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Feb 01

Extreme Golf



Go ahead and tell us that as golfers, we aren’t really athletes. Go on depicting us as bland, fair-weather, high-life sports people. Draw all the distinctions you want between the well-mannered men and women of the club-house and cage fighters, extreme skiers and sumo wrestlers. We don’t mind. We know the truth. We know that as golfers, we are some of the toughest hombres and Valkyries in the business, and we’ve no end of extreme examples to prove it.

In search of extreme golf, our thoughts naturally turn toward climate. All right then – the northernmost golf courses in the Americas are to be found in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. The Billy Joss Golf Club, the Yellowfish Golf Club and the Mountain View Golf Course in Whitehorse are about as high as it gets over here. Moose Run lays claim to being the northernmost 36 hole course in the world. On certain courses in certain seasons, golfers are required to carry bear repellent – ok, that qualifies as extreme golf.
 
Golf
 
If Canada and the northern territories have the sport of extreme golf, Iceland knows how to celebrate it. The Arctic Open Golf Championship welcomes professionals and amateurs from all over the world, and the only requirement is a handicap below 25 for men and below 29 for women. You’re starting time at the Akureyi Golf Club is generally around ten in the evening, but nothing’s ever called for darkness – there isn’t any.

Antarctica lags behind, but things are moving. Websites are standing by with categories labeled “Golf Courses in Antarctica,” “Top Rated Courses in Antarctica” and “New Reviews for Golf Courses in Antarctica.” For now, the southernmost course is located in the Tierra Del Fuego National Park.

Between the poles, there are some interesting and extreme challenges. The Volcano Golf & Country Club is a favorite spot in the Hawaiian Islands, and as they like to say, “It’s a driver and wedge to Mauna Lea and Mauna Kea volcanoes.” It’s extreme, and drop-dead gorgeous.

American André Tolmé created an example of extreme golf by completing the eighteen holes across Mongolia, from Choybalsan in the east to Dund-Us in the west. Of course, he took food and water…a tent…a jeep…and a three iron.  The round took 90 days (talk about slow play), and covered over 1,200 miles. He lost 509 balls and finished with a score of 12, 170 shots. We’re told that’s a club record.

South Africa continues to lead boldly in the extreme department. The 19th at Legends of Golf & Safari Resort (an extreme enough mixture) has an elevated tee, 1,400 feet above the Africa-shaped green surrounded by a circular bunker. All things considered, the required helicopter ride to the tee is fairly inexpensive. Incidentally, if you should score a hole-in-one, it’s a million bucks – just like that.

In the Maldives, construction is under way for 18 holes to be played on islands, with underwater tunnels connecting them. The Chinese take that as a way of elevating the game to a new level of extremes at the Zuohai Aquarium in Fuzhou City. Five players, fifty foot deep tank, complete with sea turtles and fish…no word on predators. The winner has the lowest combined score and time.


Speed golf was invented in 1979 by California runner Steve Scott. Laugh if you want, but there’s a tour on three continents, and much of it is televised. The best American example of this extreme version is the Minneapolis Broc-n-Bob.

We’ve even ventured into space, with both American and Russian astronauts holding a long drive contest. The American shot was disappointing, and burned up after three orbits. Russian Mikhail Tyurin, despite shanking his shot, assessed his distance at 3 years, or 460 million miles. That’s pretty good, considering that he took his stance while standing upside down, dressed in a tin suit.

Pending verification of the photo, the U.S. Navy appears to be getting into the extreme golf act, with a fully “decked” out nine
hole course covering the upper level of an aircraft carrier. Imagine the “Join the Navy” ads featuring Tiger Woods – incredible.

So, there you have it, hockey-loving golf bashers. There isn’t any place we won’t go, and nothing we won’t do to take the beloved Scottish game where no one has gone before. Underneath all our suave and intellectual presence, we still need to hit something with a stick.

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.