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Summer Postcards 2018

Summer Postcard: Footgolf, The American Sport

CAMBRIDGE, United Kingdom—First it was the Industrial Revolution. Then it was Beatlemania. The next revolution to hit the U.S. from the U.K. is coming. In fact, it’s already here.

It’s called footgolf. The game is exactly what it sounds like—a combination of golf and football (in the British sense). I played my first round last month at the Cambridge FootGolf Centre, a small stone building about five miles north of Trinity College. I paid ten pounds and headed back to the holes—18 well-manicured islands in a sea of Cambridgeshire wildgrass.

I teed up a five-size soccer ball and kicked it toward a 21 inch-wide hole at the end of the green. I didn’t wear the proper kit—flat cap, collared shirt, and knee-length Argyle socks—but I did end the round only six shots above par. Cheers!

It’s hard to get more U.K. than footgolf. With professional leagues and scores of courses, the game has become massively popular over the past few years. How could it not be? It’s a mashup of the pride and joy of 15th century Scotland and modern-day England—it practically oozes Britishness. You almost feel as if the game couldn’t be played anywhere else.

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But as history would have it, footgolf has spread speedily outside the British Isles. The Federation for International Footgolf has 37 member countries across six continents, from Korea and New Zealand to Tunisia and Luxembourg. The first Footgolf World Cup was held in Hungary in 2012, the second in Argentina in 2016, and the third is happening this December in Morocco.

Where, you ask, is footgolf in the United States? Why hasn’t this brilliant idea diffused from the Motherland to her favorite former colonies?

The answer might surprise you. It’s been here since the 1930s.

The first golf-and-soccer hybrid wasn’t invented in the birthplace of both golf and soccer. It started in Chicago, when a doctor by the name of William Edward Code devised a game for his friend, Anton Cermak, that involved kicking rubber balls into bowls. Cermak was serving on the Cook County Board of Commissions at the time, and he needed a game that was simple, cheap, and easy to play in parks. Code gave him “Codeball.”

Even if this first version never made it past Chicago playgrounds, footgolf was, in principle, an American invention. We can claim the spirit of the game if not the copyright; it was designed to be accessible, low-cost, and adaptable—in a word, democratic. Forget the expensive golf clubs and aristocratic social clubs! We prefer sports of the player, by the player, for the player, no matter of the length of their socks.

But we didn’t just invent footgolf. We’re actually pretty good at it. 

The U.S. won the team division of the 2016 Footgolf World Cup. Forget not qualifying for the 2018 soccer World Cup, we’re reigning champions at a game involving foot skills and a ball—a game we practically invented!

Maybe it’s time America’s favorite pastime switched to footgolf. With increasing numbers of courses nationwide, we could be at the cusp of a homegrown revolution—a tee party for the 21st century.

In the weeks I have left in the U.K., I’m going to sport some patriotism. I’m going to play a lot more footgolf, and in the name of Uncle Sam, I’m going to shoot below par.

Lauren D. Spohn ’20, a Crimson editorial editor, is an English concentrator in Currier House.

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