Introduction to FootGolf
Footgolf? what the heck is that. Football, right I get that. Golf, yeah shit sport, but I get that too. But the two together, what??
Well Footgolf is a combination of the two sports where players kick a regular sized football ball into a 21-inch diameter hole in the fewest number of shots possible. All played out on a traditional golf course over the standard 18 holes, with all the usual hazards in place such as bunkers, trees, water and hills. The rules also largely correspond to the rules of golf, in that it is the player who finishes the course with the fewest shots who wins, all noted down on a scorecards displaying par scores for each hole. Can also play in a team event or in a single players competition.
As football balls don’t travel as far as golf balls in one shot, footgolf is played on holes shorter than those used in golf. Compared to golf, footgolf is quicker to play, more accessible, and does not require expensive equipment.
The exact origins of the sport are a little hazy, but it was the Dutch duo Michael Jansen and Bas Korsten who were the first to actually get down on paper the rules of the game. They also organised the first tournament when they officially launched FootGolf in the Netherlands in 2008. After this first international outing, many countries began to organize matches, events, tournaments, and even national leagues and associations around this game.
The sport is governed by the Federation for International FootGolf (FIFG) and has grown rapidly and internationally. in June 2012, eight countries played in the first FootGolf World Cup held in Hungary, with Hungary taking the top three individual places. In January 2016, the second FootGolf World Cup was held in Argentina and 230 players from 26 FIFG member countries participated in the global event, with the USA coming out on top in the team event and Christian Otero of Argentina winning the single player competition. So you can see in such a short space of time the game is growing rapidly. Now it is possible to play footgolf in 31 countries and nearly 2’000 courses! And not only that, in October 2, 2017 the GAISF (Global Association of International Sports Federations) granted special Observer Status to the Federation for International FootGolf (FIFG), so who knows, perhaps in the not too distant future we might find FootGolf in the Olympics. Now wouldn’t that be something!
My Tryout at the FootGolf
You see I got the FootGolf bug when I put my name and 3 others down for a doubles event that was organised by SwissFootGolf last August that was to held at the prestigious Signal de Bougy Golf course nestled in between Lake Geneva and the city of Lausanne. As we had a 3 and a bit hour car drive we picked the last tee off time which was 5.pm. We were entered in the team event, but before we even started one of our guys had to drop out with a bad blister in his big toe……bit of a bummer.
The course we were on was amazing. very lovely well maintained greens, with stunning views. None of us played the game before and we had minimal to no practice. basically we just turned up and after some lunch (beer and chips) we were ready to play within half an hour of arriving.
It took me a while to get the hang of it, to develop some sort of technique. In fact it took us all a long time to look anything but awful. We were with two other teams, Italian fellas who had the technique down to a tee and knew what they were doing, and took the game pretty seriously.
We were hitting shots too left or too right, in the bushes, and in the bunkers. We were also unsure of the best way of teeing off. Try and place it with a side foot,or just smack it down the middle with a big toe poke. But eventually after about 9 holes we did manage to find our own game, and surprisingly we started to get our scores down, and on a few holes we even managed to beat the Italian “professionals”, and they didn’t like that at all,not one bit, ha!
In the end we came a very low 55 out of 59, and plus 23 with a score of 94, but at least we didn’t come last, and if we started as we had ended we could easily knock 10 off our score.
Also, it was played in during a torrential downpour which after a while wasn’t fun, and I guess could have impacted a little on our game. But that’s nothing to take from the course, which was magnificent, or the experience of the game. We really enjoyed it and it is very competitive to play, we all finished saying we need to play again, if only to see if we can lower or score.
As I was so disappointed with my original score, I wanted, nah, needed to improve on my score. So I went to Highfield Golf Club & FootGolf Kildare, Carbury, Co. Kildare, Ireland, when I was home for a short break. Went with the brother on another wet and windy day, for my second try out, and his first, at FootGolf. And as I expected I dropped about 10 on my score. It was also amusing to see my brother go through the same difficulties that a first time player goes through……skewing it wide, wondering why your football skills have deserted you, and over hitting on the putting green. Although not as amazing as the course near Geneva, the Highfield course had its own unique difficulties. It had a lot of long greens, and a few more dangerous water hazards. I tried out a few different kinds of kicks, and on the putting green I tried to under hit it as much as I could. It worked as I got a much better score of 85, plus 15 to par, and for the last 5 I hit par in all of them holes, a great improvement. Really happy to see some sort of progress, while the brother was fuming with a score of 96, plus 26, and he the footballer in the family having played semi professional! Will be back to Highfield, now that I got the FootGolf bug, can’t wait!
