It will come as no surprise that such an ancient an popular game as golf has given rise to many variations of the game, some of which have in turn gained many followers. The variation resides either in the equipment (Hickory golf), mouvements and grips (Natural golf) or in the golf course (Extreme golf, Ice golf, Urban golf).
Two golf variations have kept the essence of traditional golf, while reducing the amount of time spent on the golf course. The first is Pitch and Putt, which is played on specific Pitch and Putt courses, but with conventional clubs, albeit only a reduced number of them. The second one is Speed golf, played on traditional golf courses but in the shortest time possible as the time necessary to complete a 18-hole course is as important a part of the score as the number of strokes used.
Hickory Golf consists in playing the game of golf with authentic hickory shafted golf clubs.
It was invented by Ralph Livingston III, a commercial advertising photographer who started playing pre-1935 Tom Stewart of St. Andrews golf clubs in his effort to gain a better understanding of what golf was like in the early 20th century.
Etymologically the word 'hickory' comes from the name of the wood of a North American tree of the genus Carya, a species of deciduous trees with pinnately compound leaves and large nuts. Hickory wood was used from the early 1800s to the 1920s for making the shafts of golf clubs. By extension a golf club with a hickory shaft is referred to as a hickory.
Hickory golf should primarily be played on links courses, such as St Andrews, Carnoustie and many other English and Scottish link courses. In the US, the Wawashkamo Golf Club, Michigan and Mid Pines Golf Club, North Carolina are ideal to play hickory golf. You can find more hickory golf courses here.
Like hickory golf, natural golf is not an entirely different golf game, but just a specific, more 'natural' way to hit the golf ball, in a legitimate way and on regular golf courses. The concept was invented by the legendary, though eccentric, golf teacher Moe Norman with the idea to develop an uncomplicated way to play golf. Developed as an uncomplicated method to teach the 'simplest swing in golf', it soon became a cult way of playing golf among its followers. Golfers using this method say their handicap dropped rapidly and drammatically.
Natural golf differs from conventional golf in stance, grip and swing plane. The dynamics of natural golf are closer to the body's natural mouvements and mechanics. Natural golfers use the baseball grip to hold their golf club and face the ball at the moment of impact. In the natural swing the club moves on a single-plane. Natural golf can be played with retail golf clubs, but golfers will soon find that natural golf clubs, with a shaft length and shaft flex adapted to their new way of playing, will be more comfortable.
Extreme golf refers to golf played on the most dangerous, challenging or unusual golf courses, such as ice golf courses, desert courses or geographically remote or climatically extreme golf courses. The challenge resides in the typology of the golf course itself, not so much in the game rules or equipment used, although specific rules may be added to push the challenge even further. In the Awesome Eight Golf Challenge golfers must carry their clubs themselves, not using any caddie or cart.
For more information, see: the Awesome Eight Golf Challenge, Ice golf and the world's thoughest golf courses.