A former footballer from Blidworth is in the vanguard of helping the brand new hybrid sport of FootGolf tee off in the UK.
Jason Fisher (28) used to be a goalkeeper and, among his successes, helped Retford United to the Northern Counties East League title in 2011/12.
But his new role as East Midlands business development manager for the UK FootGolf Association sees him promoting a version of golf where an expensive bag full of clubs and putters is replaced simply by your leg in a fun-packed hybrid of golf and football.
FootGolf is designed to be very inclusive as opposed to golf at some clubs who love to remain very exclusive.
The fastest-growing sport of 2014 in the UK, FootGolf is also taking off big time across Europe and the USA.
The UK FootGolf Association, the official governing body is based on the sport’s main course at Doncaster College and close to 6,000 people played it in 45 different competitions in 12 different counties over the last seven months.
The season runs from March to October and, for the forthcoming season, Jason, who started playing and working for the UK FootGolf Association in October, will be based at Brierley Forest in Huthwaite, one of three local courses that operates FootGolf along with Leen Valley, Hucknall, and Oakmere Park, Oxton.
“Leen Valley started out using the first five holes of their course, then went to nine, and after the success of their first year they are now going to expand to use the full 18 holes,” said Jason.
“Brierley Forest have a piece of land which is now a dedicated nine-hole FootGolf course.
“From March at Oakmere they will have FootGolf on all of their nine hole courses.
“They have also opened the first floodlit FootGolf course on one of their driving ranges so people can get involved while the nights are still dark.
“We use a separate tee-off area, and the green doesn’t need as much maintenance as a golf green. We just use the same fairways.
“It started with 10 courses nationally in 2013 in the UK. There are now 54 courses as of December with a lot more in the pipeline.”
He explained that some of the golf courses who are bringing FootGolf onto their sites are also hoping it could be a lifesaver in these times of austerity.
“There are a lot of courses struggling financially and 80,000 people have stopped playing golf,” said Jason.
“People might say you are just kicking a football round a golf course, but it’s surprising how much fun you can have doing it.
“You don’t need lots of expensive equipment and that, coupled with the low cost to enter and the low skill entry level required, means a lot of young people are taking it up.
“All you need is an average level of eye/foot co-ordination. It is a fun sport that families can take up and is perfect for dads and sons.
“It only costs between £5 and £10 a round. And you can actually get around in about 90 minutes while golf takes four or five hours.
“Also, FootGolf is open to everyone. Some courses are not going to even entertain the idea. They are happy to stay dedicated to golf and are doing quite well.
“But some courses see this as a way of getting extra revenue and, for some, it could help save their business.
“It could also bring in potential new golfers for them. You might get some young lads in who have a go at FootGolf, then they might have a go on the driving range and then maybe try golf as well.”
He added: “It is starting to be taken quite seriously over here too. But, yes, it is a bit of fun like the crossbar challenge and can be a bit of a giggle for a local football team for a social night out.
“Also, people who play FootGolf tend to stay in the bar a bit longer than the golfers. After four or five hours playing proper golf, people might have a drink and then leave while the footballers get round much quicker and then stay in the bar longer.”
Jason had never heard of the sport, but once he checked it out, he quickly became smitten and is now involved on a professional level both on and off the course and representing the UK.
He said: “I was a footballer and played to a decent level at Retford, Clipstone, Rainworth and Hucknall.
“I had been on a driving range but I wasn’t really into golf. The first time I heard of FootGolf I had a look on YouTube and decided to give it a try.
“Now I have just competed in Portugal with the UK team in the European Open. This was the final event of the season, and the new season starts in March.
“A team of 12 of us went out to Portugal. We also have national ranking events and the UK’s No.1 player went out to the States to play in the USA Pro/Am FootGolf. It is taken quite seriously in Europe and the USA.”
For more information visit www.ukfootgolf.com, call Jason on 07803 339277, Facebook - FootGolf Midlands, Twitter - @footgolfeastmid, email – firstname.lastname@example.org.
FootGolf Fact File
FootGolf is in the final stages of being officially recognised as a sport by Sport England.
10 golf clubs offered FootGolf in the UK in 2013 and this is now 54 with many more preparing to sign up.
There are three courses in Nottinghamshire - Brierley Forest, Leen Valley and Oakmere Park, which is the UK’s first floodlit course.
A typical round costs £5-£10.
80,000 people a year stop playing golf and youth aren’t enticed to play the sport as it is costly and takes too long. FootGolf offers a low cost, low skill level, fun sport.
FootGolf had close to 6,000 people playing the sport in 45 different competitions in 12 different counties in the last seven months. On a weekly basis the Doncaster course, has 300 people playing FootGolf. These sort of numbers are just not seen on golf courses at the moment.