Words and images by Francheska Russo
The quiet breeze swept through the course as the golfer lined up for the shot — the short but challenging par-4 hole made for a nervous execution. With one solid kick, the ball flew into the water, ultimately causing a double bogey for the hole.
Sound strange? That’s because this isn’t ordinary golf — it’s footgolf, a 10-year-old sport that takes advantage of a nine- or 18-hole course and a soccer ball.
Footgolf is one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. with over 30 courses in Florida alone. Jacksonville is home to two courses, and Fernandina Beach is home to one.
“It’s the unknown sport that’s right in front of your face. It’s right down the street. and most people don’t know about it,” said Glenn Connelly, president of the Jacksonville Footgolf Association.
Bent Creek Golf Course located on the Jacksonville’s Westside has 18-holes, Fernandina Beach Golf Course has 18-holes and Blue Cypress has 18-holes. It’s a sport that’s on the way up here and elsewhere.
“Footgolf generated over $22 million last year, with over 1 million tee times, and over 473 courses in 48 states…including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico,” said Roberto Balestrini, the president of the American Footgolf League.
It’s a combination of soccer and golf played only on golf courses in which the players use their legs instead of golf clubs and a soccer ball to replace a golf ball. The winner is the player who makes it into the holes in the fewest number of shots. All the normal rules of golf apply.
“The sport is really gaining momentum here in Jacksonville,” explained Jacksonville’s Blue Cypress Golf Pro Byron Comstock. “We’re now attracting millennials to our course, which is a nice change of pace if you ask me.”
Blue Cypress Golf Course is the official course for the Jacksonville Footgolf Association, a partner of the American Footgolf League.
“Golf courses close every day in the U.S. because of lack of membership, so we’re telling courses to put a footgolf course in to generate new traffic, and it’s working,” Connelly said.
The Blue Cypress course offers 18 footgolf holes ranging to short par 3s, to long and challenging par 5s. The course is a par 68 and comes in just under 2,500 yards of total regulation distance.
“It’s honestly harder than I thought it would be,” said Kreanna Booher, a Jacksonville native and first-time footgolfer. “You wouldn’t think something as simple as kicking a soccer ball into a hole would be so much fun. I already can’t wait to play again!”
For people interested in joining a footgolf group, there are plenty of leagues in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia, from the University of North Florida to the Golden Isles.
Anyone who wants to be in the American Footgolf League can sign up on its website for a $49.99 annual fee.
“When you try and make a company outing, it’s hard to make golf work. But with footgolf, everyone can play,” said Comstock. “There’s no need to worry about equipment, or level of play — everyone wins!”
Students are especially being enticed into the new sport. At Blue Cypress, for example, students can play between 7:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. for 33 percent off a round of footgolf.
At Blue Cypress, players must be 9 or older to play an official round, but if you have a young child you want to bring with you and let them kick a few shots as you play, that is fine and there is no additional cost to you. Just make sure you keep the pace of play at a good rate for the other golfers.
“I wish I knew this existed sooner,” Booher said. “Now me and my friends have no excuse to say we’re bored anymore.”