A Sunday morning, 11am, in the heart of Nantes. The famous elephant of the island’s machines emerges from the naves and the few visitors who come to stroll come to admire the spectacle of this gigantic robotic mammal that has become one of the symbols of the city. Not far away, a ball suddenly takes off. “Oh, she’s off to a good start,” exclaims Guillaume. His presence alongside his son and his friend Frédéric makes passers-by question. It must be said that the people of Nantes hit golf balls, armed with their clubs and a trolley. A comical scene, to say the least, to which these street golfers are accustomed. “There shouldn’t be too many people. Because sometimes people look at us a little strangely. They ask us what we are doing there and whether we have the right to play here,” says Guillaume Le Mével, who has been playing street golf for around ten years.
Some residents, more curious, stop when they meet Guillaume and his gang. Until you try a few turns. Others are more reluctant to see a golf ball fly overhead. It must be said that this practice of street golf is fascinating. “They look at us wide-eyed and wonder what we’re doing on the street with our golf club. Before having fun with his club on the Île de Nantes, Guillaume discovered this sport in Morlaix in Brittany with the club Putters Morlaix United (PMU, it can not be invented) which became Street Golf at l ‘west. Frédéric Eliès is now its president.
“But where is the hole? »
Born in Germany in the 1990s, street golf has gradually found its way into France, especially in the big cities. Originally, German players practiced street golf on disused areas with real golf balls. Now semi-rigid balls are used, which allow street golfers to play anywhere without damaging anything and, most importantly, without hurting anyone. Because this urban sport is based on one basic principle: freedom.
Before street golf became a sport, it was above all a state of mind: “You go out when you want to hit balls and a little where you want”, summarize Guillaume and Frédéric, for whom the city has become a playground for the rules , ultimately they are not all that different from those in golf. It’s always about reaching a goal in as few moves as possible. “Often people’s first question is, ‘Where’s the hole?’ laughs Wilhelm. Not a hole for street golfers. But targets are predetermined by the players. Benches, garbage cans, lampposts, blackboards… All street furniture becomes a target. Sometimes players have fun adding bonuses when the furniture is available. “For example, a Trash can be the end goal. And when the ball lands in it, it’s -1,” says Guillaume. “Everything is a goal. The only limit is our imagination. We invent our course, we do exactly what we want, without barriers,” says Fred.
Brittany, London and 13th Arrondissement
Suddenly, these urban golfers’ playgrounds are diverse. A practice that also allows them to discover other cities through the French championship on April 30 after a two-year break due to the health crisis. For recreation, a dozen street golf federations in Brittany met at a totally unusual location chosen by the street golf federation of the west. The first round of the French championship will take place on Callot Island in Carantec (Finistère). A peninsula only accessible at low tide! And with it a new playground. “We try to get the participants to travel a bit by taking them to places like this,” says Frédéric Eliès. Lille, Lyon, Paris, Tours, Reims, Lens, Strasbourg and Grenoble are also there.
Around 200 street golfers come from all over France to take part in these stages. In addition, France still holds the title of world champion, obtained in 2018. A world championship that mainly brings together European countries as well as India, where this sport made its breakthrough. France and Germany remain the two strong nations. Guillaume is also part of the French team. In ten years of competition, street golf has allowed him to play in more unusual places than anyone. From the stands of the Villeneuve-d’Ascq Stadium to the former Olympic Park in London. Guillaume and Fred also remember a competition in the 13th arrondissement of Paris. “We played between the cars. The police came because someone had complained. »
Democratize a practice
No shopping cart here, but a pack of beer never far from the shopping 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 it work out : “Often it is the golfers who are most critical of the road. For some, golf is on a green and that’s it. They prefer to think outside the box. Also a way to democratize a sport that is sometimes seen as reserved for a specific social category. “We’re trying to open it up more to the general public. That’s the goal of the game, to get a bit on the prout prout side, darts,” laughs Fred, who also plays both sports in Nantes. “It’s the road that made me love golf,” he says.
Two very different golf drills. Especially since Streetgolf is not affiliated with the French Golf Federation (FFG). The Sports Federation of Street Golf (FFSG) was formed in 2018. Benoîst Richard, a fan of urban golf at Urban Green Lille, has been its president since 2020. “The aim is to federate street golf associations structured around a championship. It’s also a way to standardize our rules,” explains the one used to playing downstairs from his home in Lille. It’s a state of mind. But there are cities where golf courses are not easily accessible.”
Talks between the two associations began a year ago. tame history a bit. “Small things are built, they are interested in our discipline,” says the President, also a member of the French team. He discovered this practice eight years ago. “I met people who played in Lille at 2am. Since then I never stopped. Where you want, when you want: a game philosophy that fits perfectly with street golf.