Golf isn’t really the way it’s depicted on TV.
It’s not just a golfer’s quest to complete a course in as few strokes as possible; nor is it only thousands of televised shots, every round accompanied by polite applause and (all too often) a rude fan’s shout: “Get in the hole.”
No, golf also can be a long, languid walk, with plenty of time for contemplation and conversation – time to come up with quotes like the definition of golf that’s most often attributed to President Woodrow Wilson: “An ineffectual attempt to put an elusive ball into an obscure hole with implements ill-adapted for the purpose.”
In that vein then, enthusiasts of the increasingly-popular game of FootGolf try to put a wholly less-elusive ball (a soccer ball, in fact) into a quite-prominent hole with implements perfectly adapted to the task – their feet.
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Similar to traditional golfers, FootGolfers also drive the soccer balls down an open fairway from tees, kick the balls toward pins, and sink “putts” into holes marked with pins, “getting their kicks” using as few as possible.
According to the American FootGolf League, FootGolf is a hybrid of soccer and golf, using a regulation No. 5 soccer ball at a golf facility, with shortened holes and 21-inch diameter cups, regulated by the Federation for International FootGolf, of which AFGL is an exclusive US member. Rules approximating those of golf itself were formalized in the wake of the first FootGolf 2012 World Cup in Budapest, Hungary.
“Today, there are more than 30 countries playing it as a game at different levels and with slightly different rules,” the AFGL website said.
While the two internationally-popular sports of soccer and golf might infer a natural affinity in Europe’s soccer-crazed countries, the sport has now sprung up in the U.S. like dandelions in the fairway.
“I first heard about FootGolf in general a couple years ago,” said John Meeker, Southwest U.S. Regional Sales Manager for the Hillsborough-based company Eurosport. Meeker and several other Eurosport co-workers were accompanying visiting vendors from Baltimore, MD-based Under Armour last Tuesday at Hillsborough’s Occoneechee Golf Club, the first and only course in Orange County to adapt portions of its course for FootGolf play.
“A buddy of mine owns a ball manufacturing company out in California,” Meeker added. “FootGolf has gotten pretty big out there, and his ball company in San Francisco is trying to get more golf courses to get involved. I’d heard about it, but then I heard that a golf course out in Garner was doing it.”
Meeker said it was common for his co-workers to visit the course for a round of FootGolf with fellow employees or visitors.
“We’ve done a few events out here with our summer interns that come in from Mexico – that was around 30 people – and we had tons of groups,” he said. “We bring them out, we have fun, we get to play, and it’s a great sort of get-to-know-you outside of the (office).”
Meeker said Occoneechee Golf Course contacted Eurosport last year about helping to adapt the local course.
“A couple guys in our grassroots promotions department got involved,” he said. “They got three holes installed, and then they invited us out to test them. They installed another six holes, then they got the whole thing set up.”
Occoneechee course pro Tim Schwab said the installation of the course in a way that didn’t diminish the beauty or use of its existing golf facilities was relatively simple.
“(Occoneechee General manager) Scott Ray had heard about it and decided to try it out this year,” Schwab explained, “so we put the holes in last fall, and we started trying it out this past spring. We just had to bring in some special equipment to install the hole-baskets, and we have some soccer balls for those who don’t bring their own.”
Occoneechee uses separate scheduling to avoid conflicts for golfers and FootGolfers.
“We do the FootGolf mostly on weekday afternoons, and we try to block off a few tee times after them so we don’t have golfers right on top of them,” Schwab said. “There are 18 FootGolf holes just on our front nine holes, so it doesn’t take up the whole golf course. Plus, tee markers are in the rough near the golf tee boxes, and the foot golf holes are off in the rough too.”
Schwab said FootGolfers haven’t caused a problem for traditional golfers as yet.
“The FootGolfers move along pretty quickly – the adults especially,” he said. “Sometimes families with children might move a little more slowly, as a few more families now finding out more about it.”
“Yeah, it’s quicker than golf,” Meeker said, “and it’s cheaper.”
FootGolf tee time reservations at Occoneechee Golf Club for Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays after 4 p.m. are available through their website (http://occoneechee.com) or by calling them at (919) 732-3435. Prices for adults are just $10 for a round of FootGolf, with a $10 cart fee. Children aged 11 and under accompanied by an adult are just $5 with a $5 cart fee.
Including Occoneechee, FootGolf is now being played at 15 courses throughout North Carolina, including several other local courses in the Triangle, Schwab said, including Keith Hills Golf Club in Buies Creek, the Challenge Golf Club in Graham, and the Raleigh Golf Association.
For the most up-to-date list of courses offering the activity, visit the website for the AFGL, which is contacting many of the nation’s 16,000 golf courses with the intention of growing the sport in the United States, just as it is still growing worldwide.
“More than twenty countries are members of the FIFG and take it as a serious sport,” the AFGL website stated. “Even more, most FootGolfers hope that FootGolf will become an Olympic sport in the next few decades.”
For Meeker, however, the sport’s best feature is how it lends itself to casual recreation.
“For us, it’s fun to be able to enjoy soccer in a way that doesn’t require you to have a lot of people or (tear an ACL),” he said. “This is low-key, it’s fun, it’s outside, and it’s a great way to get to know people and goof off.”
It’s a hybrid sport combining golf and soccer.
The objective is to get a soccer ball into a 21-inch-diameter hole in the fewest amount of kicks.
The “tee box” and FootGold fairways commonly are laid out along the edge of the golf course.
A round usually takes 2 hours, and usually costs much less than a round of golf.
Not all courses have soccer balls available for rental. Bringing your own is suggested.
Soccer cleats are prohibited by most courses. The typical player wears running or training shoes.
Most courses offer scorecards and carts, but many suggest walking for the health benefits and to expedite all players going directly to their ball.