Hit the links but leave the clubs at home. A new hybrid sport called FootGolf is coming to the Largo Golf Club.
"It's like the game of golf, only played with a soccer ball," said Jason Wilson, the golf course's supervisor. "It's pretty exciting. We're the eighth certified FootGolf course in the nation, the second in Florida and first in Tampa Bay."
The game is played using a regulation No. 5 soccer ball on a golf course where 21-inch diameter holes, 14 inches deep, have been carved into the turf. Players tee off and aim for the holes marked with red flags, kicking their way through the 9- or 18-hole course with as few shots as possible. The lowest score wins.
FootGolf kicks off this weekend with two big events.
On Saturday, the golf course hosts its inaugural FootGolf Open House. Beginning at 1 p.m., all are invited to "walk the course and kick the ball around." The event is free and includes music, complimentary food and drinks, and giveaways. Participants are encouraged to bring their soccer ball. Loaners will be available on a limited basis.
Then at 4 p.m., those who have preregistered to play in Sunday's Tampa Bay FootGolf Open, a game sanctioned by the Florida FootGolf Association and the American FootGolf League, can play a practice round.
On Sunday, registration for the open begins at 11:30 a.m. with tee off at 1 p.m. and an awards ceremony at 4 p.m. The tournament is limited to the first 96 FootGolfers and consists of a round of FootGolf along with complimentary lunch, FootGolf hats and prizes. Fees range from $59 for an individual, $105 for a twosome and $199 for a foursome. Go online to footgolf.net to preregister.
Note that soccer cleats will not be allowed on the course — only indoor turf shoes or sneakers. Casual dress is fine for the open house, but proper attire is encouraged for the tournament and includes a collared shirt and shorts (no soccer attire). For a really dapper look, come dressed with a drivers cap and argyle socks — knee-highs, if you please.
FootGolf is a family-friendly game designed to appeal to not only dad, but mom, the kids, and grandma and grandpa, too.
"Anyone that can kick a soccer ball," said Wilson.
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Golf courses have seen declining revenues during the recession but FootGolf, which is sweeping through Europe, South America and has a foothold in California, could be a game changer for Largo and the industry as a whole.
"We're an executive (shorter) golf course that traditionally attracts seniors and beginners," Wilson said. "We want to expand our customer base and draw in people of all ages. As they become familiar with the game and the course, they may try golf, too."
He said the shorter, city-owned course is an ideal length for soccer kicks.
The advantages of FootGolf are many.
The game can be played in a relatively short time — about an hour and 15 minutes for nine holes. No special skills or equipment are needed to play. It's good exercise. You can ride a golf cart around the course, or choose to walk since there are no heavy clubs to carry.
It's cheaper than golf, too.
Rounds for 18 holes are $15 to walk and $20 to ride a golf cart. Juniors, 14 and under, walk for $5; ride for $10 with a paying adult.
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Beginning Oct. 12, regular tee times for FootGolf will be available on weekend afternoons. Plans are for the traditional golfers to play simultaneously with FootGolfers on the course.
It will be interesting to see how cheers and squeals from little kickers are received.
"We're looking forward to that," said Wilson. "We aren't a traditional golf course; we're part of the city of Largo's recreation department. We do have some core golfers that we definitely don't want to interfere with and usually they just play in the mornings.
"We will have to do our part and teach FootGolfers about the etiquette of golf."
Correspondent Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.