The sport is big in Holland and Argentina
Forget Sir Alex Ferguson retiring. Forget the Miracle at Medinah. There’s bigger news in football and golf this year.
Footgolf – and it’s London’s turn to get involved at Croydon’s Addington Court Golf Club on June 30.
A new sport where the game of golf is played by kicking a football around a course, Footgolf has taken the north of England by storm over the winter and the game is heading south with leagues and competitions all part of the grand plan.
“I always knew it was going to become popular. In five years time it will be easily accessible to millions of people around the UK,” said Michael O’Connor, managing director of the UK Footgolf Association.
“I got the idea from Michael Owen. I was watching an interview about six years ago and he was playing golf and looked really into it.
“He was talking about being injured and how frustrated he was that he was missing game time and how he hadn’t kicked a ball in a long time.
“The idea dawned on me of kicking a football around a golf course.”
When Michael eventually started Footgolf in January last year, he did not realise the game had already been invented in Holland four years earlier.
He said: “It’s a little bit more popular in other countries and most popular in places like Holland, Hungary and Argentina. Argentina even has a TV show for it.”
After an appearance on the show, former Manchester United and Chelsea ace Juan Sebastian Veron loved it so much he claimed that in retirement, it was ‘the sport for me’.
The sport’s also had some impressive publicity here. Amazingly, when Michael appeared on the BBC breakfast show during a Footgolf feature clip, the cameras recorded not only him make a hole-in-one but his playing partner too.
He said: “It was unbelievable. We joked saying wouldn’t it be great if somebody got a hole-in-one. It’s only happened once since.”
Players from as far afield as the USA are flying to England for the first ever UK Footgolf Open Championship on June 22 at Bridlington Links, Yorkshire, and a £2,500 prize is up for grabs.
There are some British entries from players who have gained ranking points by entering competitions on our shores and our tournaments have attracted up to 100 players at times. But there is another reason for going well in competitions.
Michael has one ticket for an invitational event in Holland, which is being raffled, and the tournament will feature 36 professionals and 36 amateurs.
Dutch legends Dennis Bergkamp, Roy Makaay and Frank de Boer are turning out for the Dutch National Footgolf Professional and Amateur Footgolf tournament, which will be held in Spaarnwoude, near Amsterdam, on September 7 and 8 2013.
While tickets can be purchased for £5 apiece through the UK Footgolf Association, they can also be earned through ranking points.
With many golf courses struggling to survive in the recession, Footgolf offers a way out.
He said: “It’s a recession sport. The courses don’t have to do anything particularly different. It gets new people to the course.”
The latter is a reason why Addington Court are preparing a temporary course for their open day, according to general manager Clive Hartley.
He said: “It will be something a bit different and will diversify our offering.
“It should generate a little bit more interest or demand in people that have an interest in both golf and football.”
For information on the development of Footgolf and how to sign up for membership and the latest news, visit http://www.footgolfengland.co.uk.
The open day at Addington Court Golf Club starts at 1pm. For information, visit http://www.addingtoncourt-golfclub.co.uk.
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