You stomp into the clubhouse, disgusted with the round you just played, only to hear some guy bragging about the game he put together when he was in London last week. He says that from the tee, he hit the ball straight and true on every single hole. Then he says that on his second shot, he aimed for the rough and whacked the ball up into a netted goal. Wait — a netted goal? There’s no netted goal in golf!

Well, what that fellow was playing wasn’t golf but rather GolfCross, a variation of golf that’s steadily gaining popularity worldwide. The brainchild of a wacky inventor named Burton Silver (who’s also responsible for the best-selling Why Cats Paint), GolfCross came about in the late ’80s as a way to bring golf to Silver’s rural New Zealand community, which couldn’t afford the typical course, as fairways and greens are expensive not only to build but also to maintain. Thus, in place of fancy mowers, Silver let native sheep take care of the fairways. He ditched the holes in favor of raised, netted targets. And to top it all off, he introduced an oval-shaped golf ball. That idea was born when Silver, who is a rugby fan, noticed that a rugby ball, which flies end over end, bounces farther than a round ball.
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“If played in the upright position, the oval ball cannot be hooked or sliced. It goes perfectly straight every time,” says Paul Martin, the managing director of GolfCross Limited. “People are genuinely surprised at how much more control they have with the oval ball. If you turn it right on the tee cup, it goes right. If you turn it left, it goes left. The ball does exactly what you want it to do.”

That may well explain how the game spread from its tiny New Zealand origin to include courses in England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, and Argentina. And more courses are opening up nearly every month — London alone built three this summer. The UK will also be the site of the first-ever GolfCross World Championships, on September 29 and 30 at Whittlebury Park Golf & Country Club in Northhampton. As of late July, the event had drawn almost 3,000 interested participants as well as international media attention.

To find out where you can try it out for yourself, visit Next time maybe you’ll be the one bragging about your game in the clubhouse. — Jill Becker