Tee off with a little FootGolf at Royal Golf Club Bahrain
Time Out Bahrain staff
Usually at 7pm on a Sunday night in summer I’m curled up on the couch, eating my dinner and watching the latest episode of [insert name of addictive series here]. Tonight, however, I’m doing something a little different. Instead, I’m running around on the Royal Golf Club’s Montgomerie championship course after a football that’s gone rogue, rolling backwards down a hill, towards a giant bunker... Tonight, I’m playing FootGolf.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, FootGolf is a combination between football and golf. It sounds like we’ve made it up, right? Well, we wouldn’t feel right taking credit for it...
In fact, FootGolf is thought to have been invented around 2006 by Dutchman Michael Jansen who organised its first ever competition in the Netherlands back in 2008. He had allegedly been inspired from a story told by his friend and former footballer Willem Korsten who, in his days at Tottenham Hotspur, had played a variation of the game with his teammates by kicking the football from the pitch back to the changing rooms as quickly as possible.
In today’s more sophisticated version of the sport (it has its own world governing body and everything), players kick a standard football across shortened holes into 21-inch cups in as few kicks as possible. Quite simply, it follows golf’s standard rules but you use your feet and a football instead.
Since Jansen introduced the sport, FootGolf has fully captured the imagination of the US and Europe’s sporting minds. With the interest in golf severely declining in the US, course operators knew they needed to do something to regain peoples’ attentions. The solution, it seems, is FootGolf, as it’s brought people near and far, young and old, amateur to footballing professional, flooding back to the greens.
And now the Bahrain punters want in on the action too. Since June, the Royal Golf Club has been testing out the sport on their championship greens and it’s proven to be so popular that they could make it a permanent offering. The club’s general manager Stephen Havrilla tells us, ‘We chose to introduce FootGolf to expand the range of activities available to the public and most importantly introduce non-golfers to the golf course with a long-term goal of developing them to become golfers.’
It’s offered on Sunday evenings from 6.30pm to 8pm and groups of players tee off within five to six minutes of each other. Overall, you should expect to finish the whopping 18 holes in around two hours. And if you’re panicking about the disruption to your regular game of golf, then don’t. Stephen says, ‘The impact on the golf course is minimal and we change the positions of the holes every 30 days to give a new challenge to our FootGolfers.’
For me, and my team, this might actually be a problem, as we struggle not to get lost on the current course (despite the map they provide you with). But we do manage to finish it and we do it within the two hours. Or, at least, I do, as I’m the only player that’s still going strong by the 15th hole (having to write this story is a good motivator, I’ll have to admit).
It certainly is a long course and it’s a tough challenge but it’s also a great laugh and a fun activity to enjoy with friends at the beginning of a hard working week. Not to forget, it’s also a brilliant work-out that you don’t fully notice you’re doing (full realisation kicks in when your stiff legs are making it difficult to get out of bed the next morning). Once you’ve slogged and sweated it out, you can also then reward yourself with a nice ice-cold beverage and a fat steak in international restaurant Links, which is open until midnight.
It’s certainly enough to drag me away from the couch for a few hours on a Sunday evening, anyway. FootGolf tee times are on Sundays from 6.30pm-8pm. Costs (non-members): BD5 walking, BD8 with golf cart, BD3 under 18s, BD2 ball hire (you can bring your own ball). Make sure to book. Call 1775 0777.
FootGolf: The rules
These are the important official Royal Golf Club dos and don’ts
Wear appropriate clothing suitable for the surroundings as well as indoor football shoes or trainers. Studs are not allowed.
The ball must be played in a single movement. You are not allowed to push the ball with the top of your foot. Your foot should be set separate from the ball, clearly behind, before each kick.
Wait to play until the ball has completely come to rest. It is not legal to stop the ball from rolling with the wind.
Play the ball from where it lies. You are not allowed to move the ball or remove jammed objects. Exception: You may mark the spot and lift the ball when it may obstruct the other player’s kick or ball in any way.
The player farthest from the hole is the first to kick the ball and order of play is established based on the lowest score of the previous hole.
If the ball lands in a water hazard, retrieve or replace it within two steps from the closest land point, receiving a one stroke penalty. Or place the ball at the position of the previous kick and receive a one stroke penalty.