What you need to know
For equipment, football boots are not allowed on the greens for obvious reasons, but all you need are a decent pair of runners or trainers. A good left/right foot is optional. You can bring your own football but all courses tend to rent balls for a few quid so I wouldn’t worry about that.
The thing with footgolf is that you think you can manage it. I mean we all have played some football so how hard can it be, right? Well that’s the first mistake. it aint easy at all. The problem is you can see the target or hole, and think with your normal footballing brain, ok that’s an easy straightforward kick or pass. But it isn’t, as you have to take into account the wind on the fairways dragging at your ball and also that the greens are not flat like a pitch so the ball bounces and rolls all over the place. So instead of hitting it straight you end up hitting too much to the left or too much too the right. At least I did anyway! You kind of have to rejig your brain and tweak your normal kicking angles.
The teeing off/kicking off is another mind blow. Do I try to place it, do I chip it, do I just bull toe it as hard as I can. The first time I played the game I was trying to place the ball, and after the first 9 holes I started to get the angles a little bit better. But the second time playing footgolf I found for the longer holes it is better just to let rip and hit it as hard as you can. Hit it straight down the middle should be fine!
If you hit the bunker, you are not allowed to run up and hit the ball, it has to be from a standing position to chip it out of the bunker, which is considerably easier to do in footgolf than the smaller ball game of golf. If you are unlucky enough to hit the bushes or behind a tree it might be best to just drop a shot and start again. Hit the lake, bad luck, at least in footgolf you can retrieve your ball unlike in actual golf, but it might take a while.
On the putting green is where my game is not actually too bad, the holes are big enough for a football and easy enough to side foot into, for me at least. The only thing is to not over-hit them, as if you do and miss then be prepared to see your ball going at speed past the hole and ending up on the edge of the green. Some hit it with the tip of their foot, but I think that is unnatural and wanking around, just play it normal, side foot it in. A nice casual shot is all you need, let it drop in.
Interview with an expert
Some questions that I posted to Ro at FOOTEE TALLAGHT about the burgeoning foot-golf scene in Ireland
1: Where did the idea come from, to bring footgolf to Tallaght and to Ireland?
I returned to education in 2012, embarking on a postgrad in Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Enterprise at the Innovation Academy, UCD. One of my deliverables for the course was to bring a viable new business proposition to the Irish market. I had seen FootGolf a coupe of years previously and loved the concept, believed it would be very popular in Ireland with our keen interest in sport, and the timing was just right as golf courses were facing closure around the country in the midst of recession.
2:Can it grow as a sport in Ireland/World wide? What are the participation levels so far in the game?
Since I opened the first course in Ireland in 2013, there are now 30+ courses dotted throughout the country, some excellent, and some incredibly poor representations of the concept. From a leisure point of view, the sport is thriving in Ireland as one of the leading birthday party/stag activities. The Irish FootGolf Association (which I founded in 2014) estimates that over 80,000 people play FootGolf annually.
In terms of FootGolf as a sport worldwide, it’s getting there (albeit slowly). Participation on a competitive level is increasing in some countries (UK, France in particular), but unfortunately here in Ireland it has been a real slow burner. We average only between 20 – 25 players in domestic tournaments this year. Our flagship event – The FootGolf Irish Open – has always faired way better with over 130 participants at each of our last two events.
3: I found footgolf has its own unique challenges (not thinking to kick as a straight football pass, for example)……how can a novice get better, any tips on how to improve my game…..
Just like golf, putting is key. Anyone with even a passing interest in FootGolf tends to be able to strike a ball well, but it really comes down to short approach shots and getting the ball in the hole. Best tip I can give to any budding FootGolfer would be to practice all types of putts from within 10 yards. If you can master those tricky, missable short putts, you’re off to a good start.
4: Reaction from the golfing fraternity? (as footgolf does sometimes share greens, courses)
Generally negative, as golfers don’t like sharing their fairways or clubhouses with the “hooligans”, lol. Shameful reactions at some courses trying out FootGolf to help boost revenues, where the golfers have got their way in the end and forced clubs to reconsider.
5: The future of the game? Tournaments? Professional players? World cups? TV?
All of the above. It won’t happen overnight but steps have already been taken to have FootGolf recognised as an official sport by the World Sport Accord.
FOOTEE TALLAGHT is Ireland’s Original & Best FootGolf Course! Situated in Tallaght just off the M50, footee is for people of all ages and fitness levels, males and females, young and old. Don’t worry about bringing your own football as you can always rent one for €2.
Get Outdoors. Get Active. Get Your Kicks.
So overall I would definitely recommend trying out FootGolf. It is cheap, great fun with your mates, and you only need a football and a decent course to play it. Go for it!