As The Montgomerie Golf Club kicks off footgolf in Dubai, Holly Sands and Matt Fortune hit the par 3 for a Time Out Dubai derby. (P.S. Holly won.)
If there's one thing I've learned in my years of being politely heckled off the fairways of Dubai's golf courses, it's that good golfers cannot abide rubbish ones. Whether you're tunneling to China in the bunker or playing pinball on the putting green, on your head be it if you hold up play. But socking a football around the par 3 course is totally different, right?
Having recently launched Dubai's first footgolf sessions, The Montgomerie Dubai Golf Club certainly seems to think so. While it seems the jury's still out for the regulars (we earned more than a few stern looks from the proper golfers playing a hole ahead), it's undoubtedly one of the most accessible ways for eager sports fans lacking the arm-eye co-ordination to drive anything other than big, deep divets.
It's by no means unique to this city – footgolf has been in play in Abu Dhabi for a while and is rapidly growing in the UK and US, which has several hundred courses already dedicated to the sport, with both countries now running leagues. The PGA is also keen, and its American president Ted Bishop has previously described the game as a way to grow the reach of golf itself.
The rules are very similar to a normal round of golf – officially, players should wear golf attire, and football shirts are strictly banned. Let the photographic records show, Matt, my Arsenal-loving colleague, and I both flouted these, but fortunately, The Montgomerie takes a less strict approach, encouraging football shirts and casual sportswear – a brilliant excuse to stuff those retina-burning rainbow shorts back where they belong. In fact, other than that, there aren't really any rules offered to players here at all, but based on experience (i.e. number of disapproving glares received), we do recommend you keep the rowdy whooping at every parred goal to a more golf course-friendly none-at-all. But it's all straightforward enough – each hole on the club's par 3 course now splits in two, with golfers heading to a hole the right, and footgolfers aiming for a much larger one to the left. It's clear the club expects the fusion sport to take off – even hinting at the launch of a supporters' club league for Dubai's army of devoted football fans.
After being handed our footballs and scorecard, we're let loose on the club's picturesque par 3 nine-hole course, just in time for some sunset play. As we wait for the golfers (not footgolfers) ahead of us finish the hole, Matt and our amused photographer Lester treat me to a spot of gender-biased banter about my anticipated poor footballing form on the course – something that can surely only be attributed to the fact I last kicked a ball around the time of the 2012 London Olympics.
But to the barely masked surprise of my colleagues, I am not the worst player of the day. Strangely, as Matt's scores get worse, mentions of a not-so-recent injury increase. In all fairness to my fitness-fanatical colleague, he hasn't kicked a ball "since at least May" – and we've all borne witness to the in-office, physiotherapeutic foot-stretching theatrics to prove it. Then there's the noisy birds by the seventh hole, putting him off his stroke with their boisterous cooing. Nevertheless, it's hard not to revel in his gradual demise.
On hole two, a ball – Matt's ball – arcs magnificently into the rough, landing in a tree, before tumbling through the branches and coming to a rest in the long grass beneath.
On the seventh, a ball – Matt's ball – lands, before tumbling straight off the fairway into a waiting water hazard. After gallantly allowing me to dangle precariously over the lake and rescue his ball, we move on to the final eighth and ninth holes, now neck and neck.
Between us, so far, we've parred a not-wholly-pathetic two of the five holes played – we skip five and six so as not to become a further nuisance to the two golfers who seem to be growing increasingly irritated by our ever-encroaching balls.
Eager to finally get out of their way (and put poor injured Matt out of his misery) I swiftly pot the winning shot. With a final score eight over par, it's not exactly the beginning of a starry career in footgolf. Putt it's a good start. Dhs100 per person. Advance bookings essential and subject to availability of the par 3 course. The Address Montgomerie Dubai, Emirates Hills (04 363 1209).
Four to try Fun fusion sports
Padel tennis Best described as a combination of tennis and squash, padel tennis is now an internationally played sport in its own right. It's also fairly complicated, with players bouncing balls off the wall and over a net. The Real Racquet Academy, Emirates Golf Club (056 179 8324).
SUp pilates Ideal for Pilates pros or stand-up paddleboarders in search of a new challenge, this beach activity requires flexibility and some degree of balance. Other than that, it's highly accessible and a great way to start the day. SeaYou, Sofitel The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 420 6100).
Trampoline dodgeball Teams of up to eight players can go head-to-head at Bounce trampoline park in a fast-paced, gravity-defying game of dodgeball. As ever, the last player still standing (or bouncing) wins for their team. Bounce, 4B Street, Al Quoz (04 321 1400).
Spa spinning Love indoor cycling classes as a way to get your cardio fix? Up the resistance with a spa biking session at L'Atelier Aquafitness, which offers group classes. Expect a high-intensity workout with pumping music. L'Atelier Aquafitness, Al Wasl Road (04 338 8323)