Footgolf to go down a (sand) storm in the Algarve

The Algarve’s first dedicated FootGolf course opened in April – but it certainly goes against the grain.

For, unlike the few existing standalone FootGolf venues around, the innovative, new nine-hole layout is a ‘desert’ course: all sand, but for its artificially surfaced greens and tees, and its rock outcrops.

The course, set among pine trees close to the renowned golf destinations of Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, was conceived and designed by Golf Consultants Association chairman Howard Swan, an architect at Swan Golf Designs (SGD).

And its development and construction, which took just 10 weeks, has been project managed throughout by SGD.

The par-36, 545m course is split equally between par-threes, fours and fives, with the holes varying in distance from 25 to 100m. There are two tees on each hole, while each contoured and testing green and collar covers more than 100m2.

The FootGolf course is an element of the Algarve Tennis and Fitness Centre which enjoys has a substantial local membership. The course sits alongside tennis and padel courts – a racquet sport – a yoga and Pilates studio, a table-tennis facility and a sports bar.

Drew Kirby, development director for International Golf Development, which has supported the investment in the facility, said: “I am simply delighted with what has been achieved in such a short time, in transforming this small parcel of land into a beautifully natural course.

“The setting within the umbrella pines gives us a lovely landscape in which to play this alternative form of the game: shade and shelter in the hot summers in the south of Portugal, and a frame of mature vegetation to enhance the experience of what is great fun.

“We have used all the wood from the site, chipping timber to create the areas of roughs and surfaced the whole of the playing area with sand found on the land … a highly responsible approach to conservation and a sustainability result.”

The course is being marketed strongly – through local radio, social media, tour operators, hotels and property agencies – to encourage everybody, regardless of age or gender, to enjoy ‘golf’. And, with a round taking around 45 minutes, it’s more than feasible to play in the evenings.

Swan added: “The game of golf needs to change; it needs to look for new horizons away from the traditional model which is hardly forging ahead. We have plenty of existing courses throughout the UK which have accommodated FootGolf successfully and profitably, mainly by laying out alternative green positions to which to play.

“Examples of dedicated FootGolf courses are, however, few and far between. One in Essex and one in Chester have proved there is a place for them, commercially and financially. But, as far as I am aware, no one in the world has yet tried this approach producing such a natural layout for kicking a football around.

“It also allows for a simple and cost-effective maintenance programme: one keeper, a blower, a sand pro, and a rake. It makes a lot of sense and gives every chance to a developer, but, more adventurously I would suggest, one who, like this venue, already offers multi-recreational facilities.”

Swan believes resort destinations will see a growth in these facilities – “with sand, no grass, no irrigation, and no expensive maintenance” – and feels that if playing FootGolf provides participants with enjoyment and real family fun, then he has gone a little way to encouraging more people to take up golf.

The GCA, formed in 1999, is unique in the UK in its ability to make available a team of highly-respected and experienced golf industry professionals to see any phase of a project through from conception to end.