Wilderness Golf turns leisurely sport into an all-out sprint to the finish
By Joe Slezak
With the rapid growth of extreme sports and reality television, Detroit-area residents Frank Dattilo, Paul Lubanski and Nicholas Caramagno have a dream:
That their concept of Wilderness Golf, the rules of which they have copyrighted, catches on nationally.
The idea is to determine a winner based on the hands of a stopwatch, not strokes. Time trumps strokes over nine holes, with the last three played head to head as the "kicker rounds." The golfers are shooting simultaneously on those final holes, and the winner of each "kicker" hole has their entire lapsed time from that hole subtracted from their composite score, which allows for comeback victories.
The players wear safety gear like military helmets and bulletproof vests, which is something not normally seen on a golf course. That's because they could accidentally hit golf balls off each other during the "kicker rounds."
At the same time, Wilderness Golf of this original format has never been seen on a golf course, either, but Lubanski, Dattilo and Caramagno are aiming to change that.
Wilderness Golf also is known as wild golf, guerilla golf and gonzo golf. The goal is to play it on rugged but navigable terrain and/or the most challenging holes of a regular course, Dattilo said. It also could be played crossways, rough to rough. Three holes are used three times each, meaning an 18-hole course can host six matches at the same tee time.
He added that it also could be designed for venues like national parks and historic sites.
It has the potential to attract a different type of golfer, especially for courses that need an economic shot in the arm, whether they're a public or private course. According to the PGA's 2012 National Golf Foundation Report, 13.5 18-hole equivalent courses opened in the United States that year, but 154.5 closed. Of the amount that closed, 68 percent were lower-priced public courses, the report said.
To promote their idea, Dattilo and Lubanski tapped Caramagno, a Wayne State University graduate student in the film program, to direct and produce a film titled "Wild Golf: The Making of Wilderness Golf," which was taped this summer in Dearborn and Flint, Mich., and recently released on the Wilderness Xtreme Sports website, wxsports.net, and via YouTube. The film, which runs slightly longer than 16 minutes, also can be seen on Vimeo.
Dattilo, creative director of Stellar Scholars and a former advertising executive, came up with the idea of Wilderness Golf several years ago with his brother's northern Michigan property in mind, and he teamed with Lubanski - a youth hockey coach, sports motivator and author - to develop the concept.
It was filmed at the closed Mott Park course in Flint and Dearborn Country Club, which provided a contrast. Caramagno, his family and friends had to groom Mott Park, which has been closed for two years, to even make it playable. Dearborn Country Club, on the other hand, was immaculate.
Caramagno's crew were fellow WSU communications students, who also served as the referees, or "stopwatchmen." His mother, brother and sister were among the "fans" who attended the first videotaped match. His brother, Evan, is a business student at Wayne State and works with Nick as part of CaraMedia LLC, Nick's production company.
Caramagno said this project has taught him an "exponential amount of things" as he had to oversee every aspect of the production from beginning to end. Lubanski said the film will help Caramagno develop his career.
Caramagno was thrown a curveball when he originally lined up the closed Hawthorne Valley course in Westland, Mich., but it was sold and he had to quickly find Mott Park. Dearborn Country Club, on the other hand, was the easy part.
Dattilo wrote the script and narrated it. Lubanski, Caramagno and Lubanski's son, Eric, were the players. Russell Sumner penned the score, "Wilderness Suite."
Stellar Scholars co-founders Dattilo and Patricia Emery were so impressed with Caramagno's effort that they presented him with the inaugural Stellar Vision Award and its $1,000 prize.
Wilderness Golf has slogans that include "Pain is par; Glory is gorier," "Only the strong survive" and "The guerillas are running the zoo."
"We knew we needed a way to show the idea to the real world," said Lubanski, whose late father, Ed, was the only pro bowler to fire back-to-back 300 games on national TV. The 5-iron Lubanski used in the video was a gift to his father from baseball legend Ted Williams.
"Traditional golf is a sport which requires tremendous dexterity of skill and precision," Dattilo said. "What we had in mind was adding the elements requisite to baseball, football, basketball and hockey - that is, foot speed, agility and stamina.
"Wilderness Golf, hopefully, will appeal to younger players and also older ones in great physical shape who strive for an athletic challenge beyond what Mark Twain referred famously to as 'a nice walk spoiled.'"
Their next goal, as teased at the end of the golf film? Wilderness Xtreme Football.
For more on Wilderness Golf, visit Wilderness Xtreme Sports' website, wxsports.net.
Revised: 12/05/2013 - Article Viewed 20,869 Times
Written By: Joe Slezak
Joe Slezak is a staff writer for the Press & Guide Newspapers, which serve Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, Mich.