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Esther Jewitt reports on her experience of footgolf, and the impact this ingenious new sport is having in the UK.
Imagine giant golf where the golf ball is replaced with a football, and instead of using a club, you use your foot. The aim is to complete the course of 18 or 9 holes in a few shots as possible. And as I found out, you don’t have to be particularly good at football or golf to succeed in footgolf.
I visited Cornwall’s footgolf course while staying in St. Austell with my boyfriend and his family. Like many Footgolf courses, this course was originally a golf course that had suffered from lack of business.
In recent years, many golf clubs around the UK have had to close due to rapidly decreasing interest in the sport. Paul Collinson, the UK Footgolf Association’s Business Development Manager revealed that: “there are 80,000 people a year stopping playing golf, and the youth aren’t enticed to play it because it’s a technical sport, it’s really expensive and it takes a long time.”
Amazingly, golf clubs like St. Austell have been saved by converting their courses to footgolf courses, and it now boasts booming business, open to people of all ages and abilities. Collinson explained the hybrid sport’s success: “99% of people enjoy kicking a football and to be able to go on to a golf course and do something relatively successfully straight away gives them that instant satisfaction.”
When we arrived, the place was swarming with families, children of all ages, and groups of friends. We were given a score pad and a football each. The course reminded me of giant crazy golf, with challenging obstacles to avoid on each hole. There were tree trunks to chip the ball over, ditches, tunnels, and even a big net to shoot into.
Initially I was nervous and a little reluctant; I hadn’t played either football or golf since school. However, it was soon clear that previous experience didn’t count for much. Being accompanied by three competitive boys certainly helped me. Over-ambitious shots often ended up in the rough, or in a bunker, as every little rut in the grass can send your ball off track. My more cautious shots even earned me a birdie or two, to my utter astonishment.
As a not particularly sporty girl, I am pleased to have found a sport I enjoyed and wasn’t rubbish at. In the end, although I didn’t beat my boyfriend, I did beat his 12-year-old brother.
Footgolf is becoming a sensation, with well over 100 courses in the UK, and many more opening soon. For those sticking around Lancaster this summer who fancy giving it a go, there’s a course at Casterton, just 20 miles north of the University.