Lining up a chip from the fairway, Pietro Boffa takes a quick look up before he dinks the ball to the back of the second green, only to watch it roll away from the hole.
This frustrating scene is a familiar one to golfers around Kent but there is not an eight iron in sight at the course at the Strand in Gillingham. This is a round of footgolf, the self-proclaimed fastest growing sport in the UK.
“I underestimated how hard it would be,” said Pietro, 30, of Trosley Avenue, Gravesend. “It takes a few holes to get used to it.
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“I’m used to playing football but playing it in a golf environment isn’t natural. Football is a team sport and you’ve got teammates to help you, whereas in footgolf you’re on your own. Putting is especially difficult at first.”
Footgolf is the latest craze sweeping across the county – and the nation – for lovers of both sports.
Players kick a football around a golf course, trying to “putt” the ball into an enlarged hole around a pin in as few shots as possible.
The sport is run by the UK Footgolf Association, which has nine affiliated courses in Kent and more than 120 across the country. Another is due to open within a month.
There are more than 10,000 UK Footgolf members, many of whom are competing to qualify for the second Footgolf World Cup in Argentina in January. The UK will send a squad of 16 to the competition.
For the players trying for the first time on the Strand, getting round the nine holes near the par of 36 is the first target.
“I found it more fun than I was expecting,” said newbie Stephen Emberson, 30, of Northcote Road, Northfleet.
“It’s frustrating at times, but what sport isn’t? Putting should be the easiest part, but it’s anything but. I enjoy the different aspects and challenges on each hole.
“It’s definitely a game for football lovers. I’m looking forward to playing another round with the lads soon.”
Playing the game requires many of the skills needed in football but the attitude among the players is closer to the clubhouse than the changing room.
Most courses do not allow players to wear football shirts and boots and blades are banned – although spiked golf shoes are allowed.
Like golf, there are various hazards dotted around the holes.
A player has to kick the ball out of the bunker from a standing start and no scoop shots are allowed.
The toe punt, it turns out, is a favoured shot by many of the pros when within a few feet of the pin.
It turns out Kent has a real pedigree for the sport.
Three of the top 10 footgolfers in the UK represent Kent (Karl May, Chris Anderson, Dan Spice) while the country’s No.2 female footgolfer Hayley May is from Chatham.
“In terms of dynamics footgolf is about 90% football and 10% golf but in terms of etiquette it is the other way around,” said Richard Brown, business development manager at UK Footgolf Association, who lives in Gravesend.
“Many of the courses are at golf clubs so they want the players’ outfits to be inkeeping with the style of members turning up for a Saturday morning round.
“Generally they are becoming more relaxed about people playing footgolf.
“It is an extra revenue stream for the courses after all.”
So what is the key to a good round?
“Like in golf, you need an appreciation of lines and slopes,” added Richard.
“It is about how composed you are on the putting green.
“That is the real make or break time.”
Kent will have 10 affiliated footgolf courses by the end of August at:
Playing 18 holes typically costs £10, children £5.
For more details visit www.ukfootgolf.com.