The game of rugby was born in 1823 when a young William Webb Ellis walked on to a football pitch, picked up the football and ran with it, according to the apocryphal version of events.
Fast-forward almost 200 years, and a child walking to school found a group of friends playing golf on a nearby course. He ran towards them and started kicking the golf ball towards the hole. And at that very moment, footgolf was born.
This story is also untrue but footgolf, an amalgamation of football and golf, does exist and it is being played at Roosevelt Park, Huddle Park and Whistling Thorn in Johannesburg.
The first-ever footgolf tournament was organised in the Netherlands and caught on quickly. Even though the origins of the game are uncertain, the sport is proving to be a fun phenomenon.
“I was sceptical at first,” said Lee, who is a regular at one of the three Johannesburg footgolf clubs. Lee, who was reluctant to reveal his surname, said: “You can imagine the confusion – golf and football? But once I started playing, I realised the two sports were not as incompatible as I thought they were. Now every Friday after school I put on my cleats and go enjoy a game of footgolf.”
Footgolf is played like golf but without golf clubs or a golf ball. An ordinary-sized football has to be kicked into a football-sized hole and, as in golf, the player who finishes the course with the fewest shots wins.
Another player, Brandon van Wyk, said: “I am an aspiring football player, so footgolf helps me with my accuracy and finessing. It is really not what people think it is. It is really as competitive as any other sport. You just have to be familiar with the rules of golf, but instead of a club, you use your feet. That’s it.”
In 2012, the first Footgolf World Cup was held in Hungary. Béla Lengyel, of Hungary, was the first winner. The most recent World Cup was in 2016 in Argentina.
“Football golf is not as intense as football and golf,” said Norman, who was also shy about revealing his surname. “Instead, the atmosphere is relaxed and fun. And unlike football and golf, outside of tournaments, there aren’t any dress code specificities.”
But tournaments sometimes demand that the players wear golf apparel – golf cap, turf shoes and knee-high Argyle socks.
Creek 9, a golf course in Johannesburg, runs footgolf games on its regular golf courses. Creek 9 is a par-three course, at which players are allowed only three shots to get the ball into the hole.
On some occasions, footgolf and golf can be played at the same time, but there are specially built grass footgolf courses.
“It gets full. You sometimes get over a hundred people on the course who are unfamiliar with the rules of golf and want to kick the ball beyond the stipulated number. This really frustrates the golf players but ultimately we all just end up having fun,” said Norman.