Alex Van Alen spent his youth playing two sports: golf and lacrosse. And, as he grew older, he figured the cradling-and-throwing that defines the college sport would be well-suited for the fairway. So, on a whim, he started forming a game where participants could chuck a golf ball with a stick rather than smash it with a 7-iron.
“I started experimenting with a Jai Alai basket and working on different shot shapes and spins and my holy grail was to build something that I could get out on a golf course and throw two hundred yards,” explains Alen.
The fundamentals of FlingGolf are the same as standard golf. Players drive, chip, and putt to get to a specific goal. But instead of wielding a bag full of different clubs, they use a single lightweight carbon fiber stick called a FlingStick, which, has a golf ball cradling channel at one end. Balls are launched toward the hole either overhead or sidearm using a, well, flinging motion. Unlike its parent sport where multiple lessons are needed to gain the confidence and coordination to step out onto the fairway, FlingGolf only requires about a half bucket of balls on the range to really get the hang of play. Since whipping the ball down the course is far more intuitive — and less complex — than the average golf swing, first timers often have no issues keeping their ball out of the rough.
Alt-golf sports, that is those that fuse other leisure activities with the basic play of the country club favorite, have exploded in recent years. There’s Disc Golf, the Frisbee-golf hybrid, and Foot Golf, where players trade the standard Titleist for a soccer ball and their clubs for their feet. But what sets FlingGolf apart from these that the game can be played alongside regular golfers with zero alterations to the course.
It’s also much simpler to take up.
“My son, who is 12 going on 13, lives for lacrosse, it’s all he does and my daughter who is 10 plays too,” says Jason Imbs, a technical operations manager with WWE based in Florida. “My son saw FlingGolf being played on Instagram and kept asking me and asking me to try it, so we got him a FlingStick for Christmas.”
After playing a round last summer, Imbs and his family were immediately hooked and bought more sticks so they could play together.
One of the biggest draws is that FlingGolf requires far less of the neurotic swing mechanics that make the traditional game so time-consuming. You can grab a stick, practice once, hit the course, and probably not suck.
Even seasoned golfers are hitting the course with sticks.
“I can score as well playing FlingGolf as I can in regular golf,” relates Ben Vink, owner of Tillsonview Fairways, an 18-hole executive course in Tillsonburg, Ontario. A traditional golfer, Vink got a handle
A traditional golfer, Vink got a handle on the new game very quickly, the only hurdle he had was figuring out when to stop the flinging motion which allows the ball rocket toward your target. “You don’t have learn how to use a whole bunch of clubs, you just have to figure out the release point and then it’s just about how much you’re going to put behind [each shot]”.
If it takes a couple of shots to stick the green with golf clubs, the same is true with a FlingStick. That means so pace of play is on par with the parent game. Once on the green, pushing or pulling the ball towards the hole in lieu of putting can seem pretty foreign to golfers and Vink has noticed players toting a regular putter with them along with their FlingStick.
Might FlingGolf become the next great American past time? There are already three hundred courses carrying FlingSticks in the U.S, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Europe and the sport has been played on easily double that number. The company has also partnered with the National Golf Course Owners Association, who are actually pretty stoked to see the younger demographic coming out to play. As youth participation in the traditional game declines, FlingGolf could serve as a way to keep facilities open.
But one thing is for sure: fathers have their work cut out for them. While it can often take upwards of a decade of play before a kid can experience the glory of beating their dad at regular golf, the classic coming of age parental-smackdown in FlingGolf tends to happen a whole lot quicker.
“I have strength on my side [for the moment], I can throw it far but my son is incredibly accurate having the lacrosse skills,” Imbs says. “If he was more patient when he got to the green, we would be neck and neck.”