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FootGolf: The best of both sports

10/8/2014

FootGolf, a combination of soccer and golf, is a game of surprising skill that most anyone can master.

FootGolf, a combination of soccer and golf, is a game of surprising skill that most anyone can master.

You have to admit that FootGolf (a.k.a., SoccerGolf for Americans) sounds like the “brilliant idea” your buddy came up with after a night of excess. Sure it makes sense, and it’s doable — but only in a buddy’s backyard, right? Not if you’ve already got a golf course and a stirring interest in the new venture.

“We tried to get the ball rolling this past summer on FootGolf, but there was a nine-week backorder on the equipment,” said Joe Chiodo, manager at Bright Grandview Golf Course. “But as soon as our name was on the retailer’s list, we started getting calls asking if the course was set up yet.”

If you have ever been out golfing, you already know the basic rules of FootGolf. Scoring is the same as golf: Every player is attempting to get the ball in the hole in as few kicks (strokes) as possible. The person with the lowest score after the round ends is the winner.

While your first instinct might be to lace up your soccer cleats, think for a second: This is a golf course — opt for some tennis shoes. The rest of the ensemble (though not required) mimics that of “The Legend of Baggar Vance” in khaki shorts, a polo shirt (vest optional), flat cap (golf cap) and some knee-high argyle socks to class it up.

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Standard hazards still await on the course. Landing in the water may cost you a stroke, but on the plus side, the ball floats, unlike a golf ball. Sand pits continue to loom. As in golf, where you can’t touch the club to the sand, in FootGolf you’re not allowed to take a running start: simply plant and kick.

“In some of the online videos, it looks like they’re playing right up on the green,” said Chiodo. “Our course keeps players off the greens and away from most hazards. We’re not looking to destroy the greens and, at this time at least, we want to keep the FootGolf course difficult but not so much people don’t want to come back for another round.”

When folks first get out on the course, they might be a little underwhelmed. The first goal is a mere 126 yards away and the second, only 90 yards. To the eye, those distances don’t seem that far. But your foot might be surprised.

“When we first set up the course, we were thinking, ‘We’re gonna be able to kick this ball for miles… it’s gonna roll,’” Chiodo said. “Well, then we all took a kick and we were dumbfounded. The ball didn’t go anywhere and, like golf, many had shanks and hooks like you wouldn’t believe.”

It’s something golfers don’t think about when making the switch, Chiodo said. A golf ball flies 80 percent of the time and rolls 20 percent, while a soccer ball does the exact opposite.

“It’s not about playing just the green or fairway. You have to see the entirety of the hole to figure out your best shot,” he said. “This is a sport that is literally for anyone who can make it out to the course. We’ve had high school to college soccer players, as well as curious friends out on the course, and the opinion is split. Some think it’s easy, others find it difficult, but everyone seems to be enjoying it all the same.” CV

David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Bright Grandview Golf Course
2401 E. 29th St., Des Moines
Every Saturday and Sunday, 12 – 4 p.m., for the remainder of the 2014 golf season. Green fees are $12 per person, and soccer balls are available to rent for $3 each. Motorized carts are also available for an additional fee.

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