As excitement mounts towards the start of the Rugby World Cup in Australia, it’s perhaps appropriate to recognise a form of golf which uses an oval-shaped golf ball.
I was introduced to this form of golf recently by a playing partner who had returned from a holiday in New Zealand.
During his visit Nigel Kaye joined friends for nine holes of Golfcross that in its rules is a derivation of golf and basketball. Golf shots are played with a small, dimpled but egg-shaped ball over a course featuring tees, fairways and hazards to a mown area known as a yard. Instead of a 4.25-inch diameter hole, players try to pitch the ball into a triangular ‘goal’ perched a few feet above the ground on a metal pole.
The brainchild of Kiwi author Burton Silver, Golfcross was launched in May 2001 at Braemar Station, in the foothills of Mount Cook on New Zealand’s South Island. The most recent additon is at Rippon Vineyard overlooking Lake Wanaka (where Nigel played), while Ngawaro (Rotorua) and Station Bush (Martinborough) are in the North Island.
"GolfCross is golf with goals instead of holes and an oval ball which gives players the control of a professional" says Silver.
It took 12 years of trials and development to get the ball and game perfected. Burton says the one-piece ball, made in the Far East, is more aerodynamically stable than its traditional round elder brother. For almost every shot it is placed in a tee cup and when set on either point travels uncannily straight loaded with backspin. Fade and draw spin is achieved by placing the ball on its side at various angles.
Silver’s aim is to establish ‘an original Kiwi form of golf which celebrates the splendour of our rural environment, our love of rugby, and our do-it-yourself innovative spirit.’
The simplicity of GolfCross makes setting up a course much cheaper than a new golf course, says Silver. The Kiwi courses are all established on sheep grazing land.
The basic rules allow for players to pick up and position the ball within a foot (30cms) or where it comes to rest but not nearer the goal. Tee cups can be used on fairways. In the yard, the ball may be placed within six inches (15cms), of where it comes to rest.
The player whose ball lies furthest from the goal has priority and in strokeplay must play his shot to the set (chained position) until his ball reaches the yard, where he can swivel it to his advantage if required.
In matchplay the player whose ball reaches the yard first has tactical turning rights, often preventing his opponent from taking a direct shot. Among the top stars who have played the game is Greg Turner, four times a winner on the European Tour.
He commented: "GolfCross is the same game but with a less physical element and a much greater thinking element than golf. It employs most of the same skills. it just tweaks more than anything the degree of each of those skills. Even regular golfers can have a lot of fun."
If you have played Golfcross, why not tell us your experiences on the forum.