Footgolf: the latest craze

By Guo Yiming
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, January 19, 2016
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Footgolf is gradually gaining attention across China.

Combining the popularity of golf with the internationally star-studded "beautiful game" of football, you get footgolf, an athletic marriage of football and golf. As its portmanteau name suggests, this new game is a precision sport where players kick a soccer ball into a cup in as few shots as possible, just like in golf.

In recent years, the game has been catching on around the world particularly in countries like the United States, Argentina, France and Britain, and will become a professional activity thanks to massive support major sponsorship.

Despite its worldwide popularity, footgolf is relatively unknown to the Chinese public and sportsmen alike since its introduction only a year ago. As a late starter, the Chinese team, however, was one of the spotlights in this year's World Cup tournament held in Buenos Aires, Argentina from Jan. 6 to 10.

The attention comes about not because of the team's performance but team member's enthusiasm, perseverance and ambition.

After its debut on the world stage at Buenos Aires, China will host an Asia-Pacific event this summer when South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand are expected to put out their strongest teams.

Moreover, France, the strongest in Europe, has offered an olive branch to China as it welcomes the national team for the French Tournament this May.

Many footgolf athletes have expressed their interest in coming to China for the game. The newly-crowned champion Christian Otero said he hopes to play at the reputed Mission Hills, which encompasses 20 golf courses and is hailed as the world's largest golf club.

The latest worldwide craze

American footgolfer Sharif Khatib, who was the clutch player during the world cup final against Argentina, said that the sport is very popular in his country, and one can enjoy a game for a cost of 10 to 15 dollars in one of the 500 courses all over the country, much cheaper than playing golf.

The American player also noted that the country hosts games all the year round attracting big names like Otero to Pro-am events with prize money up to US$25,000.

According to Otero, the sport was introduced to Argentina five years ago and is now played by 2,000 to 3,000 people with enthusiasm as high as that for football in nine provinces. As a football agent and owner of an ice cream parlor and a football shop, he confessed that he plays the game every weekend and even when it means that he has to take the long journey to faraway courses hundreds of kilometers away.

France outshines other European countries thanks to promoters and pioneers like Romuald Pretot who has invested heavily in the sport's growth in his country. Pretot said there are now about 2,000 people playing the game in 30 courses across the country and he expects to see an expansion to 5,000 or even 10,000 within two years.

A fledgling sport in China

China is a relatively latecomer to this latest worldwide craze, but the sport is gradually gaining attention across the country. Otero suggested that it should host more events on both professional and amateur levels because only through competitions can players gain experience.

He took his own experience -- falling in love with the sport after a match in Las Vegas -- as an example to illustrate its appeal and hinted that footgolf could become a sport for all.

Liu Mengyang, the only golf player in the Chinese team, agreed, expressing much optimism about the sport's development in the country, saying that "you will become passionate if you play."

"Footgolf is very much similar to golf in terms of rules and the courses we play on," said Liu. "But I think the former is more interesting and with a higher usage rate than the latter."

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