Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Footgolf: a new FRANtier

The other day myself and my friend Antony Nardone broke a new sporting frontier (for ourselves anyway) as we went to Deer Park in Howth to play the game of footgolf for the first time.

Footgolf is a sport growing in popularity around the world and its concept is very simple: it is golf played with a football. So, in one sense, it is exactly like Dougal McGuire's spider-baby concept in Father Ted. Sort of.

"The body of a spider, but the mind of a baby."

A version of footgolf was played in the late 1920s and 30s in the United States called 'Codeball', but for whatever reason the sport died away with nothing quite like it appearing until 2006 when footgolf came into being. Since then, the sport has gone from strength-to-strength with the American FootGolf League (AFGL) founded in 2011 and the Federation for International FootGolf founded in 2012.

Soccer AM even held a FootGolf Ryder Cup in October 2014 where Brad Friedel avenged his American comrades - who had lost to Europe 16½ points to 11½ points in the real event a month previously - with a two hole victory over the, it has to be said, rather hapless Jimmy Bullard. It's not pretty. Quite how Friedel could concentrate while Bullard was speaking is beyond me - the Tottenham Hotspur 'keeper must be some sort of medical marvel. Or deaf.

Europe 0 USA 2. Have that, Bullard.

It is a game for the person who doesn't particularly want to run or put a challenge in; for the armchair sports fan who happens to be adept at striking a football with precision; for the Matt le Tissiers (le Tiss should have represented Europe against Friedel) rather than the Cristiano Ronaldos.

Honestly, though, I think there are parallels to be drawn between footgolf and BASEketball, the on-screen creation of David Zucker starring South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. 

"The beauty of this game is anybody can play it."

The Grace O'Malley course at Deer Park was converted into a footgolf course and was opened to the public in May 2014. I once played a round of regular golf on the Grace O'Malley course when I was 16 or so. Needless to say, I'm better at footgolf than I am at regular golf. 

Shooting from the stone coloured tee markers - the intermediate difficulty pins, we'll say - I managed to bury some personal demons on my return to Deer Park by shooting a fairly respectable 79 on the 72 par course. Not bad for my first time footgolfing (79 from 72 sounds a lot better than saying 7 over par - but I'm pretty sure I shot 40 over par when I played real golf here, so it's an improvement nonetheless).

"Go home, ball. Are you too good for your home? SUCK MY WHITE ASS, BALL!"

Considering I live ten minutes from the DART station in Donaghmede, finding out that Deer Park has a footgolf course is brilliant news to me. I may try and head out for a game early in the morning once a week, just for something to do. Being able to play something regularly again, even a novelty sport like this, would be a welcome change of pace from the grind of shift work.

I don't play football for a team anymore because I could never guarantee time off work to make it to training or matches; it wasn't enjoyable in those circumstances as I'd either make it to training and miss the game because of work, or I'd miss training because of work and end up on the bench for the game.

It defeated the purpose, so I hung up the boots/gloves...although I do make appearances at charity games every now and then if given enough notice to book the day off, and the odd testimonial too if there's a penalty that needs to be missed.

Did somebody say missed penalty?

So, to anybody who has heard of footgolf but has yet to have a go of it, seriously: find your nearest course and just go play. It's a great laugh, particularly in a group, and incredibly enjoyable if you're somebody like myself who likes golf but can't play it to save their lives (literally, if my life depended on my golfing ability, I'd be dead in a minute).

Nardone has some more pictures of our game on his Tumblr page, as well as a couple of videos for anybody interested in checking out my form (I can hear the clicks already).

Let's not talk about the waterlogged holes, though.

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