“I’d never heard of footgolf until you called me about this article,” I say to Declan Reid when we meet in the Black Bull Inn in Mid Calder to discuss his upcoming UK footgolf tour.
“Neither had I until 18 months ago!” he responds.
And here he is now, representing Scotland in footgolf tournaments and raising sponsorship to get himself to the next level.
Spell checker is underlining the word footgolf in red in my word processor as I write this article, so it’s not made its way into the Word dictionary yet. What is it?
Footgolf is exactly what it sounds like – kicking a football into a course of holes. A fairly new sport, it’s seen an explosion in popularity in the past two years and is being considered by the Olympic Committee for inclusion as an Olympic sport. Where does West Lothian sit on that map?
“There is one footgolf club in West Lothian, at Bridgend Golf Club, near Linlithgow,” says Declan. “Bridgend is a brilliantly maintained course. We’re in a league with footgolf clubs in Cumbernauld, Roodlea in Ayr and Caprington in Kilmarnock. So long as you can kick a ball, you can have a go at footgolf.” It doesn’t require the athleticism of football; you go at your own pace in small teams around the course, making it a very accessible sport. The Bridgend Footgolf Club has members of all ages, both men and women.
First things first, what do you wear for footgolf? I see a smattering of Argyle pattern socks and tops in many of the photos I’ve looked at. “Wear pretty much what you’d wear for football, but no studs on your boots. The studs are too harsh on the golf greens.”
Footgolf is played with a standard size 5 football on an existing golf course, kind of superimposed over the golf course but with the 21” footgolf holes just off to the side of the golf greens. Golfers and footgolfers co-habitate quite happily; the usual rules of courtesy on the course apply. Most footgolfers have a background in playing football, and there is a smattering of national and international ex-professional footballers in the sport. With its focus on precision, I ask Declan if training in footgolf would be a good idea for all footballers? “It’s quite a different skill really,” he explains. “Yes, precision is important in football, but when you’re passing the ball it has to arrive at your team member with momentum. In footgolf, you’re aiming at a fixed spot and you want the ball to stop at that point.”
Declan first came across footgolf at Conifox Garden Centre in Kirkliston where they have a wee course for kids. His football mad kids loved it. Declan looked it up, found the club at Bridgend, booked a course there and now is hooked on it. With a dedicated footgolf course at Gatwick, courses such as Celtic Manor hosting footgolf events, and former England and Liverpool striker Stan Collymore giving footgolf attention on his show in February, the sport’s profile is definitely on the rise. I pass a message of solidarity to Declan’s wife, “Hang in there, I’m sure the prize money will increase proportionately...”
Article first published in Konect April 2017
Author: Helen-Jane Shearer