In our first footgolf guide we discussed the absolute basics of the game and gave advice to those taking their first steps/kicks in this wonderful sport. But once you’ve played six or seven times, have got your head around the game and want to ‘kick on’, whether that’s beating your mate or start improving on your own scores, here are a few further tips making up our intermediate footgolf guide.
Footgolf Guide to improving your game
Settle on your own putting technique
In our basic footgolf guide we said that ‘driving is for show and that putting is for dough’ and footgolf is no different. In other words, you’re only ever going to be as good as your putting.
If you took one player who was excellent off the tee and strong in their approach shot but not much of a putter, against one who was decent at those two things but an ace putter, the smart money is on the hot putter every time.
If you think about it, belting it off the tee with your instep is similar to taking a goal kick or making a long pass in football whereas any footballer has also side-footed a pass over about 20 metres. But putting involves a very different technique to anything you’d do in football so the more practice you get, the better.
There are two techniques you can use to putt in footgolf and in our footgolf guide we’ll tell you which they are.
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The toe poke
This involves lining up your foot behind the ball and using your big toe to direct it towards the hole. Players who have mastered this technique can display remarkable degrees of accuracy, although of course you still need to negotiate any slopes on the green and get the speed/strength just right.
Using the toe poke technique is a bit like using a cue to playing snooker or pool; you’re using a small surface (the tip of your toe) to direct the ball.
The secret to the toe poke is to hit the ball bang in the middle. Not above, not beneath, right in the centre.
Some players like to get down very low with knees bent when executing it while others sort of follow through with a step towards the direction the ball is heading; but the basic concept is the same.
Betting Maestro-sponsored player Bruno Oliveira toe-poking a putt.
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The side foot
Don’t be disheartened if the toe poke technique doesn’t come naturally to you. After all, World Number 1 Ben Clarke doesn’t use it. He prefers the side foot.
If the toe poke is like using a snooker cue, then the side-foot technique is more like using a putter in golf. Just like with the putter, your foot is away from your body and acts more like a leaver.
Crucial to a good execution of the shot is that your supporting leg isn’t too close to the foot that’s going to kick the ball. Plant it solidly, line up your kicking foot, take a few practice swings and then go for it.
The very best and most talented players are actually able to use both techniques. They’ll favour one over the other based on the distance, amount of slope or even just because that’s what they’re most comfortable with on that particular day. But don’t worry too much about having both in your locker. The important thing is that one of them works for you and that’s not something a footgolf guide will teach you; that much you’ll have to discover for yourself.
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Don’t be afraid of the bunker
When a lot of people start out in footgolf, they seem to have a morbid fear of being in a bunker. But unless you or your ball have a rare allergy to sand, like the ironic case of British long-jumper Jade Johnson, then you really shouldn’t be.
British long jumper Jade Johnson was allergic to….sand.
Unlike being in the water, where you incur a penalty shot for ending up there, there’s no harm done by being in the sand.
In fact, very often when the areas around the bunker are fraught with danger- water, slopes where the ball goes all the way down, trees etc- it’s the safest place to be. After all, once the ball goes inside the bunker, it rarely comes out.
And it’s not just a case of being in the bunker. You can also use the bunker. Often flags are positioned just behind a bunker and whereas a lot of players’ instinct will be to chip it over the bunker or go around it, there’s nothing wrong with actually going through it. It’s not the easiest shot in the book but getting the ball just over the tip of the bunker and letting it roll down can be a winning shot.
What you don’t want to do however is end up in the bunker when your next shot needs to be a long one. If it’s a Par 5 you don’t want to be in the sand on your second shot because of the rules relating to playing in the bunker.
When playing from the bunker (left), your non-shooting foot has to be planted. From anywhere else,it doesn’t.
Remember that you have to have your supporting foot planted in the sand when you take your shot and there’s no walking, much less running, allowed. Playing like that limits your ability to kick the ball far so on that particular occasion, you’d want to swerve the sand.
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Learn from your partner’s shots
This last part of our footgolf guide is often overlooked.
In any given round or tournament, you could be playing alongside another three players. The selfish and foolish player just focuses on his own game and couldn’t care less what his playing partners do but the smart player takes in as much information as possible regarding what’s going on around them.
If someone went over the green and into the long grass, remind yourself not to go at it too hard when it’s your turn. If they were too ambitious and thought they could clear the water but couldn’t, ask yourself if you have the extra power to clear it yourself. Should someone have the same putt as you and you saw the ball move left to right, then you know which way it’s going to turn when you’re putting.
All of this is especially true off the tee. Going last means you had the poorest score on the previous hole but it also presents an opportunity on the next one. By going last you’ll see where you should be going and where you shouldn’t.
The best players learn from the mistakes and achievements of those around them on the course.