You may momentarily pause to ask yourself what is footgolf? before realising you already know. It is exactly what you thought. Kicking a football on a golf course, into a football-sized hole. Like a boss.
It's the perfect game in many respects. There's a football to kick, which is always good. But you don't have to pass it to anyone. There's no running into space. You will not be nutmegged. And you can play with your glasses on, while carrying a hip flask.
Best of all, perhaps, your opponents are not going to hit you with a 'reducer', the thunderous challenge that grizzled defenders dish out to discourage you from trying to get past them. Though when I mention this to Tom, my opponent for the day, he says he can't rule it out.
Not that footgolf is without its physical challenges. You've got to get that ball down the fairway to the waiting green, or the dance floor, as some golfers call it when trying to glamourise hitting a ball with a stick. And, on the course we're playing on, at Orpington Golf Centre, there are some fair old inclines to conquer, providing the cover of exercise to what is essentially a nice bit of fun.
Unlike real golf, or as I now call it, handgolf, you don't need to wear trousers that suggest a cry for help. Indeed, fearful of falling backside-over-breast, I wear jeans, while young Tom sports the tracky bottoms that would make any handgolfer shiver in his/her Pringle sweater.
There's no need for expensive clubs, to drive an Audi or vote for certain political parties. Your foot is your club.
The correct choice of footwear is the most crucial decision of the footgolfer and here I'm afraid, both Tom and I are remiss. Football boots are forbidden, so I've gone for some old Doc Martens, thinking I'll be able to give it some proper welly, while my rival's gone with trainers you might reasonably pick for a kick about. Unfortunately neither of our selections are waterproof — an important consideration in January, and one we will regret ignoring. Still, it's not a mistake we'll make twice, when we return to the course, older, wiser and with the heft of experience.
If you're a decent baller, there's going to be a great temptation to employ your superior technique to drive the ball with precision up the fairway, like a Tiger Xavi Woods. This may be the point you find out whether you are a decent baller or not. If you're an ageing hack, know your limits, give it a massive toe punt and hope for the best.
First timers may find themselves in the cabbage, early doors. This is no big deal as at least being in the rough stops the ball rolling back downhill to mock you at the tee. A simple chip will get you back on the flat stuff, ready for footgolf glory.
Putting is fairly simple at close range, where you can sidefoot the ball into the hole, as you would a short-range pass. Putting from the edge of the green requires skill and accuracy, so I really can't help you there.
The rubbish bin at the first tee has enough Kronenbourg tins to suggest a fair few football teams have passed this way, giving great encouragement to the less devoted athlete.
I have long dreamt of that first tee, punting the ball far and high, to watch it bounce just shy of the green, ready to be kissed into its hole of joy, for two under par. It's hard to fully imagine matchplay conditions though, so amid the fetid stench of competition I shank it into the rough instead.
On hole two, however, I'm able to punt the ball up the middle of the fairway, only to see it roll back down again, then veer right. Into the rough. Tom suggests that maybe I'm better off in the rough. At least it will stay where it lands.
Tom is proving better at tee and approach shots and soon builds up a lead, while I plough on, approaching the green via the cabbage. His putting is pants, however, which at least keeps it competitive as we reach the latter stages. By then, my teeing has improved but so has his putting. Consequently he achieves par on a couple of holes, to ensure he wins a tense battle by three shots.
The 19th hole is closed at the time of our visit unfortunately, but I'm sure it'll be open to footgolfers as soon as the weather is more clement.
I shake Tom's hand, begrudgingly. "Got to respect par," I say through gritted teeth. "'Bang Average' Tom, they'll call you," I mutter, ignoring what that makes me.
Footgolf v handgolf
If you love golf, as millions do, there's no competition; it's handgolf hands down.
If, like me, handgolf brings to mind comfortable slacks and conventional minds, then it's footgolf all the way. Also, the opportunity for a backheeled putt raises the game to a level handgolf can only dream of.
It may not feature the elegance of the perfect golf swing but my guess is you'll hear more laughter on a footgolf course. And what, pray tell, is messing about, without laughter?