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Breezy Point

Local Golf
November 19, 2017

FootGolf? Disc Golf? Can They Help Golf?
RJ Smiley

As the game of golf attempts to escape STAGNATION or RECESSION, you choose the adjective, many golf course owners feel like a man bobbing in the sea searching for a life preserver. National and local golf organizations continue to invent new concepts hoping that this will be the life preserver for the golf industry.

Last month we traveled across the Pacific to Japan to peek into Park Golf, the one club alternative to the game we love. Park Golf might develop a few new "real" golfers, but it is not the turn-the-industry-around game many are looking for. This month we will look at two more variations of golf: Disc Golf and FootGolf. Both of these versions of golf are played outdoors on a designed course, but neither uses a club. Only FootGolf uses a ball. Rather than get into long discussion on the history of these two variations of golf let's get to the heart of each.

Disc Golf
Imagine taking a regular old frisbee out to your golf course and throwing that frisbee, the one with the dog teeth marks all over it, from the tee to the green and finally hitting the flagstick in as few throws as possible. You are playing Disc Golf. The problem is that Disc Golf and regular golf do not work well together. The flying frisbee or disc, as it is called, is hard to control, especially for new players. Real golfers don't want these "hippie" looking people on their golf course throwing flying saucers all over the place.

There is a Disc Golf Association, DCA, established in 1976 that has established a standard set of rules. There is even a Professional Disc Golf Association where players play for some pretty big money. There is even a Disc Golf Hall of Fame.

Disc Golf courses are usually found in city parks and recreation areas. Disc Golf course designers go to great lengths to create an interesting and challenging series of holes; either nine or eighteen, that make up a disc course. There are par 3, 4 and 5 holes on a Disc Golf course depending on length and difficulty.

There are three basic elements to a Disc Golf course. The tee, the routing or fairway and the target, known as the disc pole hole (pictured above). Signage is important to give new players to this particular course the distance and par for each particular hole.

Disc golfers use at least three different discs in playing a round. The driver disc, with a sharp beveled edge with most of the mass concentrated on the outer rim of the disc, is used for throwing or driving for distance. The mid-range discs are not as sharp as a driver and very stable. These discs are used for most shots between the driver and the putter disc. If a new Disc Golf player were going to only purchase one disc, the mid-range disc would be preferable. Finally there is the putter disc. This disc is used for the final shot into the disc pole hole.

Disc Golf has many very serious players, but the game is enjoyed by almost anyone who just wants to be outdoors with friends. There are 167 Disc Golf courses in Minnesota. Disc Golf is usually free and generates no revenue. The game may be called golf but has little in common with real golf.

FootGolf or soccer golf is a hybrid between golf and soccer.

The game is only 5 years old and is taking the country by storm. Golf course operators have been looking for a way to get the millennial generation to the golf course. Now they have found it. FootGolf is played on the same golf course at the same time as real golf. The exception is that the hole for FootGolf, usually in the rough, is much larger than the standard golf cup measuring 22" in diameter. Executive or par-3 courses are perfect for FootGolf but regulation length courses may be used. FootGolfers play their game faster than real golfers so some adjustments must be made for pace of play. On a regulation course par-4 holes are made into two FootGolf holes and par-5 holes become three FootGolf holes. Par-3 holes are par-3 for both.

The National Golf Course Owner's Associations has become a big believer in FootGolf as an additional source of revenue. "It cost only $2,000 to get Hyland Greens Golf Course into the FootGolf business," said Rick Sitek, General Manager, of Bloomington's Golf Operations. "Last year FootGolf added $68,000 to our bottom line. The FootGolf players blend in well with our regular players. We just don't allow FootGolf during league play. We use "orange" as the color for FootGolf. Tees, flagsticks and scorecards are all orange. We give each group of FootGolfers a rules sheet so they understand that they are sharing the course with golfers. So far we have had very few problems." Hyland Greens charges $12 green fees for FootGolf players ages 15 to 50, players younger and older play for $10. Hyland has balls for rent for $3.

Cragun's Resort on Gull Lake has added FootGolf to its resort amenities. "Last June we opened FootGolf on our reversible 9-hole par-3 course, stated General Manager, Eric Peterson. "People loved it. We charge a little less for FootGolf than regular golf because there are less maintenance costs. Of course we give juniors a discount. We also have balls for rent that come in a variety of colors. Resort guests get one free round on the par-3, many are choosing to play FootGolf."

In 2011 the American FootGolf League was formed to promote the sport throughout the U.S. To date there are FootGolf courses in 40 states with hundreds of golf courses allowing FootGolf on their course. There are 46 FootGolf courses in Minnesota. To find a FootGolf course near you go to www.afgl.us and click Minnesota.

There are professional FootGolf players who wear the un-official uniform of FootGolf players, argyle socks and flat, Ben Hogan style, caps.

The surprising thing to many golf purest is the fact that GolfDigest Magazine is a sponsor as well as the Golf Channel and GolfNow.com. With those "real golf" companies behind FootGolf, there must be something to this new use of existing golf courses.

Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Article comment by: Chris Brophy

As someone who has played both foot and disc golf, and has installed a disc golf course on a 9-hole executive "ball" golf course, I must point out a few important omissions. Disc golf has over 10 million active players in the U.S. and is a thousands of times bigger industry than foot golf. The discs do not have dog bites, in fact some collector discs sell for as much as $2000 or more. They also can travel at up to 100 mph and almost 300 yards. Also, our pros are insanely accurate, and demolish any golf course record they come across. Foot golf is very fun, but disc golf is a international sport that is in an explosive growth phase. For courses that are serious about extra revenue, disc golf just makes much more sense.

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