One Sunday morning, 11am, in the heart of Nantes. The island’s famous machinery elephant emerges from the courtyards, and the few visitors who come for a walk come to admire the sight of these giant robotic mammals, which have become one of the symbols of the city. Not far from there, a ball suddenly shoots out. “Oh, you’re off to a good start,” said Guillaume. His presence, along with his son and friend Frederick, interrogates passersby. It must be said that the inhabitants of Nantes hit golf balls, equipped with their clubs and a trolley. A comical spectacle to say the least, street golfers are used to it. “There shouldn’t be a lot of people. Because sometimes people look at us a bit strange. They ask us what we are doing there and whether we have the right to play here,” said Guillaume Le Maiville, who has been playing street golf for about ten years. .
Some of the residents, the most curious, stop when they meet Guillaume and his gang. So try some twists. Others are reluctant to see a golf ball flying overhead. It must be said that this street golf practice is quite interesting. “They look at us with wide eyes and wonder what we do with the golf club on the street. Before playing with his club in Ile de Nantes, he discovered the clouds of this sport in Morlaix, in Brittany, with the association Putters Morlaix United (PMU, can not be invented), which became a game Street Golf in l’ West Frederic Elias is now its president.
“But where is the pit?”
Street golf was born in Germany in the 1990s, and gradually reached France, especially in major cities. Originally, German players were playing street golf in deserted areas, using real golf balls. Now, semi-rigid balls are used, allowing street golfers to play anywhere, without harming anything and, above all, without hurting anyone. Because this urban sport is based on a fundamental principle: freedom.
Before becoming a sport, street golf is above all a state of mind: “You go out when you want to hit the balls, and a little where you want,” summed up Guillaume and Frederick, for whom the city has become a playground. As for the rules, they are ultimately not much different from those of golf. It’s always about hitting a goal by making the fewest moves possible. Often the first question of people is: Where is the hole? William laughs. There is no hole for golfers in the streets. But the specific goals upstream by the players. Benches, dustbins, lampposts, baseboards… all street furniture becomes a target. Sometimes, players enjoy adding bonuses, with furniture available. “For example, the trash could be the end goal. If the ball got inside it, it would be -1,” says Guillaume. “Everything is a goal. The only limit is just our imagination. We invent our path, and do exactly what we want, without barriers,” says Fred.
Brittany, London and Circle 13
Suddenly, urban golfers have multiple courses. A practice that also allows them to discover other cities, through the French championship, on April 30, after two years of interruption due to the health crisis. In order to recuperate, dozens of street golf federations gathered in Brittany, in a quite unusual place, chosen by the street golf federation in the West. The first round of the French championship will be held on the island of Calut in Carantique (Finistere). A peninsula accessible only at low tide! Hence a new stadium. “We try to get the competitors to travel a little bit by taking them to this kind of place,” Frederic Ellis points out. There will also be Lille, Lyon, Paris, Tours, Reims, Lens, Strasbourg or Grenoble.
About 200 street golfers from all over France come to take part in these stages. Moreover, France still holds the title of world champion, which was obtained in 2018. The World Cup that brings together mainly European countries, as well as India, where this sport took off. France and Germany remain the two strong countries. Guillaume is also part of Team France. During ten years of competition, street golf has allowed him to play in places more unusual than one another. From the stands of Villeneuve-d’Ascq to the former Olympic Park in London. Guillaume and Fred also recall a competition in the 13th arrondissement in Paris. “We were playing in the middle of the cars. The police arrived because someone complained.”
democratization of practice
Here, there is no shopping cart, but a pack of beer not far from the cart. Golf clubs are bought used and the atmosphere is generally not calm. In short, street golf is a far cry from golf standards. Guillaume, he started with the street before he tried his hand Practice : “Golfers are often the ones with the street view that matter most. For some, golf is a green and that’s it. They like to think outside the box. Also a way to democratize a sport that is sometimes seen as reserved for a particular social group.” We try to open it up more to the general public. That’s the point of the game, getting out a little bit along with “prout prout,” “darting,” laughs Fred, who also practices both sports in Nantes. “It’s the street that made me love golf,” he says.
Two very distinct golf practices. Especially since street golf is not affiliated with the French Golf Federation (FFG). The Sports Federation of Street Golf (FFSG) was created in 2018. Benoist Richard, an urban golf enthusiast with Urban Green Lille, has been its president since 2020. “The target is the Federation of Street Golf Associations organized around the tournament. It’s also a way to unify our rules,” explains a person who used to play in the basement of his house in Lille. It’s a state of mind. But there are cities where golf courses aren’t easy to get to.
For this, discussions between the two unions began a year ago. To tame history a little. “There are little things that are being built, and our discipline matters to them,” notes the president, who is also a member of the France team. He discovered this practice eight years ago. “I met guys who were playing at 2 am at night. Since then, I have never stopped. Wherever you want, when you want: a philosophy of game that fits perfectly with street golf.