Soccer-golf hybrid FootGolf grows in US, helps courses draw younger and more diverse customers
Kurt Tyszkiewicz and his wife enjoy golf, and their daughters are soccer players.
On a recent weekday, the Detroit-area family played both sports at the same time, with 18 holes of FootGolf.
The soccer-golf hybrid has gained a foothold in the U.S., where officials at a number of courses say it's helping them financially and drawing a younger and more diverse crowd.
And repeat customers.
"We'll absolutely come back," said Tyszkiewicz, a 44-year-old school district administrator from Canton Township, Michigan. "It was a great event for a family and a lot of fun."
His family's inaugural FootGolf round was played at Fox Hills Golf & Banquet Center in nearby Salem Township, which started offering the sport at its Strategic Fox par-3 course in May.
Fox Hills added larger FootGolf holes — 21 inches in diameter — but other than that, the course looks the same.
The rules are largely the same as well.
Players tee off by kicking a soccer ball from the tee box. They follow the basic rules of golf, advancing the ball until it drops into the oversized hole.
What is different is who's playing.
Most FootGolfers who play at Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in Sacramento, California, are "teens, kids, 20-somethings — heavier on the Hispanic side — lots of families," said Mike Woods, PGA director of golf at Haggin Oaks, which started offering FootGolf last summer.
"It's kind of everything golf's not," in terms of demographics, Woods said. "And we're really happy about that."
Haggin Oaks averages 700 to 1,000 FootGolf rounds per month at its Arcade Creek course. Comparatively, Arcade Creek hosts 3,000 to 4,000 golf rounds over the same period.
"This year, (FootGolf) will have about a $75,000 positive impact on our bottom line," said Woods. He said an informal survey of players at the first hole shows that 60 percent of FootGolfers never had been to a golf course before.
The uptick in FootGolf interest domestically can be traced to 2011 when Roberto Balestrini founded the American FootGolf League, which is the governing body for the sport in the U.S.
The Palm Springs, California-based AFGL has accredited 160 courses in 32 states and does so at no charge.
FootGolfers bring a different energy to the course, said Woods, who added that it's not unusual to see them high-fiving after a big shot or doing cartwheels down the fairway.
While there were no acrobatic maneuvers involved, a threesome playing behind the Tyszkiewiczes at Fox Hills generated excitement during their round.
When 20-year-old Josh Maxam's long, winding putt found the bottom of the cup, his two playing partners roared.
"That was money," Philip Taucher yelled, referring to his friend's birdie putt.
But Taucher, the clubhouse manager for Fox Hills' FootGolf course, just as easily could have been referencing the financial impact FootGolf has had during its month-and-a-half stay.
"It's changed our business. ... Eventually, everybody is going to see this is a win-win," he said.
American FootGolf League: http://www.footgolf.net