Portland Urban Golf Makes the Entire Changing City Its Ever-Evolving Personal Golf Course
Their latest hole? The giant Yard building on Burnside.
By Jamie Helmsworth
"We're here in Portland," says the vaguely Swedish sportsman (and Sia ex-husband) Erik Anders Lang, "where a passion for outdoor living combined with one of the world's most enthusiastic beer cultures have combined to the adoption of a unique game."
In a 2016 episode, the Adventures in Golf host is talking about Portland Urban Golf, which WW first covered a bit back in 2004. But the game has necessarily changed: Perhaps no other sport is as responsive to a changing Portland than the one we adapted more than a decade ago to suit our industrial streets.
The rules are simple: Mazariegos puts up between nine and 13 pink X's around a neighborhood to function as holes, and participants whack tennis balls at them, all while getting progressively more sauced at bar pit stops.
But back when Portland Urban Golf founder Scotty Mazariegos started setting up courses in unpopulated warehouse neighborhoods close to the river, there were—well—a whole lot more neighborhoods like that.
Since then, the crew has teed off with Daniel Baldwin during a strip club-themed outing. A dog belonging to someone camped beneath the Morrison Bridge kept disrupting the game by fetching their balls. And one particularly sweaty game was played in turn-of-the-century golf garb in summer.
On a recent Saturday outing, there was a whole range of skill levels and experience: a mix of Happy Gilmore hacking and driving-range-honed hip swivels, and of both first-timers and vets who've been teeing off with Mazariegos for a decade.
The hackers weren't at too much of a disadvantage when it comes to the game. The day's course, from a municipal parking lot off North Interstate Avenue up to the Faubion School—where skateboarding punk kids provided pyrotechnics in the form of smoke bombs—meant that particularly beautiful shots were apt to fly over chainlink fences or even onto I-5.
So far, they say, there have been plenty of run-ins with Johnny Law, but nothing too dire—they've been at it long enough that many officers know who Mazariegos is.
"At this point," he says, "They just say, 'Have fun, don't break anything.'"
But the rapid encroachment of apartment buildings in the old industrial spaces threatens their streak. One of Mazariegos' most infamous holes is now the site of everyone's favorite object of derision: the Yard, that towering knife blade at the edge of the Burnside Bridge.
Just like the rest of us, the urban golfers are adjusting. They've been experimenting with a putt-putt-style game, more conducive to the cramped quarters of the new city. Sure, it lacks the reckless abandon of smacking full tilt at a bridge foundation. But who doesn't need to work on their short game?