“Andy mate, you played FootGolf before? It brings football to the golf course.”
The words of one of my 'golfing' chums down the pub last week when our sport came to the fore, excruciatingly for the rest of the non-golfing group.
“No can't say I have. Oh really, I'd never have guessed,” I replied, tongue in cheek, as one of the girls stifled what I think was a yawn.
“We should get everyone together and go play. We can also play our two favourite sports at the same time, while drinking beer.”
I think he just wanted his photo on Golfmagic in all honesty.
FootGolf might be a word that causes members of the R&A to splutter on their G&Ts, but to put their minds at ease, while this game involving a size 5 football is played on a golf course, temporary greens are used with a specially designed 20-inch cup.
The rules largely correspond to the rules of golf. FootGolf as a game is played throughout the world in many different forms, but as a sport, it is regulated by the Federation for International FootGolf (FIFG). The origins of FootGolf are unclear as they can be attributed to many countries at the same time, but Barcelona player Juan Manuel Asensi introduced the game in 2008.
In December 2013, the International FootGolf Association (IFGA) recognised the Federation for International FootGolf as the governing body for the sport of FootGolf, and Mr Michael Jansen, one of the founders of the former Nederlands FootGolf Bond and International FootGolf Association, joined the FIFG as the first ambassador in the organisation.
FIFG's main function is to promote worldwide recognition of the sport of FootGolf as it oversees international development and growth to ensure equitable play worldwide for all players. To reach this goal, the FIFG has established the international rules and guidelines of FootGolf under which all members agree to abide.
The organisation is based in London and is represented in 22 countries.
Basic rules to FootGolf
1. Your ball must be easy to identify.
2. Review the scorecard and wait for your turn. Make sure your kick will not interfere with other players.
3. The ball must be played in a single movement. Your foot should be set separate from the ball, clearly behind, before the kick.
4. Wait to play until the ball has completely come to rest. (It is not legal to stop the ball from rolling with the wind).
5. Kick off your ball from a position up to two metres behind the tee markers. The order is established based on the score of the previous hole. The player with the best score will be the first to kick off on the next hole followed by the second, etc.
6. Play the ball from where it lies. You may mark the spot and lift the ball when it may obstruct the other players kick or ball in any way.
7. The player farthest from the hole is the first to kick the ball.
8. If the ball lands in a water hazard, retrieve or replace it within two steps from the closest land point from where the ball entered the water, receiving one penalty point, or you can place the ball at the position of the previous kick and receive one penalty point.
9. Only on the greens may the balls be picked up to be cleaned or replaced. Regardless of the distance from the hole, the hole must be completed. "Giving" to the opponent is not allowed.
I played with six of my buddies at Goal Farm Golf Club on Saturday - a tranquil little par-3 course in Pirbright - and couldn't have been more impressed with what was on offer. As a die-hard golfer and golf fan, I didn't want to like FootGolf, but I did and I will going back to play it every couple of months.
Not only could we go and play together as a 7-ball, the pace of play was incredibly quick. I think we waited about 30 seconds on one hole for the group in front to clear. There's no faffing around with golf bags and clubs, you just step in and kick your ball towards the cup.
While it's highly unlikely that many high-profile clubs in the UK, for the time being anyway, will take up FootGolf, what excites me most is that golf clubs like Goal Farm in Pirbright are bringing the football community into golf and the golf course. The way I see it is that those taking part in FootGolf, who don't care much for golf or have never really given it a chance in the past, will think 'hang on a second, this is pretty fun, let's give it a go'.
The beauty of FootGolf for us was how you're able to strategically combine power and precision, playing short of lakes and ditches, to successfully master this great game that is open to everyone. A solid short game is necessary for any player with aspirations of par, while a strong leg makes it easier for lower scores. Goalkeepers will thrive.
As a former Millwall and Wimbledon youth forward, I actually thought I'd be able to kick the ball further than I could. My football days are apparently well over. Saying that, our game of 18 holes went right down to the final hole, so there was drama all the way, and thankfully I prevailed with a two-shot victory on 7-over.
See video above for my rather cheeky hole-out for birdie from over the ditch at the third!
FootGolf is a great, unconventional way to help grow the game, not to mention bring additional revenue into golf clubs - no doubt a reason why a little par-3 course like Goal Farm decided to join the fray of FootGolf. When we finished our round, there were numerous groups waiting to kick off on the first. Refreshing to see and I'd recommend everyone who takes an interest in football and golf to get involved with their pals.
Where to play?
Goal Farm, Pirbright is an officially certified FootGolf course within the UK FootGolf Association (UKFGA) and holds FootGolf events on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and Wednesday evening.
Please click here for dates and start times
Prices: 9 Holes £6 Adult; 9 Holes £5 Child; 9 Holes 1 Adult 1 Child £10 Extra Child £4; 4-Ball 9 Holes £20; 18 Holes £10; 4-Ball 18 Holes £30; 18 Holes 1 Adult 1 Child £15 Extra Child £5
Address: Goal Farm Pirbright Golf Course, Gole Road, Pirbright, Surrey, GU24 OPZ
Website: Goal Farm Golf Club
For more information on FootGolf please go to www.footgolfengland.co.uk