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26th Aug 2018

PICS: ‘This Is The One Activity I Do About Five Times Every Summer Without Fail’

Darragh Berry

Play this once, and you will become instantly addicted to it. Improving your score and your technique all while trying to beat your mates…

I’ll have a go at any sport and be decent enough at it but one thing I could never get my head around was golf.

I just don’t have the coordination for it. I’ve gone to the driving range a few times and I can get power behind the ball, that’s no problem, but accuracy and length do not follow.

The Westport Country Lodge Hotel in Aughagower is a stone’s throw away from where I grew up. It’s situated just on the outskirts of Westport and although it was a strange announcement at the time, it has become the ideal place for a hotel. Beautiful scenery and a stunning food, drink and hotel establishment without the hustle and bustle of being located in town.

It’s surrounded by green fields so it was no surprise that they set up an 18-hole golf course soon after it opened. It never appealed for me to go, it would take me a full weekend to complete a round.

But then, a few summers ago, it all changed.

The golf course was shutting down and although we didn’t know it at the time, something better was coming in its place.

The beauty of footgolf is, you don’t have to be an amazingly talented soccer or GAA player to play. In fact, that is often the downfall of many an eager player.

Footgolf Mayo Aughower

It doesn’t need much explanation. It’s football and golf mixed together. There’s 18 holes and each hole has a set par (i.e if it’s a par 3, you should be getting it in the hole in three shots or less).

I was oblivious. I thought, ‘soundddd’, drive it as hard as you can, get it close to the hole and pot it, simples.

But footgolf, like life, is not that simple.

There’s ponds, there’s roughs, there’s hills, there’s flat pieces of grass that aren’t actually flat and if the ball lands in it, it’ll roll backwards for about 500 metres.

It’s a game of skill and patience. One misplaced shot and you’re stuck between a patch of nettles (not nice when you’re wearing shorts) and a tree with the flag firmly out of sight.

You can bring your own football or you can rent one out in the little hut where you pay. This little card above becomes your bible for the next hour or so.

WARNING: Your friends, no matter how close ye are or how long you’ve known them, will cheat and lie to you playing this game.

They’ll steal a score or two here or move the ball forward a couple of inches when you’re not looking. It’s not about just paying attention to your own score, you need to watch your friends like a hawk also.

This first came to the hotel around the summer of 2013. Me and a couple of my friends would head down at least once a week if not more. It became so frequent that we would often get an extra round for free. We couldn’t get enough because it was so unpredictable.

You could win one week by a country mile and the next week you’d be crying into the 13th hole wondering ‘where did it all go wrong?’.

This activity covers every possible ground: Stags, hens, birthday parties, a starter for a Saturday night of fun or just a mid-week relaxer after work.

It is honestly great fun if you don’t take it seriously.

But, for those who get bitten by the curse like I did, it becomes a proper competition.

The ponds are there for a few reasons – 1. They make finishing the hole harder (sounds wrong) 2. You’ll attempt to dink the ball into the water and get soaked and 3. you’ll end up falling head first into the water trying to retrieve it like what happened to this stag party when they decided to take the game on.

Footgolf is not a new phenomenon, that’s a (Shay) given. But the scenic views that surround the course at the Country Lodge give it that extra flavour that other courses miss out on.

Imagine lining up for an important shot with Croagh Patrick, clear as day, directly in your eye line. The Instagram opportunities are endless, folks.

And, what’s even better about the footgolf here is that once you’re finished, you can head in doors to the hotel where you can fed and watered after a long day of arguments, counting and kicking.

How hard is it to pot the ball? Have a look for yourself…

See what I mean about sly. That goes in if your man’s friends had taken the balls out of the hole. But, they didn’t and you know why? ‘Cause it’s everyone for themselves out on that green.

Some con-artists will put their foot on the top of the ball and roll it into the hole. These are known on the course as SNAKES. It’s all about that clean, toe-poke motion when you’re going for the putt.

As we said above. You don’t have to be a great footballer to succeed in this. You’ll see the ‘keepers rocking up and booting the ball as far as possible and that’s grand but if you don’t have the power, use your other strength. If there’s a hill in front of you, use it, why leather the ball in the air when you can glide it on the ground.

Use the head or you’ll lose your ball.

Hole in ones are the stuff of folklore in this place. Very seldom seen but when they are, they are talked about to anyone who comes in.

So, why don’t you try and become part of Mayo Footgolf’s folklore and have a round soon.

You can find more information on the Mayo Footgolf website here or on their Facebook page.

Main image via: feidhlimsta Instagram

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