Urban golf

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File:Urban golf sgc05-01.jpg
The first player teeing off at the 2005 Shoreditch Urban Open, London
File:Urbn golf nz.jpg
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). 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.

In the United States, cross golf is typically played on grass, anywhere in rural and suburban areas, excluding golf courses. Cross golf courses are usually built around college campus and playing fields, parks, backyards, hay fields, and campgrounds. In general, any piece of private property (in which the owner supports the construction of a temporary course) can be defined as a cross golf course. Cooper’s Lake in Slippery Rock, PA [11] and The Links at Thistledown in Campbelltown, PA [12] are the main venues for cross golf in the US. Both sites have been hosting competitive tournaments since 2011. The Links at Thistledown established a summer league in 2014. Cooper’s Lake hosts two tournaments annually; the Cooper’s Lake Open and the Cooper’s Lake Championship. They are considered to be the unofficial major championships of urban golf and cross golf, due to their attraction of high-profile players, trophies and prize money, and challenging course layouts that test all aspects of an urban golfer’s game.

Anatomy of an Urban Golf course

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.

In some cases, an urban golf or cross golf course is created in fields and backyards. Individuals and groups meet up to mow tee boxes, fairways and greens with their mowers. The fairways and greens may have unique shapes and some urban golf holes meander through wooded areas, placing a premium on ball flight and accuracy. Courses can be 9 or 18 holes. At Cooper’s Lake, the courses are set up like many of the natural golf links. They are designed to fit the natural terrain and the grass is mowed down to complete the layout. No dirt is moved in the process of creating the course, except when the 18 holes are dug into the ground. Oftentimes, the course may feature various heights of rough (including a thick, penalizing primary rough), natural and artificial water hazards as well as straw bale pot bunkers. Just like in links golf, unpredictable bounces are a common occurrence on Cooper’s Lake courses. Wind is also one of the main factors in determining the difficulty of the course. When the ground becomes firm and the wind picks up, the course plays very similar to a links golf course, making it one of the few places in the United States suitable for links-style golf. The fairway height is slightly higher than the greens; which are usually mowed down on the lowest settings. A weed trimmer provides the finishing touches around the holes. At the Links at Thistledown, each neighbor participates in the construction and maintenance of the course. Players, at both Cooper’s Lake and the Links at Thistledown, use almostGOLF Point3 balls as their official ball for tournament play.


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)[13] 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 and the United States), 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

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.

Similar rules apply at Cooper’s Lake in the United States. Players may carry up to four clubs. A 6-iron is usually the longest club allowed and players are free to select the combination of short irons and wedges. Putters are allowed but most players opt to “belly” or “pop” the ball with their wedge once they have reached the green. There is no set combination of clubs but the general guideline is a 6-iron (driver), 8-iron (mid-range) and one or two wedges.

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.

Cross golf (United States)

In US style cross golf, the course looks and plays like a traditional golf course, except the course is much shorter, and many times, par is noticeably lower than traditional golf. At Cooper’s Lake, the course is built to mimic a real golf course. All distance is measured in feet (instead of yards), all 18 holes are dug into the ground, there are tee markers that indicate the teeing grounds, a driving range and practice green for players to warm up and a scoring tent and scoreboard beside the 18th green. Par for the course is generally 71 or 72. The tournaments are played on a rotation of courses similar to major championship golf. The goals of the tournaments are to provide a championship test for the best cross golfers and urban golfers in the world, grow the game of golf, cultivate creativity in course design and style of play, and present a safe, affordable and environmentally friendly version of golf to the golfing world. Participants often camp out for the weekend to party with friends and celebrate golf. Night golf is also a very popular activity at these events. The tournaments are 18-holes of stroke play. Sometimes the tournament will be 36-holes with a halfway cut to thin down the field. Prizes are awarded to the top scorers in each division. At The Links at Thistledown, participants play 2 rounds on the 9-hole course with a single club. After the first round, there is usually a cookout followed by a final round to decide the champion.

Townsend Golf (Canada)

Originated in Fonthill, Ontario in 1995, Townsend Golf is similar in nature to Campus Golf, in that a tennis ball is used in place of a golf ball, and only one club is used for the entirety of the round. The name 'Townsend Golf' stems from it being invented in Townsend Circle in southern Fonthill, centered on two homes properties. The original course is 9 holes, par 27, 193 yards.[1] For the most part, the basic rules of golf are adhered to, with a few exceptions. The signature element of Townsend Golf is the entire course shares a single 'hole', and it is a hula hoop. This singular hula hoop is placed on grass at the edge of one homes property, and is the concluding spot for each of the 9 holes. A player 'holes out' and concludes the hole when the tennis ball comes to rest within the confines of the hula hoop. Only one golf club may be used for the duration of a round, and must be either a 9-iron, pitching wedge, or sand wedge. Shots from the street, neighboring driveways, gardens, or different terrain are required and part of the course. Since 2003, an annual 16 person 'Townsend Open' is held, and has a strong local following.[2]

Tennis Ball Street Golf (New Orleans, United States)

Tennis Ball Street Golf (TBSG) was started in New Orleans, Louisiana in the year 2000 by Josh Tolbert, and has grown in popularity in the years since. Originating in the south section of City Park in New Orleans, the game has spread throughout the area with multiple established courses and dozens of local players. Like other iterations of the game, it is played with one golf club and one tennis ball. The "holes" are predetermined objects (i.e. Trees, walls, poles, trashcans) which must be hit in a predetermined amount of strokes. Scoring, like Golf is based off the players relationship to Par. One of the unique aspects of TBSG is the addition of "Catchies", which is the term derived for the action of catching a tennis ball after it hits the predetermined "hole", but before it comes into contact with the ground. Each unique TBSG course has an agreed upon number of Catchies which will result in a mulligan on the tee box of the final hole. For Example, if the agreed upon number of Catchies is 3, then once a player reaches that number of Catchies, he will be awarded his final hole "Mully".

Another unique aspect of TBSG is its effort to create a global, crowd-generated GEOCACHE network which will allow players or designers to create, record and share courses with a mobile application.



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

North America has some of the more well-established clubs. Currently, the sport is played in the U.S. in the states of California [15], [16], [17]; Florida [18]; Illinois [19]; New York [20]; Oregon [21]; Pennsylvania [22]; and Washington [23]; and in Canada in the provinces of Ontario [24] [25] and Nova Scotia [26].

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 [27], [28]; Czech republic [29]; France [30], [31], [32]; Germany [33], [34]; Hungary [35]; Italy [36]; The Netherlands [37], [38], [39]; Poland [40], [41]; Portugal [42]; Russia [43]; Switzerland [44]; and the U.K. [45].

In Oceania, urban golf is played in Australia [46], [47] and New Zealand [48].

South America is a new addition to the world of urban golf, but has associations in Argentina [49] and Brazil [50].

In Media

Urban golfing was prominently featured in a popular 1994 Spike Jonze-directed music video of Dinosaur Jr's Feel the Pain.[3] 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. In 2003, Forbes wrote about the event in San Francisco. http://www.forbes.com/forbes-life-magazine/2003/0915/043.html

See also

External links