All you need to know about footgolf in Dubai
Matias Perrone of Argentina became the third footgolf world champion in December 2018, beating Briton Ben Clarke by two shots to claim the title in Morocco. France won the team event by beating Britain in the final.
Did you say footgolf?
It might sound like a joke sport, or a made-up word someone might blurt out as an expletive if they clumsily trip over a golf ball, but for those of you who’ve never heard of it, footgolf is a legitimate sport with a World Cup every two years in which 36 countries participated in 2018.
Launched in 2012, FIFG.ORG (Federation International FootGolf) now represents 24 member country leagues, including the UAE. There is the UK FootGolf Association and the American FootGolf League that boasts the most footgolf courses (golf courses that allow footgolfers to play) in the world. In fact, footgolf fever has well and truly taken off in the UAE over the past two years.
The sport is based on the rules of golf, with players kicking a football on a golf course from the tee towards a ‘cup’ – a 21-inch-wide target hole.
Like golf, it can be played using a stroke play system, with the lowest number of shots winning, or a match play format. The name is a portmanteau of football and golf, combining aspects of both sports but more closely resembling golf.
The hybrid game has risen in popularity in the Gulf region for a few reasons. Firstly, the explosion of golf and a steadily growing number of quality courses and golf clubs has made it possible. Primarily however, it’s more accessible for entry-level players, and cheaper than golf – expect to pay from AED85-125 per round versus AED250-650+ for golf, plus the cost/hire of a golf cart, clubs, balls and a trolley. All footgolf players need is a soccer ball, a pair of comfortable shoes and a dose of enthusiasm to give the game a shot. Plus, it’s faster around the course: 18 holes might take you up to 90 minutes – much less than the average four hours to complete an 18-hole round of golf. Hence, footgolf is becoming sought-after as an entertaining corporate team-building activity, as a fun way to exercise and a novel challenge for golf or football fans to help sharpen their precision skills alone or as part of a team.
It is thought that footgolf was first played in Europe around 2009, before spreading to South and North America. Golfers with some experience in soccer are generally the best fit as they are adept at reading the golf course and are used to judging the terrain and taking time to put. The first footgolf event in the UAE was held at the Dubai Creek Golf Academy in 2014.
Golf Pro at Dubai Creek Golf Club, Jack Woods, says footgolf attracts all ages and levels, and kids especially enjoy playing the game in teams. “It’s fun, it’s social and it’s a different way to get some exercise. We’re getting up to 40 footgolf players around the course each week.”
Dubai-based PGA Golf Coach Alex Riggs sees footgolf as a fun, accessible gateway sport: “I love the concept. Golf can be seen as an expensive and exclusive game and some people may be intimidated by that, but footgolf opens the fairway up to a lot more people. I think that’s amazing.”