Melbourne Urban Golf turns the back streets and parking lots of Collingwood and Fitzroy into something much better: a golf course. This ain’t your average pub golf -style barcrawl. No, Urban Golf is an actual sport played worldwide. People dress in golfing attire and whack tennis balls around a course. (And yes, there’s the odd visit to a bar to stay hydrated.)
I first played Urban Golf in the inaugural Chicago game back in 2006 — go on, watch the lame music video. The Chicago Urban Devils Golf Enthusiasts League, aka C.U.D.G.E.L., put on fabulous outings several summers running. (That’s me in the first picture.) So when I moved to Wellington, I asked a friend who’s an urban designer to help me plan a course there. A couple of games — and years — later, and it was off to Melbourne. That’s when I found out the founder of Toronto Urban Golf, Steph, had started it up here. I played the second Melbourne match in Brunswick in 2012 — and a couple of weeks ago, Steph and I designed the course for Melbourne Round #3 around Smith Street.
As you can see, you can use anything to hit your decorated tennis ball (which is used in place of a golf ball for ease of finding and because it’s less damaging to the city environment). We designed a course that went from parks to cobblestoned streets, zig zagging around from Collingwood to Fitzroy and back again.
Half the fun of playing is dressing up, and some folks went all out. We divided into teams and set off, making sure we didn’t overlap at the pubs. We visited three of them between the nine holes: The Grace Darling Hotel, the Punter’s Palace Hotel (just the kind of old-man dive bar the name suggests), and The Union Club Hotel to wrap up with a big afterparty.
The Union played host to the awards ceremony, where Steph handed out the amazing handmade prizes for categories like “First Hole in One” and “The Slinking-Away Award” (which featured a slinky on top).
Perhaps the best part of urban golf — besides the friends you make — is how you view the city in a different way. There are still parts of Brunswick I associate with urban golf from the time I played up and down Sydney Road over two years ago. It makes you look at laneways in a whole other light, and really opens your eyes to what you walk past without seeing day in and day out.
The next round of Melbourne Urban Golf will be played in the warmer months, so like the Facebook page and follow the Twitter account. $5 gets you a tennis ball, course map, and an afternoon you’ll be remembering for years.