Does football and golf mix?

Of course they do, they’ve got lots in common. How many footballers play golf? Loads, and visa versa. Are the shoes and boot similar? Yep.  Both have clubs (ok that’s stretching it a bit),  but is there room for both on a golf course? It all depends on how things are organised doesn’t it. We went along at the invitation of Daryl St John Jones, Director of Golf at Oakmere Park to see how they had set things up.

What were we to wear? I opted for tucked in golf shirt and trousers plus a pair of normal trainers. Lefty chose a bizarre pair of tartan socks and crazy shorts. Newby also chose shorts. I got the nod of approval from Daryl – one up to me. We felt quite strange walking into a golf club in this attire. Golfers were looking at us and we wondered what was going through their minds. Things like ‘here come the dregs of society keep your heads down lads”.  We were thinking “just grow up and look to the future”. I’m sure wars have started like this.

How you blend these two mindsets together must be quite a nightmare. We love golf but we also love football and Lefty and Newby play both every week so why can’t they live side by side in one way or another.

Sitting and chatting to Daryl over a very tasty baguette and beer we quickly realised that the success of Footgolf at Oakmere is down to quite a bit of strategic planning and forethought. Do golfers want people going round their course scuffing it up? No. Do golfers want folk in football kits at the club? Not really. Can a golf club afford to ignore a growing trend and with it undoubtedly good revenue? No. Here’s an interesting fact. After every game of football the lads go for a swift half. How many golfers after a game of football go into the clubhouse for a swift half? The numbers are so disproportionate says Daryl. More people playing Footgolf support the clubhouse than your everyday golfer. Round finished, clubs in car and off.

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Now with Footgolf people stick around. In fact it’s quite a sociable thing and families are involved.  So now we have a chicken and egg situation. How many fathers take their youngsters along to play golf? How many clubs in the not too distant past shuddered at the thought of junior members out on their beloved courses? Loads. So where do new members come from? Surely this is a natural trend to bring young blood in who would never visit a golf club under normal circumstances. The chance of someone playing Footgolf looking across at the course and thinking ‘I fancy that” are extremely high.

There is an additional beauty in this at Oakmere in that they have a specifically designed , SEPARATE Footgolf course and it is not only developing and being defined week by week, it is bringing in good revenue. Now if you were to tell members that this is helping keep down membership fees and food and drink costs you may be able to appease them. I say may because pleasing members can be like trying to stop a lion biting you! Nigh on impossible.

So… how did our Footgolf go? We had the funniest afternoon sport we had had for ages. Daryl joined us for the first 9 holes and he had obviously played a bit, albeit by his own admission with a bit of scepticism as to its success at Oakmere.

Oakmere-FootGolf-1-Jul15

The 1500  yard long Par 70  course features ‘water’ hazzards waiting to catch a poor kick, side-foot or toe-poke. I was gutted that you couldn’t head the ball though! There’s six Par 3’s, four Par 5’s and obviously eight Par 4’s. There are plenty of rules including code of dress to make this sit perfectly into the structure of a golf course. Lefty and Newby still play football and they got into their stride with  obviously at times, a little too much enthusiasm in their kicking.  On the first nine Lefty won with Daryl close behind,  Newby and I were tied so we had to go to the play off hole. Annoyingly Lefty won the next nine again but we all showed a marked improvement in our scores, chipping lots of shots off.

After our match Daryl took us out in the buggies to show us the latest changes to the Admiral and Commanders golf courses. It’s refreshing to hear that Oakmere Park is not only investing in Footgolf but have a £1million investment plan for the two courses over the next four years. That’s some investment  by anyone’s standard. Oakmere have retained the services of world renowned Golf Course Architects Mackenzie & Ebert to do a re-design of both courses, change the layout, and also create a 9 hole par 3 Academy course and a new irrigation system for all 3 courses. Mackenzie & Eberts repertoire include some of the top courses in the world such as Port Rush, Royal Troon, Turnberry etc. These plans have been agreed and the first part of phase one has now been completed with holes 1,3, 5 & 11, given the full Mackenzie & Ebert makeover last winter and two brand new greens built on the Commanders course.

Daryl told us  “As Director of Golf, my job is to ensure minimal disruption to the playability of both courses whilst this work is being carried out and this objective was successfully achieved this winter. It is planned for all 18 holes of the Admirals Course to be completed and new course layout in play by 2018. The new Commanders course layout should be in play by 2017 and the par 3 Academy course open by 2019.” So for the golfer there’s plenty to be pleased about.

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But what about the Footgolfers future?  It looks very bright. Footgolf  is currently taking over as the must-do children’s party destination with catering available on site. Every month there is a County order of merit competition which is open to all comers. They are also starting a summer league for teams of 4 -5 players every Tuesday. Oakmeres course is open every weekend afternoon from 3pm and school holidays. To book your kick off time phone Oakmere on 0115 965 3545

From our point of view we had a great afternoon despite a few heads down ‘ignore the plebs’ attitude from a few of the golfers but then again they had that attitude about women golfers and kids learning the game in the past. I suppose it takes time for some to ‘grow up’ and see the future.  It’s all down to who’s got the biggest balls I presume!!

(I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere!)

Following the success and popularity of Junior Coach Jamie Jarvis, Oakmere Park Golf Club have decided to support him by funding a Junior Golf initiative at Oakmere this year and if successful may continue in future years.

7 day membership for under 16’s on the Commanders Course from July to November for only £20 in total, nothing else to pay. Unlimited free golf for 4 months!

Further to this, to help these new juniors get the hang of the game Jamie will also be providing weekly beginners lessons on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and weekdays during school holidays for only £15 for 6 x 1hr lessons. Dates to be confirmed.

Naturally there will be a high demand for these membership places. Places will be offered on a first come first served basis. To apply they can either fill out a membership form at the Club or go online and hit the link below to the membership page on the website and download a membership form from there. You can then email that back to

enquiries@oakmerepark.co.uk to register.

http://oakmerepark.co.uk/Membership.html

Daryl St John Jones, the Director of Golf at Oakmere Park has said “This is a really exciting initiative that Oakmere has taken on. By offering this incentive to all kids across the counties, who knows these could be the future Lee Westwoods or Rory Mcilroys. Most kids don’t get the opportunity to play golf and especially join a golf club partly because of the joining fees but also by the golf rules in place. Hopefully this incentive will break down those barriers and make golf affordable and accessible for all juniors across the County. Hopefully once linked in to the subsidized coaching program they will progress to full membership at either Oakmere or any of the Clubs that are most local to them. Hopefully, in the future, all Clubs around the County will start an incentive like this to encourage kids to get into golf.”

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