GENTEEL golf and rowdy football may appear to have little in common, but a new sport is hoping to change that.
Footgolf, which combines the two historic games, has spread quickly in the USA and aficionados hope for a similar impact on these shores.
With Oxfordshire’s first course having opened at Drayton Leisure Golf Centre in Banbury, members of the Oxford Mail sports team went along to try out the hybrid pastime.
“I was up here one night and the radio was on,” said proprietor Nicholas Turner.
“I heard someone talking about footgolf as the fastest growing sport in the UK. I went online and looked it up and thought it seemed quite a sensible idea.
“I mentioned it to my wife and she said ‘that’s bloody stupid’.
“But I went up to Hull to see one of the first courses in the country.
“I then met with the CEO of UK footgolf and he came up with the course we have here.”
Turner followed his instinct and opened the course alongside Drayton’s existing par-three golf set-up late last year.
The two sports are offered at different times to avoid chaos!
Like real golf, footgolf comes in par threes, fours and fives – with the aim to sink your size five football in the 52cm hole in as few kicks as possible.
Holes at Drayton range from 54 to 131 yards, with much of the difficulty coming from the hilly terrain.
There are no raised tees – you simply kick off from behind a line and go from there.
Drayton’s course record of four-under-par for nine holes proved out of our range, but anyone with vague footballing ability can get to grips with the challenge.
Turner, who played rugby for Banbury, hopes he is on to a winner with footgolf and is planning events to coincide with the football World Cup.
“I thought ‘why not go for it’,” he said. “There was no one around here doing it and I just had a feeling about it.
“I felt it was something that would take off.
“In the past, people have talked about frisbee golf, but I couldn’t really see that.
“I could see the social side of this.”
The course was fairly simple to follow, although we did spend a bit of time searching for the third green.
One of the biggest challenges was judging how fast the football would roll through different length of grass, while the uphill holes proved unforgiving if your kick came up short.
Each of us ended up playing second shots from behind where we had teed off on the ninth.
But on the positive side, we enjoyed a few birdies and a couple of eagle twos.
Footgolf has several leagues in the USA plus a growing UK scene.
Drayton Leisure hosts monthly competitions, which contribute towards a national leaderboard.
Turner says purpose-built courses are likely to come in the future and is considering further development in Banbury.
“If it takes off, we will do some landscaping work,” he said.
“I think it will just keep growing.
“A lot of people that like to kick a football around no longer feel up to having youngsters yapping at their heels.”
Adults weekdays £7/10; Adults weekends £8/12; Under 16s £5/8.
- More information available from ukfootgolf.com or draytonleisure.co.uk
Latest Sport news
3:40pm Wednesday 27th August 2014
ULTIMATELY it was a heartbreaker for Oxford United, but here are match highlights from the U's Capital One Cup clash against Premier League West Bromwich Albion last night
3:00pm Wednesday 27th August 2014
No wins in his first three league games in charge of his new club and very little to cheer about after so much promise when he took over.
11:18am Wednesday 27th August 2014
Live coverage from Wormsley as Oxfordshire take on Devon in their first Minor Counties Trophy final
9:30am Wednesday 27th August 2014
MICHAEL Appleton was hugely proud by the way Oxford United stood up to West Bromwich Albion as a dramatic night saw the underdogs knocked out after a penalty shoot-out.
8:00am Wednesday 27th August 2014
Six Bells C Kidlington clipped the Three Pigeons wings 2-1 as the top two clashed in the Greene King Oxford & District League Premier Section.
8:00am Wednesday 27th August 2014
Aston Rowant trainer Lawney Hill stages a public open day at her Woodway Farm stables on Saturday, September 13 (10am-12.30pm).
7:00am Wednesday 27th August 2014
Nathan Callow was the star as Marsh Gibbon saw off Wantage by 33 runs at Chipping Norton to win the competition for the first time.
1:42am Wednesday 27th August 2014
10:56pm Tuesday 26th August 2014
OXFORD United put in a magnificent effort as they took West Bromwich Albion all the way to a penalty shoot-out at the Hawthorns.