Sagamore-Hampton Golf Club in North Hampton has all the characteristics of a golf course. It has manicured fairways, rows of golf carts and a pristine clubhouse. Its patrons are all dressed in golfing garb, awaiting their turn to tee off down the first fairway. However, there is something a little odd about this course, something that doesn’t quite fit.
Amidst the traditional golfers are young kids holding soccer balls. They are here for a different game called FootGolf. That’s right, FootGolf, a sport that combines golf and soccer.
FootGolf is the latest attempt by the golfing world to attract newcomers to their sport, explains Kate Blais, Clubhouse Manager at Sagamore-Hampton.
“It’s a great way to introduce golf to people. Someone that doesn’t usually play golf comes and sees our facilities, gets to learn about our course and they are introduced to the game in a fun, new way.”
FootGolf, which originated in Europe in 2009, is played exactly like golf. Games are played on 18-hole courses with the objective to shoot par or better on each hole. At Sagamore-Hampton the FootGolf holes are located on the sides of fairways. Just like golf, foot golfers are given tee times, their designated time to begin a game.
Sagamore-Hampton is one of two FootGolf courses in New England. 18 holes of FootGolf at Sagamore-Hampton costs just $17 (traditional golf rounds range from $25 to $46 at the course). They offer the game until 2:30 on weekdays and after 5:30 every night.
When I decided to try it out, I expected the traditional golfers at the course to be irritated with those playing the alternate game. Instead, they expressed a mix of confusion and intrigue.
“Let’s see what you got,” said one golfer, “Try to clear that pond over there.”
I tried. Unfortunately, I failed, smashing my ball into the pond. With traditional golf, it’s easy to forget about your ball. A shot into the water is merely souvenir for a local turtle. In FootGolf, however, it’s necessary to retrieve your ball.
For the past two years I’ve tried my hand at traditional golf, and I’m no Tiger Woods. After my drive, I often find myself with one leg in a poison ivy patch, the other knee-deep in a fast moving river.
FootGolf, however, is a different story. Despite my one trip into the pond, the game is user friendly and easy to learn. It's easy to imagine kids playing the game and transferring the skills they've learned in soccer leagues.
FootGolf may come at the perfect time for a sport that’s going through a rough patch. According to the National Golf Foundation, 400,000 people stopped playing the sport in 2013.
In a recent article by Forbes, analysts speculate that reduced leisure time and the disappearance of a strong middle class have taken big chunks out of golf’s participants. FootGolf doesn't require the same commitment to learn, however, and is significantly less expensive to gear up for and play. And perhaps, with a nation still inspired by the recent World Cup, FootGolf will become a popular activity in the states.
If you do decide to go to Sagamore and try it out for yourself, I do have one piece of advice: STAY AWAY from the water.