From FootGolf to GolfBoards: 10 nontraditional ways to play the game of golf

Ever grow weary of the four-and-a-half-hour golf round? Don't think golf is athletic enough? Think it takes up too much time in your life? This it might be a bit unwelcoming, or just needs a little spicing up?

There are alternatives that might appeal to you.

Most of them still use golf balls, but a few substitute new equipment to alter the game. In any case, here are 10 variations of the game we love.

1. TopGolf

TopGolf might be the best grow-the-game initiative since steel shafts. Played in a climate controlled, multi-tiered super range, players hit chip-embedded golf balls to electronic targets that tally up a score frame-by-frame, similar to bowling.

It's great for beginners because there's no looking for golf balls, complicated golf etiquette or even equipment to buy (TopGolf provides clubs for those who choose not to bring their own). Plus, it's a great atmosphere with terrific bar food, sports on the big screens and other things to do.

There are 13 locations in the United States with that number scheduled to double in the next year with new locations currently under construction.

2. FootGolf

If you've got any kind of soccer skills, then this might be your game. Plus it's great exercise. The 22-inch holes are cut away from the greens, but for the most part, players run and kick the ball on the regular course, although most courses only dedicate a few holes to FootGolf.

It's more popular with medium daily fees looking to create revenue from a different type of customer. No equipment other than indoor or turf soccer shoes, golf shorts and polo shirts are needed. Official FootGolf is regulated by the Federation for International FootGolf. The American FootGolf League is the governing body for the sport in the United States.

3. FlingGolf

Invented by Alex Van Alen, who grew up playing lacrosse in Maine and came up with the idea of modifying a jai alai basket he bought off eBay. Only in its second year, Van Alen said FlingGolf, which uses ordinary golf balls and FlingSticks (which weigh just 16 ounces), is in more than 40 states, several provinces in Canada and in a few European countries.

With more than 200 courses renting of selling the sticks, you probably don't have to go too far to try it, and Van Alen expects the number of courses allowing it -- often side by side with golfers (it uses the same tees and holes) -- to grow into the thousands.

4. Speed Golf

For those who don't think golf is strenuous or athletic, they haven't tried Speed Golf, which combines the minutes you take to complete the course with your score. In other words, if you shoot 80 and take 60 minutes to complete the course on foot, your score is 140. If you're not already in shape, you will be if you play Speed Golf regularly.

Most large cities already have Speed Golf associations. Golfers typically only carry a handful of clubs, so they can move quickly. Also, they can't play during busy times, so Speed Golfers are often the first off or play in the last hour. Eric Crum, of Boise, Idaho, won the 2014 Speed Golf World Championship at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort with a final-round score of 122.01 (76-46:01).

5. GolfBoard

Endorsed by legendary surfer Laird Hamilton, who lives on Kauai and plays many of his rounds at nearby Makai Golf Club , the GolfBoard is similar to a powered snowboard on wheels, allowing single players to ride the course with their clubs at a much faster rate than using a golf cart. It's also somewhat athletic, requiring riders to balance and lean to make turns, but it's also imminently easier than actual surfing.

Dozens of courses have bought limited fleets, including Makai and Dubsdread Golf Course in Orlando, Fla.

6. Golf Bike

Another alternative to the golf cart, the Golf Bike is a specially designed bicycle made to traverse golf courses with a footprint smaller than golf carts. It's also great exercise.

These sophisticated bikes, which have a receptacle for golf clubs, balance easily and are great at courses that aren't exceptionally elevated. While some courses have a fleet of Golf Bikes, many golfers are buying their own and seeking permission from golf courses to use them. The Golf Bike, made by a Tallahassee, Fla. company, retails for just less than $1,000 and includes two side golf bags and a middle insulated trunk bag.

I had the chance to try one out at Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, and you can read my review here .

7. Golf Segway

Again, another alternative for transporting golfers and their clubs, the Segway requires a little up-front training, but once you get used to it, it's easy to zip around the golf course. Best of all, because of its small footprint (wider tires), you can get closer to the greens and tees than you would with a golf cart.

The Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., which also offers the Golf Bikes and GolfBoard, has a fleet of Golf Segways for customers to use. The downside is that there is inherent risk of having an accident on the Segway, so it isn't for everyone.

8. Lighted golf

More popular in Asia and the Middle East, it seems, lighted golf courses are a great alternative for golfers in warm markets who would like to get in a round after work after the sun goes down or want to avoid the heat of the day.

Typically, courses that are played under the lights are shorter because of the expense of building lights for 18 holes and the cost to power them. But if you're looking for a regulation golf course, check out 6,777-yard Beacon Lakes Golf Club in Alvin, Texas, near Houston. In Las Vegas, Angel Park's Cloud Nine Course lights up its course and features replicas of some of golf's most famous par 3s.

9. Golf simulators

Golf simulators aren't that new, but they keep getting better and better and are actually being used for tournament play. For example, one company -- aboutGolf -- is making PGA Tour simulators so real they are used in league and casual play at places like PGA Tour Superstore (you can rent a bay for about $25-$30 an hour).

The beauty of golf simulators is that you can "play" courses you wouldn't normally get to play such as Pebble Beach Golf Links , the Old Course at St. Andrews or even fantasy composite courses based on real and made-up golf holes. You don't have to look for your ball, and, of course, for the right price, you can own your own simulator for unlimited practice and play in your home. And, now, there's 3D technology available.

10. Flexible golf courses

A new wave of golf design is upon us. Courses are beginning design flexible routings, where courses can be played in 6 or 12-hole loops or other unique ways. Monarch Dunes has a seemingly infinite number of teeing grounds and routings. Opening this year, Trilogy at Ocala Preserve will fit an 18-hole par 3 course into 50 acres, but it can also be divided into six-hole loops for other configurations. Tom Doak, meanwhile, is designing a reversible course at Forest Dunes that can be played in a different direction daily. More and more courses are beginning to get more creative with how they can get the most out of their acreage.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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From FootGolf to GolfBoards: 10 nontraditional ways to play the game of golf
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