Footgolf: Not as easy as you might think!
It’s taken the US by storm and is heading towards the UK at a rate of knots – footgolf. A mix between football and golf, MIKE BACON – who is borderline average at both – went to try his luck. Apparently I’m a natural – at footgolf that is!
Apparently I have the potential to gain a UK ranking, yes I have that much untapped ability. Although I would think that will only happen if I played in a footgolf competition where everyone was taken ill and I was the only one left standing!
And anyway, I’d just finished last in our foursome group of footgolfers, so there are at least three better players in the UK than me already.
On the positive side, I only lost by two shots – and I’d never played the game before – perhaps there is some truth in it – Mike Bacon, British footgolf champion – I can see it now. As part-time golfer, part-time ‘seen better days’ footballer, foot- golf is right up my ally. And do you know what? I absolutely loved it. OK, the weather was freezing, snow was falling and I was dressed as though I was about to attempt to climb the Matterhorn. But an hour or so later, I was buzzing.
Footgolf had grabbed my attention in no uncertain terms. Fun, easy to play, a great social occasion and, unlike golf, you don’t have to take a almost a whole day off to play it. I know many members of some golf clubs will already have stopped reading this, which is a shame because I love golf as much as I enjoy football and I understand some of their concerns over foot golfers ‘invading’ their course. However, the facts are simple. Many golf clubs could do with extra revenue.
Can clubs really rely only on membership revenue running their club for the next decade? It’s time to think ‘out of the box’ – just like Tony Dobson at Stonham Barns has. Ask him how much his turnover has increased in the past 12 months thanks to footgolf ?
Of course, it’s never going to be for some clubs, we all know that and I understand that. But for those who are thinking about it, I say go for it – it could well be the best move you ever make. Anyhow, enough of the business chat, back to sport, and my first taste of footgolf . . .
It was snowing at Stonham Barns. Snowing for goodness sake and I was supposed to be playing footgolf – isn’t it a summer sport? Obviously not. Luckily for me I had remembered my ‘MB’ Woodbridge Woodpeckers coaching top, a base layer and silly hat. I was ready for anything as I met up with Dan Ferretti, Business Development Manager of Suffolk Footgolf, who had invited me to Stonham Barns for a game. He was already complaining of a bad back, which meant he had obviously seen me warming up with one of my Woodbridge U15 training balls in the car park and real- ised I was likely to thrash him. Either that or he’s just slept funny. However, Dan was no mug. While he was playing the ‘bad back’ card, in his place he had brought along a couple of mates, Kevin Ward and Yari Forster – two mad- keen footgolfers – both looking very competitive – and both in their shorts . . . in this weather! However, if the wearing of the shorts was to psych me out, then it didn’t work. Little did they know I had my ‘Footgolf is the Future’ long johns on underneath my three layers of trousers. Hot dog!
After choosing our footballs (footgolf plays with size 5s – Stonham owner Tony Dobson made up our fourball), we headed over to the course, Yari taking off like a gazelle, so impatient was he to get to the first. While there was plenty of posturing on the tee, I was confident my football coaching badges, collection of speedway programmes, 25m swimming certificate, coupled with my occasional ability to sink a long putt, would hold me in good stead. Indeed so confident was I getting, I was actually wishing I had worn silly shorts like Kevin and Yari!
Ready to go. My first footgolf ‘shot’ was sound enough. I hit it with power, but accuracy is just as vital, just like golf. I was told to keep the ball low to get distance.
It was surprisingly difficult to thump the ball as hard as you can from a standing start and keep it straight – I can see why now I was never asked to take penalties when I graced the football pitches of East Anglia, with Fisons Reserves!
However, a bogie four on the first was no disgrace and I was looking dandy going down the second after a clean – and straight – connection from the tee. With 30 yards to go, my side-footed second was as straight as an arrow and it slowed up with just enough pace to drop into the hole. A birdie! On only my second-ever footgolf hole. The joy was almost as great as the first time I birdied a hole at Stoke-by-Nayland’s Gainsborough course when I was a member many moons ago. And certainly greater than the 180 that helped me win the EADT Night Staff Darts competition back in 1986.
Back at Stonham Barns, it couldn’t get any better surely . . . correct! With confidence high, Kevin and Yari, who were both making brave attempts to look pleased for me after my birdie, came out with a very old chestnut. “Be careful Mike, the tees are slippery,” Oh yes, of course they are chaps – poor form on their part to try and put off an obvious ‘natural’. However, they weren’t joking.
Bang! Over I went as my trainers gave way on my follow through as I tee’d off on the second, with my
football ballooning out to the right – I landed on my backside.
Oh, how we all laughed, especially Dan, whose bad back could suddenly bend 90 degrees. Sadly for me he was videoing at the time and You Tube had another addition within the hour.
Filthy dirty but undeterred, I kept my composure as the competition got more fierce. I was holding my own (as well as my painful elbow after my fall) and I must admit I was enjoying it. My opponents were marvelling at some of my shots but I must admit t was a lot harder than I had imagined.
As I said previously, kicking a ball straight and with power 100 yards simply isn’t as easy as it seems, even if you are me! As Dan pointed out, in between stuffing paracetamols to aid the back he had jarred again laughing at my fall, “when you play football and make a pass, someone usually stops it. In this game the ball keeps rolling until it stops. That’s why there is so much skill involved.”
As we headed down the ninth and our last of the day, I was just a shot behind Tony and two behind Kevin and Yari. We all got a par on the final hole and I was left to reflect on how close I had come to winning, as well as how close I had come to breaking my neck on my fall. “You’re a natural Mike,” Yari said. Easy to say when you have just won of course. I don’t like to brag either, but he was right!
But seriously. Footgolf is fun. It took us just half-an-hour or so to play nine holes at Stonham Barns.
The golf purists may hate it, but they’ll hate it even more if established golf clubs have to close in the future because of lack of revenue being generated.
I love golf and love all its etiquette, good manners and what it is like to be part of a golf club. But times are changing and changing fast. Young people enjoy golf too, but not so many want to commit to being a member of a club, when there are so many other sports to participate in.
Golf clubs have a great chance to engage with footgolf now before footgolf takes its own path – already there is a ‘footgolf only’ course in Doncaster.
Footgolf is set to take off big time in this country and I’m not surprised. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and I would love to see more golf clubs in the region be bold enough to take on the challenge. Certainly if golf clubs want to attract younger players to their courses, then having footgolf available is a great way of doing so. Who knows, perhaps a split of golf/footgolf memberships could be made available in the future.
So . . . back to my game at Stonham Barns . . . and the fact I appear to be a natural. Time to see where the World Championships are taking place then!
Reproduced with permission of Mike Bacon EADT - Article Jan 29th 2015
Stonham Barns Golf