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
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