By Ryan Kaczmarski
There is a new sport taking the country by storm. It combines the popular sports of golf and soccer to make FootGolf, and it can be played locally at the Mastick Woods Golf Course in the Cleveland Metroparks Rocky River Reservation.
“Last year, we had some people who thought it would be good at our golf courses approach us, so we put a nine-hole footgolf course in over at Shawnee Hills,” Cleveland Metroparks PGA golf professional Mike Raby said. “It really didn’t get much exposure, and it didn’t get a lot of attention.
“That was a slow start for the sport in the Cleveland area, but it seems like soccer is a little bigger on the West Side, and Mastick Woods could use a little more play, so we decided to try the footgolf over here and see what happens.”
The sport has seemed to have clicked with the public at the Mastick Woods location.
“The response has been very positive,” Raby said. “In April, we had more than 400 rounds of footgolf played at the course, which was about 29 percent of all the play at Mastick to that point.
“That was a pretty good start, and the word is slowly getting out there, so there is potential to get an even better response throughout the summer. As we get busier, there will be more golfers out there, but at the same time, there might be more footgolfers out there.”
Footgolf can be played any time the course is open, and participants just need to make a tee-time reservation, just as if they were golfing. As a matter of fact, the footgolf rounds could coincide with regular golf rounds, as groups may play through.
“At this point, that’s how we are doing it,” Raby explained. “It’s patterned after a public golf course in California called Hagen Oaks, that’s real well known as a privately-run public golf course. They put in footgolf at one of their nines (out of 36 holes) last year. They think it’s been very successful, and they are fine with intermingling the footgolfers and regular golfers on the course. We saw that they were successful, and that’s why we decided to try it here.”
The rules of the game are the same as in golf, except you are using a regulation No. 5 soccer ball instead of golf clubs and balls, and the course is set up accordingly to keep realistic par distances.
“You don’t kick a soccer ball nearly as far as you can hit a golf ball, so the footgolf holes are shorter,” Raby continiued. “A par-3 is about 90 yards or fewer. The par-4’s are about 90-175 yards, and the par-5’s are more than 175 yards.
“In some spots, the footgolf tee area is at the golf tee, but in other areas it’s on the side of the fairway, because most of the golf holes have two or three footgolf holes on them.”
Footgolf can be played at a much faster pace than traditional golf.
“You don’t spend time looking for your ball,” Raby joked. “Generally it’s played like golf, where the ball farthest from the hole kicks first, but it’s not really an exact science like golf. There’s more ‘just play your own ball’ than in traditional golf.”
Depending on the demand, there might be more of a need to eventually make footgolf-only tee times. Right now, that is not the case.
“We may end up with some footgolf leagues, but at this point it’s just tee times,” Raby added. “There might be a footgolf group teeing off, with a golf group right behind them.”
The sport has gained popularity with local soccer teams, as they try to keep in condition during the offseason, and have some fun.
“The Case-Western Reserve soccer team has come out to play here, as well as the John Carroll University team,” Raby said. “The local professional soccer team (AFC Cleveland Royals) has also come out to play this footgolf course, so we do think the footgolfers are going to come in big groups.
“So far, we don’t have any formal leagues, but it probably isn’t that far off.”
For more information on playing footgolf at the Cleveland Metroparks courses, go to www.clevelandmetroparks.com/FootGolf, or to schedule a tee time, call 216-267-5626.