You can almost picture the scene now. Hoards of fanatics congregate at Augusta National Golf Club for the Masters. Some find solace at Amen Corner, others stare admirably at the beds of azaleas which clothe the exquisitely manicured course while a collection chomp on the course’s famed pimento cheese sandwiches.
Then there’ll be those that fixate in disbelief as Rory McIlroy approaches the tee armed with nothing but a size five football - his caddy surplus to requirements. That’s how impacting the latest craze of FootGolf could be in the world of sport.
As the name suggests, Footgolf is the amalgamation of the finer aspects of football and golf. It utilises the attributes of power, control and precision but expels the requirement of clubs. You can also continue to enjoy the picturesque surroundings of an immaculately carpeted course, while taking away the inconvenience and chore that a golf trolley poses.
The concept originated in Holland but has been quickly adopted across Europe and is now spanning the globe. Best Western Mytton Fold Hotel and Golf Complex is the first venue to introduce the sport in Lancashire and they executed its launch with aplomb. Only a five-week window separated discussions and the actual implementation.
“With the Ryder Cup around the corner and the football season underway it’s an exciting time for the hotel to be introducing FootGolf,” said the hotel’s co-owner Barbara Bryan. I didn’t really know anything about it at first so I went home, did a bit of research and thought it would sit well with us at Mytton Fold.
“It’s played on the golf course but it’s not to the tees or the greens. The course is slightly shorter. You kick a size five football and that’s the only equipment you need. It’s the shortest number of kicks that wins. Anybody can try it.
“I’m hoping it catches on and so far everyone has thoroughly enjoyed themselves. We’ve had an awful lot of phone calls for stag parties, birthday parties and team building exercises. Everyone can do it - unlike golf where you’ve got to have the equipment, knowledge and membership.”
A team from East Lancashire Newspapers recently had a taste of the new phenomenon - and it’s fair to say we were instantly hooked. Myself, John Deehan and Kelvin Stuttard hit the fairways on a glorious afternoon alongside former Blackburn Rovers striker Kevin Gallagher, Everton and England Ladies pair Fern Whelan and Paige Williams and various other media outlets.
As I stormed to victory imperiously, in a performance befitting of St Andrews or Wembley Stadium, the display of my colleagues was more suited to a decrepit crazy golf course in the heart of Blackpool. Unlike the faltering aforementioned pair - try avoiding the trees, sand bunkers and water hazards.
Fern, who signed for the Toffees from rivals Liverpool as a 16-year-old, said: “We’d been asked to come down and have a look at FootGolf to see what it’s all about. It’s been a really good day and we’ve found a lot out about the sport. I beat Paige by three shots and it should’ve been more really. She pulled it back at the end but the proof is in the pudding.”
The 25-year-old, who was a substitute in Everton’s 2-0 loss to Arsenal Ladies in the FA Cup final, added: “We’ve had a really good day and it’s been a lot of fun. It would be a really good team building exercise for the girls to come down and have a go. There’d be nothing wrong in coming down in the off-season and bringing your team to play. It’s fun and you learn a little bit as you go along.
“I think FootGolf can help your game. I think it’s quite good for accuracy because it’s quite a skilled sport. It’s not just about luck - there is a lot of skill involved. It’s good.”
And her 19-year-old team-mate Paige, involved in a relegation scrap in the FA Women’s Super League with Everton six points adrift of Notts County Ladies at the foot of the table, went on: “It was an appearance that the FA asked us to come along to. I’ve had a really good time. I came second but I was hoping to beat Fern. About a few months ago I started going to the driving range but I haven’t gone on to a course yet.
“I definitely like the concept. It’s a good thing for teams to do. Hopefully our team will get to come down. I’d definitely do it again.”