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FootGolf: A kick-start for courses in Northern California?


he fi rst time Mike Woods came across FootGolf, he deleted the email.

“I watched this one-minute video of people playing soccer on a golf course, and I thought it was crazy,” said Woods, the director of golf at Haggin Oaks in Sacramento. But the former collegiate

soccer player kicked around the idea of FootGolf in his mind the rest of that March day. Woods eventually fetched the email out of his trash that afternoon, and showed it to some colleagues.

The room full of indoor

soccer players—Haggin Oaks has its own team— was intrigued, but skeptical. They saw FootGolfers booting drives down fair- ways, carving crosses around trees and bunkers toward alternate greens, and coaxing rolling shots toward 21-inch cups cut into the ground. “It really looked like fun,

but there’s no possible way that would ever work on a golf course,” Woods remem- bers thinking. Even so, Woods and

To book a FootGolf time at Haggin Oaks, visit

12 / NCGA.ORG / FALL 2013

Each group of FootGolfers is given

a tutorial on the rules and etiquette of the game before teeing off .

his employees hung onto the idea that maybe—just maybe—FootGolf had a future. They messed around with some soc- cer balls on the practice putting green at the end

of that day, banging them off the fl agsticks for fun. Still curious, Woods

roughed out a few greens on nine holes of the Arcade Course—primitively marked by a stake in the rough— and encouraged his em- ployees to fool around some more at twilight. A group of two or three

employees quickly morphed into 18. “It became clear that

if there was a way to build FootGolf into the fabric and culture of the golf course, this could have legs,” Woods said.

Haggin Oaks became

the fi rst facility to open a FootGolf course in Northern California this July, complete with an opening-day bash that fi lled the course with 144 FootGolfers. The following has been

faithful ever since. “As far as FootGolf

catching on here, we’re way past that,” Woods said. “We’re starting to invest into remodeling some of the holes, and buying tee blocks and new fl ags. We are already mentally way down the road that this thing is successful.” FootGolf is successful

where golf isn’t. Its most popular demographic is teenagers and players in their 20s. It takes less than two hours for a foursome to play 18 holes. It attracts a much larger percentage of Latinos.

FootGolf is roping in a

new crowd (60% of Foot- Golfers at Haggin Oaks have never played golf ), and it is retaining that crowd (50% return to Haggin Oaks to play FootGolf again). That crowd is also renting carts (35%) and buying food and drinks (35%). “We’re at the very front end of the curve on this,” Woods said. “Will it catch on in Northern California? “I see it being a fi t at

certain types of golf courses. If you are a golf course that is struggling with rounds— maybe doing 30-40,000 rounds a year—I think this is an absolute slam-dunk.” A FootGolf course at Foot-

hill in Sacramento just opened, and three more in North- ern California are currently under development: Foxtail in Rohert Park, Dryden Park in Modesto, Cherry Island in Elverta and Bing Maloney, also in Sacramento. “The city of Sacramento

will be the capital of FootGolf in the U.S.,” said Roberto Balestrini, founder of the American FootGolf League. “We want to use FootGolf as an introduction to golf for people who would not be introduced otherwise.”

FootGolfers have proven to be fast learners, and even faster players. The average 18-hole FootGolf round for a foursome has been an hour and 45 minutes.

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