Soccer and golf as one?
It seems River Ridge GC is one step ahead of the rest of the state.
This past Sunday, the Oxnard golf course kicked off its new FootGolf program, welcoming more than 160 people to join in on a craze that has become wildly popular overseas. The new sport, which fuses the games of golf and soccer, is increasingly popular on an international level, after being founded in 2009 by a Dutch soccer player.
So what exactly is FootGolf, and why is it being played at a Southern California golf course? FootGolf uses the basic model of golf, with a tee box, a green, bunkers, hazards and 18 holes of play. There is par for each hole, mimicking golf’s scorecard, and you still play as a twosome, threesome or foursome. The main difference is the cup, which is 21 inches in diameter, and the lack of equipment needed (no need to carry around heavy golf clubs in FootGolf!). In short, it’s a modified golf game played with a soccer ball, and the best part of it for golf courses? The game has the ability to be played on a golf course without disrupting golf play. An enticing option for courses struggling to bring in the revenue they saw years ago.
“It all started with a phone call from Roberto Balestrini, who founded the American FootGolf League in 2011,” stated Otto Kanny, general manager at River Ridge GC in Oxnard, Calif. “He told us to look it up and I immediately thought we might as well try it. It has some great potential for [River Ridge] and the members have been interested in this new adventure as well.”
Instead of building tennis courts and pools to bring in new revenue, golf courses are looking to attract customers in different ways, and many hope FootGolf will be that second-income opportunity that will bring much-needed revenue to struggling golf courses across the United States. According to Balestrini, most golf course managers he’s talked to have been quite receptive to the idea as a way to introduce their facility to new people.
“We currently have more than 200 requests from golf courses across the country that wish to learn more and hopefully implement FootGolf,” said Balestrini. “I’m definitely excited for the potential this sport has.”
Kanny and his staff at River Ridge spent the last five months converting parts of the front nine of River Ridge’s Vineyard Course into an appropriate FootGolf track. The greens are mowed down in parts of the rough, and some hills and landscaping was changed or removed to accommodate the new sport. When it’s time for regular golf play, the 21-inch cups are covered with artificial turf lids, minimizing the effect on golfers.
“I put little money into building the FootGolf course,” explains Kanny. “We all pitched in to create this course, which zig-zags around nine holes of the Vineland Course. The best part is it will have minimal interference with daily golf play.”
Sunday’s kickoff event boasted a field of 104 FootGolf players, which included both experienced players from overseas as well as first-timers. It was the largest turnout of three tournaments that the AFGL has held in the United States, and by the end of the day, those watching and cheering on their family and friends were so impressed by how much fun everyone was having that they feel compelled to try the new sport out for themselves. “It was my second FootGolf event,” explained Jose Corona, who also played in a Las Vegas event last fall. “It’s really exciting to see more players picking up the game.” For him, it was a family affair as well; seven other Corona’s were playing.
Corona’s cousin Abel added that he has only played golf three times in his life, “But this game is different. It’s a great way to have the family meet up and play a sport that anyone can play. Golf takes more time to learn. Anyone can kick a soccer ball.”
River Ridge’s FootGolf course is now open to the public. The cost to play is $10 for adults and $5 for children. The course is accessible Monday – Friday beginning at 1 p.m., allowing for golf during the day on all 36 holes before closing the front nine of the Vineyard Course in the afternoon for FootGolfers. “I don’t think many people will complain about this. They’ll still be able to play the back nine and [Victoria Lakes] course in the afternoon,” said Kanny.