If you haven’t heard of FootGolf before, it is a precision sport where players kick a soccer ball into a cup in as few shots as possible. Players use a shortened golf course with large holes and keep score like you would in golf. Not only is this an interesting new take on the traditional game, but it is thriving at certain golf courses in the U.S. and the UK. In fact, in the UK it is one of the quickest growing sports around. The development of the sport has been so quick that in the UK 15% of golf courses will have duel use facilities by the end of 2017 and a trend of failing clubs being bought for complete FootGolf transformations is increasing.
To understand the impact and possibilities offered by FootGolf, we’ve answered some common questions about this up and coming trend:
Is it not just a thing for Europeans?
The largest FootGolf playing nation is actually the USA, who were the winners of the recent FootGolf World Cup, played this year in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This year, 22 nations took part, the majority of whom were European.
One of the most popular sports in the world, soccer is growing in presence and popularity every day in the United States. FootGolf allows for people of all abilities and ages interested in the sport to take part with minimal cost, training, or equipment. Millennials in the US are one of the fastest growing segments of soccer fans, and are eager for new opportunities to enjoy the global phenomenon. The potential market for the sport is, therefore, huge.
Why would I want FootGolf on my Course?
For golf course operators, the beauty of adding FootGolf is that it doesn't cost much. Reuters says the investment can be as low as $5,000 and that there are currently more than 400 certified FootGolf courses in the U.S.
In this same Reuters story, PGA director at the Haggin Oaks golf complex in Sacramento, California says he booked 9,120 rounds in his first year offering FootGolf. That number has stayed consistent despite eight other local courses joining the FootGolf fray. Woods said Haggin Oaks netted $186,000 in revenue from just FootGolf in 2014.
In the UK last year, there were an estimated 30,000 FootGolf players a week spread out over 200 courses. Each of these players paid between €10 and €20 per round. The cost of creating a 9-hole course to coincide with the existing golf course is around €3800 for design, build and equipment. Kieran Lawry, Operations Director at the UK FootGolf Association told us that “in the UK the majority of clubs see a full return on this initial investment in 3 to 4 weeks. Courses that are fully converted, such as the FootGolf Course in Doncaster, have seen over 700 rounds in their first week, completely covering the cost of an 18-hole conversion”.
FootGolf has also proven to be a great option for corporate outings, fundraisers, and other events. There reasoning is quite simple. With no need for expensive equipment and that fact that the learning curve isn't as severe, FootGolf is more accessible to a broad audience than it's traditional counterpart. As we all know, the most endearing and frustrating part of golf its difficulty. It can be tough to learn, particularly in a short period of time. FootGolf, on the other hand, is second nature to most.
Where would it fit within my Course?
Generally, you are looking to try and get an 18-hole FootGolf course to coincide with the front 9 of your existing golf course. The tee’s and greens sit off to the sides in the rough with the course being laid out to utilize existing hazards whilst going nowhere near existing golf greens. When the holes are covered up with lids and the tee box markers are taken away you couldn’t tell there is a course there at all.
Most of the 200 courses in the UK that host a FootGolf course in this manner find that it adapts to their timetable as well as their course. Quiet weekday afternoons and the occasional Saturday for competitions are given over to FootGolf players, meaning that there is minimal effect on the everyday running of the course.
Is this not a cheapening of my Club?
The way Kieran Lawry see’s it is as “an extension of an existing facility, just in a slightly different way. It has the same rules, same scoring, the same dress codes, but it is way more accessible. Our members have found that many of the people coming to play FootGolf are going on to become a regular customer of the club. Whether this be in eating in the restaurant, booking the bar for a function or taking up golf and membership themselves”.
Wether or not adding FootGolf to your golf course is the right choice, its an important new trend in the golf industry to be aware of. "FootGolf is to the golf industry what snowboarding was to the ski industry," said Laura Balestrini, president of the American FootGolf League, founded in 2011, saying it has created a new audience for expensive-to-maintain golf facilities. With the younger generations exiting the golf scene in droves, a small investment into a new side of the industry may just be the next source of revenue you’ve been looking for.