Highway, Australia: This 18-hole, par-72 course covers an insane 1,365 kilometers across two states (South Australia and Western Australia), and was officially opened in October of 2009. The average distance between holes is 65km, but there are two holes that are nearly 200km apart. Hopefully, your golf cart has a helluva battery!
The Course Where Humans Are NOT On Top Of The Food Chain
Skukuza Golf Course Kruger National Park, South Africa: At some point, most golfers will have a run-in with wildlife. A crow or a squirrel that mistakes your ball for food. An insect that finds your eye, nose or ear appealing and visits in the middle of your backswing. A snake or alligator that decides to guard your ball, preventing an approach shot. All creatures great and small will find their way onto a golf course—and into the middle of your round—sooner or later.
But at Skukuza Golf Course on the Dark Continent, that animal interaction takes on a far more serious tenor. In Africa, everything bites. And when that “everything” consists of warthogs, lions, leopards, crocodiles, pythons, and the beast that kills more people in Africa annually—hippos—golfers really need to keep their heads on a swivel, otherwise, their heads may become snacks for one of the aforementioned critters. Finally, there’s talk that an exciting new golf tour is being developed by some of the young guns on the PGA Tour and a few of the elite X-Games athletes. The concept marries traditional golf with extreme sports like rock climbing/bouldering, rappelling, vertical hiking, orienteering and mountain biking.
There’s no official word on who might emerge as sponsors, though one could make a safe bet that both REI and Monster Energy will be involved.
We’ll keep you posted!
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