Urban golf

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The first player teeing off at the 2005 Shoreditch Urban Open, London
Player teeing off at the 2007 Auckland Urban Open, New Zealand

Urban golf is a game, derived from the original game of golf, in which individual players or teams hit a ball into a hole or at a specified target using various clubs.

Urban golf is currently becoming popular across the world in many varying formats. Its origin is ambiguous but is believed to be started in Scotland in 1741 outside The White Hart Inn in the Grassmarket area of Edinburgh by a Duncan Thomas.

There are now many organizations across the world actuating this seemingly destructive pastime. Shoreditch Golf Club [2] formed the first 18 hole, par 72 open tournament in London in 2004. Since 2004 Le 19ème Trou (The 19th Hole) From France [3] organizes many events and was the first team to organize a national championship (The French City Pro tour) and is also at the origin of the championship of Europe. NW Urban Sports [4] out of Portland Oregon helped start World Urban Golf Day in 2007 in association with Urban Golf Australia [5] and urbangolf.org [6] currently in Portland, Oregon, USA. Previously out of Oakland, California, USA the Urban Golf Associations [7] Bi-Annual Charles Bukowski North Beach Invitational in San Francisco predate this by a few years with a smaller format.

Other urban golf associations are springing up from New Zealand to Russia [8] to Argentina, and are listed below. Unlike these organizations, which use public city areas, Cross Golf, a variation on Urban Golf, exists in the form of Natural Born Golfers [9] from Germany and Urban Golf Unit [10] from The Netherlands. Cross Golf utilizes disused urban environments, building sites, rooftops, canals, hotel lobbies, school campus sites, and industrial areas as courses.

Anatomy of an Urban Golf course[edit]

The fundamental difference between Urban Golf and its verdant brother is the lack of nature and the high frequency of public houses. As in normal golf, many holes include hazards but these are natural to an urban environment and are not bunkers (or sand traps), but street furniture and drains. Often many unexpected situations can arise from the environment such as dogs not kept on leashes tend to chase balls, players dropping clubs down drains, traffic, etc.

The Australian Urban Golfing style consists of a set target such as "play to the beach" or "play to the pub" lowest strokes the winner with the emphasis being on freestyle elements along the way such as "who can pop over that" "around that corner by bouncing off that tree" etc.


Urban golf is seen by many as social commentary on the nature of golf and its traditional opinions and attitudes. Considering golf pompous, dogmatic and quite often inaccessible, urban golfers worldwide have adopted many different urban environments as their new course to engage in this recreational pastime. Commonly, urban golf organisations tend toward using disused or under utilised urban areas to play golf, not just to reduce the risk of damage or injury, but also as a statement toward the development and reuse of the city. Some have found themselves being commended for this, such as the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment's (CABE)[11] support of Shoreditch Golf Club in London.

Whilst there is a seemingly inherent disregard for public safety and damage to buildings, all organisations have one common rule, safety.



Balls used in urban golf vary relative to each organization and context. Although real golf balls are used in some circumstances where risk from injury is low, other balls used are Tennis Balls, Squash Balls, almostGOLF Point3 balls (used by Urban Golf associations throughout Belgium), Air Flow Balls, Cayman Balls and many types of adapted or customized balls. Shoreditch Golf Club produces and manufactures its own design of ball specifically for this game.

Golf clubs[edit]

A standard set of golf clubs is often used in urban golf. The three major club types; woods, irons, and putters are used to varying degrees depending on the urban golf format.

Australian Urban Golfers prefer to use a mixed bag which includes a nice high club around the S PW or 9 area a driving club which would be no lower than a 5 or 7 Iron and also a left-handed club for getting out of tight situations where you have been turned around or up against an object.

Some Urban Golfers prefer to use other items aside from real golf clubs with which to play the game, as playing on asphalt and other urban terrains can ruin an otherwise perfectly good set of clubs. Organizers of less competitive and more casual urban golf games allow use as a "golf club" of basically anything that one can hit a ball with -- hockey sticks, umbrellas, brooms, shovels, etc.


Campus Golf

Campus golf is a variant of urban golf with several adaptations for ease of play on college campuses. The almostGOLF College Tour is an on campus golf tournament with tour stops on college and university campuses across the United States such as, The LMU Open and USC Open. Players on the Tour use almostGOLF's Point3 ball which is campus safe and wayward almostGOLF balls will not damage buildings or cars. The almostGOLF College Tour includes a driving range, skills challenge including a Flop Shot Wall, and multi-hole course setup throughout a campus. The goal is to grow the game of golf with college students.

The most notable change from traditional golf is the substitution of a tennis ball for the golf ball with the exception of the almostGOLF tournaments which use the Patented Point3 ball. Players each select a single golf club (most games require that a player play with an iron) for use during the entire game. Rules vary from college to college, but in every game the object is to strike a pre-selected object with the tennis ball with as few strokes as possible. In many cases, alcohol is involved in college campus golf tournaments, and the event is often associated with a full day of binge drinking. While at times dangerous (and in many cases illegal), this adds a humorous and challenging touch to the game, as players become less and less coordinated as the day goes on.


Urban golf is played on almost every continent, with clubs, associations, and loose fraternities of members in dozens of countries.

North America, urban golf's founding continent, has some of the more well-established clubs. Currently, the sport is played in the U.S. in the states of California [12], [13], [14]; Florida [15]; Illinois [16]; New York [17]; Oregon [18]; and Washington [19]; and in Canada in the provinces of Ontario [20] and Nova Scotia [21].

Quickly becoming the epicentre of urban golf, Europe has more associations than any other continent, with the game being played in (in alphabetical order) Belgium [22], [23]; Denmark [24]; France [25], [26], [27]; Germany [28]; Italy [29]; The Netherlands [30], [31], [32]; Poland [33], [34]; Portugal [35]; Russia [36]; Switzerland [37]; and the U.K. [38].

In Oceania, urban golf is played in Australia [39], [40] and New Zealand [41].

South America is a new addition to the world of urban golf, but has associations in Argentina [42] and Brazil [43].

In Media[edit]

Urban golfing was prominently featured in a popular 1994 Spike Jonze-directed music video of Dinosaur Jr's Feel the Pain.[1] Urban Golf has also been featured in an episode of CSI: NY entitled "Necrophilia Americana". Good Magazine featured an article about urban golf in 2008. Similarly, Babelgum Metropolis has written about urban golf, including a video of golfers showcasing the sport. In summer of 2008, Jon Bower shot a short documentary about a round of Toronto Urban Golf, uploaded to youtube in six parts.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ [1]Dinosaur Jr music video