Golf Adventure -The Quirkiest, Most Rigorous Places to Play
If you would have told me about all of this stuff forty years ago, I would have hands down loved it. At that time, I was all about finding the most offbeat and challenging adventures the globe could offer, and the realm of golf was no exception – the stranger the requirements, the better the telling of the story later on.
Now, in my days of …um…wisdom, I look back and think, isn’t golf enough of an adventure? Isn’t it already pretty wild? No one needs to go to the moon or the Himalayas to have a remarkable day on the golf course, but there are still those who need a Ripley’s Believe It or Not aspect added to an already difficult and rewarding game.
For two such celebrated individuals, Robin Seiger and Neil Laughton, it’s all about bringing the inner adventure that comes naturally to golf, out into the open, where it’s either massively cold, hot, high, low, and in any way you want, dangerous. They began by searching for the Tuchu Golf Club in Peru, said to be the highest altitude course in the world, at a grand 14,533. The measuring stick for my neck of the woods is Mount Rainier, the summit of which stands just a few feet below that. Many times have I looked at that summit from the Glacier Basin below at 8,000 and thought, “no way.” A mining company owns what’s left of Tuchu, and when the two intrepid explorers asked if they could play it anyway, the answer was basically, “Play what? It’s not there anymore.” Dreams in tatters, the two moved on.
The La Paz course in Bolivia stands at 10,800. Ah, that’s better, right? Not right. Anything over 5000 feet and the air starts to change. It also becomes more scarce, especially if you’re elderly, a career move that I’m considering before not too long. La Paz doesn’t sit on its altitude laurels. It’s a beautifully designed and maintained 18 hole course, and llama rental is pretty reasonable. But come to Bolivia “acclimatized.” Don’t jump out of bed at sea level and say “hey, let’s play some golf up there,” pointing to the clouds. You might experience headaches, edema, nausea, or an eternal sleep somewhere along the fairway.
The Gulnarg Course in Jammi and Kashmir is lower at 9,000, but you’re not (excuse the expression) out of the woods yet. You might breathe a little easier, but get involved in the fierce battles being fought over the region. Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand sports ocean crags that you want no part of, trust me on that. Nullarbor Links in Australia measures 810 miles, but come on, that’s far enough. 810 miles isn’t golf, no matter how much you love the weirdness of it. It’s a long-distance safari with an occasional shot along the way. At least Vertigo golf in South Africa advertises itself honestly at the Legend Golf and Safari. They have a tee box accessible only by helicopter, and a four hundred yard par 3. The ball falls for approximately thirty seconds, which I think is a lot of fun. But, you can also get eaten by all manner of wildlife. Glacier golf in Whistler, Canada has another helicopter ride to the top of an icebound tee at 8000 over sea level. Sure, the ball goes farther, but wrapped up in parkas and the other gear, how much of a swing will you have? Sure, it’ll go a mile at 14,000 feet, but if you can’t breathe, you may not be able to lift the club over your shoulder. The distance nature gives you, she’s going to take back, one way or another.
You could skip the altitude thing and do Kanterhussrag in Greenland, a dried-up, sandy lake bed. Or, you could go to Furnace Creek at 214 feet below sea level, where good course management means hitting to the shade. Then, of course, there’s the 6 day tournament at Russia’s Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest course. Stand on the ice 5,300 feet over the bottom of the lake, and try not to think about it. At least you compete for a prize there.
No, my daredevil days are done, outside of cutting the occasional dogleg or charging a putt here and there. I could go down to Muni, where the fairways are neatly stacked side by side, there’s not a bump anywhere, and where the greens all look exactly alike – and have the adventure of a lifetime. The game’s that good.