On September 3, the Malraux peninsula hosted the Strasbourg Street Open, the final stage of the French championship. If you’re passing between 6pm and late at night, you’ve probably come across a crowd of people pulling golf bags and kicking balls between buildings. Kevin and Jean-Sebastian of the Strasbourg Street Golf Association made us discover this little-known sport, which allows us to discover the city in a new light.
This year, it witnessed the first Strasbourg Open in France. The 17 teams of 3 gathered at the Chaddock Pub around 5 p.m. to start the competition at 6 p.m. So the first two hours of play took place in the evening light and sunset and the next two hours at night. So at this surprising time we had an appointment with Kevin, president of the Strasbourg Street Golf Association.
We arrive early to the already crowded bar, where the ambiance is friendly. Dozens of golf bags as sticks stretch skyward, strewn across Chaddock’s front yard. Drink in hand All participants paused their discussions to say hi and welcome us. You’ll quickly understand that street golf is a big family, even on a global scale.
Trash, ashtray, chair, wall, or kougelhopf mold, everything turns into a goal
What is golf street? Just like “traditional” golf, we play as many bats (4 or 5 as is enough) and a ball, usually white or pink. The golfer must hit the target, with a predetermined number of shots (3, 4 or 5 most often). The difference here is that this is not a hole, but anything that can be found in a cityscape. A box, an ashtray, a chair, a wall, or more original, a kougelhopf mould. Just like many of the targets selected for this tournament, which were held across the Malraux peninsula.
In contrast to the green competitions, here, we play as a team, according to several formats. Those in this opening are acclaimed for being generous and cultivators. In the first case, each of the three golfers plays his ball in the thrust (first shot) before holding the best of the trio and taking turns. In the second, each person has his own ball and cannot play other people’s ball.
Many passersby stopped. Some were a bit worried seeing the ball go straight for them. But street balls are not traditional golf balls. Semi-rigid and lighter in weight, it is made so that it does not hurt anyone and avoids damaging the street furniture. And then, street golfers consider the safety of the locals their primary concern. Each hole is monitored on its departure and arrival and no ball is left unattended, even in water, where its weight allows it to float.
This sport was born in the eighties in Englandin its modern form, but it was the Germans who popularized it in the first decade of the twenty-first century in Berlin. Appeared in Strasbourg around 2007 With the Balles Perdues Association, which organized the first competition the following year. Today, there are nearly 150 players in France.
What you feel right away is the family and friendly spirit that pervades the sport. The community of players is rather small and everyone knows each other and helps each other, even outside of golf. Whether it is about housing someone temporarily at the other end of France, or to support the Indian national team in financing their visit to the 2018 World Cup in Paris. Practitioners show a unique solidarity in a competitive sport.
Strasbourg shines on the national stage
The Balles Perdues Association launched the practice in Strasbourg, but it also participated in its development in France and Europe. Since 2008 they have organized amateur competitions, and quickly, the national championship well and appropriately, with the stage in Strasbourg. The Strasbourg game was later published with tournaments expected as part of the Contre Temps Festival. Today, Balles Perdues still exists, but relayed the torch to Strasbourg Street Golf in 2019. The new association has 7 members and coordinates both the Strasbourg Street golf scenery, but has also maintained the patriotic involvement of its older sister. Kevin Thomas, president of the federation, is also the federation’s secretary.
The pandemic and various restrictions have slowed the practice a bit, but the community has quickly organized itself to launch skills challenges at home. This year, the tournament finally resumes and everyone is happy to meet and swing again between walls of glass and concrete.
This open tournament is one of the four stages of the French Championship, which allows in particular to choose the players of the national team who will participate in the European Cup and the World Cup.. The top six will face twelve other countries in the world, where the level is raised by Australian or Indian golfers. The latter is scheduled to take place on October 1 in Luxembourg, and the French national team, with the list of awards already won, has every chance. She holds the titles of World Champion (2018, in Paris) and European Champion (2019, in Brussels). Among the Strasbourg players, many shine on the national scene, such as Kevin the European Champion.
The 17 3-person teams traveled from cities as diverse as Lille, Laon, Morlaix, Metz or Grenoble. Two German friends also participated in the game. And if the sport is still mostly masculine, More and more women are coming to play.
Change your view of the city
Playing with street furniture irreparably changes the perception of the city. Like street performers, street golfers are constantly looking for the perfect spot. Strasbourg is no exception. Whether from the top of the emergency stairs at Malraux Media Library or from the University Space Square in Illkirch, the city presents original sites in a historic setting. Every box and every door becomes a potential fleeting journey. And what if we had to set a dream start in Strasbourg? The cathedral platform of course.
The practice is also developing thanks to the increased participation of cities. Creating permanent paths is one of the following steps. Such affordable courses, with rental clubs in stores around the various holes, as well as a QR code system for seeing photos of goals, will make it possible to further democratize the sport. The first of its kind appeared in Deuil-la-Barre, in Ile-de-France, at the beginning of summer.
Unlike traditional, secret and closed golf, Street golf attracts passersby, and is played between two pedestrian crossings in a narrow alley. A strong bond is created with the locals. It elicits two kinds of reactions: curiosity and amusement, or anxiety and distrust, which are generally quickly quelled by players’ pedagogy and semi-solid ball presentation.
Do you have to walk all the greens in France to play street golf?
Of all the players in Strasbourg, about half of them play traditional golf, so this is not a prerequisite. On the contrary, street golf is more accessible, as it is played in the heart of the cities. But it’s also affordable. Playing on the street costs nothing, unlike on grass pitches. Even the equipment is cheaper: the quality of the club is much less important.
So, to start, Count about fifteen euros for a group of 4 clubs from used dealers (Emwas for example), and about 2 euros per ball (recovered each time). The late-night Strasbourg Open ended with a victory for the All is Golf team (from Reims, Lille and Angers). Streetgolf Grenoble and Médiaballes Laon Street Golf complete the podium.
Is a street golf adventure tempting you? Feel free to get close to Kevin and Strasbourg Street Golf!