The game of golf has been around for hundreds of years, dating back to 15th century Scotland. The concept is very straightforward: Take a ball, start far away from a hole, put the ball into the hole while hitting it as few times as possible, repeat. Over recent years, this simple concept has been distorted and manipulated in many ways. There’s been the evolution of mini-putt, as well as the advent of Frisbee golf. Now, there’s another form of golf that has been taking off worldwide: Footgolf.Image Source: coachellavalley.com
The term “footgolf” is a blend of the words “golf” and “football,” and the game is exactly what the name suggests. Participants use a soccer ball in place of a golf ball, and in place of clubs they simply use their feet to kick the ball into the (enlarged) hole in as few punts as possible. The rules resemble the game that it has modified. Your ball should be easy to identify, it must come to a complete stop before you can play it again, and you have to play it as it lies. It even maintains the same hazards any player has come to loathe: water hazards, looming trees, and, yes, even sand bunkers. The only main difference is the equipment. Instead of investing in sleeves of balls, a set of clubs, a golf bag, and all of the other expenses that are necessarily for regular golf, footgolf simply requires one soccer ball and one functional foot.Image Source: williamlandgc.com
Footgolf even has its own regulatory body in the American FootGolf League (AFGL). Founded in 2011, the AFGL is to footgolf what the PGA is to the standard form of the game. The AFGL has been the regulatory body that sets the parameters for footgolf course design, how courses should be laid out, and how the yardage of a hole relates to par. They also handicap footgolf courses and establish equipment standards. Footgolf also boasts a rule book of 47 pages, which seems downright paltry compared to the PGA’s comparable authority on the rules that is 215 pages long. The AFGL was also responsible for organizing the team that represented America in the inaugural Footgolf World Cop that took place in Budapest, Hungary during 2012. They will also be sending a team to this year’s tournament in Argentina. The AFGL now boasts 452 footgolf courses spread across 49 of 50 states (sorry North Dakota).
The PGA themselves have taken note of the footgolf phenomena and embraced it. Former PGA President Ted Bishop identified footgolf as a method of expanding the game of golf through the formation of his “Growth of the Game” task force in 2014. This task force, which contained a diverse group including current PGA CEO Pete Bevacqua, former LPGA and current analyst Dottie Pepper and former American skier Bode Miller, saw footgolf as an opportunity to increase golf’s exposure to people who otherwise may not have gotten into the game. “I think the thing that excites me the most,” Bishop said about footgolf at the time, “is you’ve got the chance here to bring people in who are soccer crazy and to give them the opportunity to go to a golf course…I think it’d be ludicrous to think that there won’t be a percentage of those people who might say, ‘Hey, you know what? I’d like to try to play golf.’” This sentiment was echoed by Kevin Fateley, a superintendent who installed a footgolf course at Wildcat Creek in Kansas and recouped the $4,000 he invested in course equipment within a couple months. “In a few years, you’ll see people who started out in FootGolf, then at some point pick up a golf club, and eventually play both.”
This all may seem well and good to the average golfer, but that golfer also probably doesn’t see much of a benefit to playing footgolf asImage Source: beekmangolf.com
it pertains to their regular golf game. However, there are some underlying benefits to the average golfer beyond simply just having another excuse to go outside and enjoy nature. First of all, there’s the obvious benefit that it is cheaper. The average golfer loses at least one ball over the course of 18 holes, especially if your local course contains water hazards. With footgolf, the possibility of losing a ball is next to nothing, given that the size of the ball makes it easier to spot. Also soccer balls, unlike golf balls, float.But there are also advantages to playing footgolf that can translate over to your regular swing. For example, it can enable you to gain more distance. The secret to gaining distance is knowing how to plant your legs, fire your hips, and coordinating all of it. A proper downswing starts when you plant your left foot. The same plant is required when coiling up to kick a soccer ball for a long distance. After that, you turn your hips in order to generate more torque so that you can keep accelerating all the way to the point of contact. Your hips are a crucial part of your golf swing, just the same as it is for kicking a soccer ball.
Now, obviously there’s a glaring cosmetic difference. When you kick a ball, you’re planting your foot and firing your hips directly along your target line, whereas in golf you’re planting your foot and firing your hips perpendicular to the same line. However, the action is fundamentally the same. Footgolf offers the added benefit of making this planting of your foot a focal point of your “swing,” whereas traditional golfer tend to focus on what their arms are doing and ignoring the bottom half of their body entirely. In theory, focusing on planting your foot and firing your hips on a footgolf course should normalize this thought process and behavior, as well as helping you feel what’s it’s like to coordinate these behaviors properly. Once you’ve learned how to coordinate your legs and hips properly, a golfer would be able to translate this ability into his or her regular swing, resulting in longer drives off the tee and easier approaches to the green.
The advent of footgolf will still take some time for traditional golfers to get used to. Perhaps the idea of sharing the same space with a group of people who appear from a distance to just be kicking a ball may seem unsettling. But footgolf has already received the endorsement of the PGA and can improve the score of a traditional golfer, if one allows themselves the capacity to be open to new experiences. For listings on footgolf courses in your area, go to the AFGL website. Then grab a foursome, book a time, and get going!