By Andrew Alexander & Chase Berenson
It’s not often that a new sport starts up in Baton Rouge, especially one with a crazy name like “footgolf.” A cross between soccer and golf, footgolf is the newest activity BREC has offered in the capital city.
Founded in Europe nearly a decade ago, footgolf gradually made its way across the pond to North America as an exciting, innovative way to attract new people to golf courses around the country. According to the American Footgolf League, there are 409 courses in 48 states.
BREC Golf Director Michael Raby experienced success installing footgolf at two courses in Cleveland, Ohio, attracting 5,000 new people to a golf course he oversaw. Raby jumped at the opportunity to add the growing sport to BREC’s golf course offerings.
“When I came to BREC last fall, and we saw some nine-hole golf courses that had open times for people to play, and we’re talking about how to bring new people to the golf course, it seemed like a pretty obvious thing to try,” Raby explained.
Baton Rouge now boasts two new footgolf courses at BREC’s City Park and J.S. Clark golf courses. Raby said nine-hole golf courses are the ideal location to add footgolf.
“Footgolf holes are approximately half the length of golf holes,” Raby said. “It works really well to put eighteen footgolf holes on a nine-hole golf course.
“The footgolfers can go around the footgolf course at about the same amount of time, or less, than the golfers go around the same course.”
At the new footgolf courses golf balls are exchanged for soccer balls and the holes are 21 inches in diameter.
Footgolf is played using the same general principles as golf. Footgolfers play 18 holes in order around the golf course, and each hole starts at a tee and it played until the ball is holed.
Each kick counts as a stroke, and the goal is to get the ball in the hole with the fewest number of strokes. If the ball ends up in a pond (euphemistically referred to as a “water hazard”) there’s a one-stroke penalty. Each hole has par and a defined tee.
Sounds easy, right?
Intrigued by the new hybrid sport, DIG Magazine sports editor Andrew Alexander and contributor Chase Berenson headed to City Park for a round of 18 holes to see how they stacked up against each other, and more importantly, to test out the 225’s newest recreational activity.
After 18 holes, a few things stood out to DIG’s sporting duo.
So as to be distinguished from the golf course proper, footgolf tees have a picture of a soccer ball, and the footgolf holes have the hole number printed on the flag. At the clubhouse, footgolfers can rent a soccer ball if they do not have their own, and there are direction sheets that explain each hole to ensure you don’t accidentally cross from one tee to a different hole.
Experience playing soccer may be helpful, as accuracy in long kicks helps get the ball to the green, but it certainly isn’t a necessity.
Unlike a soccer field, the course is not flat; a player also needs a golfing instincts to imagine how to use hills to the player’s advantage and surmise which direction would be the best to get around live oak trees to the hole.
Additionally, putting is hard. Unlike soccer, where your receivers are in motion and will come to the ball, footgolf holes will not help you out in anyway.
The front nine holes at City Park introduce the players to the course. Holes one through four are relatively short and flat, with minor obstacles thrown in to give the players a taste of what will come. Holes five and six begin to open up to beautiful views of University Lake.
Holes seven through nine start to get trickier, and players get their first experiences with hills and slopes.
After nine holes, Chase held a two-stroke lead over Andrew, shooting a six-over par 41.
Holes ten and eleven would be Chase’s downfall, as DIG’s contributing writer shot quintuple and double bogies on the first two holes of the back nine.
Andrew managed par on holes 10, 12 and 13 with a birdie on 11 to capture the lead he would never relinquish.
The back nine holes of City Park’s footgolf course challenge participants with hillier terrain and a couple of water hazards.
Chase’s remarkable eagle on hole 15 and impressive birdie on hole 17 closed the gap, but Andrew’s one-over par back nine performance clinched the victory for the DIG sports editor.
Chase finished the day with a 14-over par 84 compared to Andrew’s nine-over par 79. Not bad for a couple of footgolf novices, but the pair obviously have room for mega improvement.
The overall goal of BREC’s new footgolf experiment is to attract a new, younger group of people to the organization’s golf facilities.
“A lot of young kids play soccer, and it almost seems that more young kids play soccer right now than golf,” Raby said. “It is a hope that if we get some young kids who play soccer to come play footgolf, at some point they might want to try playing golf too.”
For more information about BREC’s footgolf offerings, visit: golf.brec.org/footgolf.
Check out this footgolf segment from NBC Nightly News.