If a sport can make my bookworm wife raise her eyebrows and keep an open mind, it must really have potential.
According to the Sept. 21 “Time” magazine, she’s not alone; the country is being swept by a new hybrid sport called footgolf, which is essentially the same as traditional golf, but with regulation No. 5 soccer balls instead of golf balls, 21-inch-diameter cups (as opposed to 4.25-inch-diameter golf holes) and the player’s feet in place of golf clubs.
(Limited space prevents me from exploring the other hybrid sports waiting on the sidelines to rejuvenate the athletic world: sports such as Knee Boxing, Cranium Bowling, Lip Lacrosse and Backside Badminton. All of these would presumably be sponsored by Knuckle Sandwiches and Elbow Macaroni.)
Footgolf arrives not a moment too soon. According to the National Golf Foundation, golf has lost five million players over the past decade. (Older players keep progressing from “tee time” to “eterni-tee time.”) 643 courses closed in the United States between 2006 and 2014.
Yes, many millennials think of traditional golf as prohibitively expensive, complicated and boring. They just don’t “get” golf, as evidenced by exchanges such as “What’s your handicap?” “This course’s Wi-Fi sucks, that’s what.”
Municipalities and other golf course owners have been desperate to find other revenue streams; some have been public relations nightmares. (“YOU ask why there’s suddenly a 10-story condo on the fairway. WE ask why can’t people accept that brick is the new water hazard?”)
Families are making fun memories on the growing number of footgolf courses. College students are bringing dates. Even I am excited, although I’m probably better suited to a sport employing Indiana Jones-size boulders and the broad side of a barn.
The golf industry is embracing footgolf, but many individual duffers are less welcoming. They see the golf course as being designed for the sober, solemn dignity of traditional golf. You know, the sort of dignity that comes from playing with clients or upper management. (“I have to confess, boss; I’ve been blinking too loudly. Let’s just forget your last four strokes.”)
To be fair, soft-hearted golfers are probably just worried about the fate of caddies if footgolf expands. Caddies will simply have to learn to adapt. (“I think this hole calls for a size 8 Odor Eater.”)
Luckily, there seems to be ample room for footgolf and traditional golf to co-exist. According to the World Golf Foundation, 36 percent of footgolfers are now more interested in going on to play traditional golf. Of course the golf industry must proceed very delicately in capitalizing on this statistic, or we’ll wind up with cringe-producing slogans such as “Footgolf: Tiger Wood’s Favorite Gateway Drug.”
No, really, it takes great finesse to induce a footgolfer to decide “I’m having a great time as it is, but I’m thinking about upgrading to a sport that takes more time, brings more aggravation, costs a lot more and stirs memories of ancestors who cooked with sheep stomachs. If only someone would guarantee that playing golf will also double my capital gains tax and require quarterly colonoscopies, we could seal the deal right now!”
If you’ve already discovered the joys of footgolf, play on. If you haven’t, check for the course nearest you.
If you’re still holding out, perhaps you would prefer the hybrid aquatic game Armpit Marco Polo. (“Marco!” “Ffftttt!” “Marco!” “Ffftttt!”)
Danny welcomes email responses at email@example.com and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”