Larry LaRue: There's a new game in town

Footgolf, like the links of soccer, opens Thursday at Meadow Park

larry.larue@thenewstribune.comApril 28, 2014 

Reading a trade magazine three months ago, Chris Goodman, the course director at Meadow Park Golf Course, came across a game called footgolf. He immediately took it up with his head greenskeeper.

“That’s part of my job title, too,” Goodman said.

He went online and found YouTube videos of people playing the game.

“They all seemed to be having a lot of fun.”

Meadow Park, which is part of Metro Parks Tacoma, has 27 traditional golf holes. Goodman and his grounds crew started their footgolf adventure with a test group of three holes.

“We started running focus groups through it, and there were a lot of laughs and giggles — the kind you don’t always get here on a golf course,” Goodman said. “Golf is a lifelong learning game. You get your driver working, you start missing putts.

“Footgolf, you’re kicking a soccer ball from tee to green, where there’s a 21-inch hole you have to get the ball in. We had players from age 6 to 65 out there, and we’ll get an 85-year-old out there soon.”

The result? On Thursday, Meadow Park will open the first footgolf course in Washington.

According to the Federation for International Footgolf newsletter, Washington will then become the 26th state — and Meadow Park will be the 76th footgolf course — in America.

Rules for the game were standardized in 2009 in the Netherlands. The first Footgolf World Cup was played two years ago in Hungary, and there are tournaments now played in Australia, Italy, Ireland and the U.S.

All told, 22 countries are members of the Federation.

No one was more astonished by all this than Goodman. A soccer player through college, the 47-year-old needed only one round of footgolf to go all in.

“I was beyond excited after my first round, and the more people we brought out, the more excited I got,” he said.

The course is laid out within the nine holes of the Williams Nine at Meadow Park. The players will tee off from different tee boxes, much as golfers always do. One group will play, and when they’re out of range, the next group will tee off.

Only now, some players will be teeing off with a soccer ball, down different fairways, to different greens.

“We have two holes laid out for each one of the Williams Nine golf holes,” Goodman said. “They’re shorter because no one can kick a soccer ball 300 yards. The first footgolf hole, for instance, is 130 yards.

“You can play 18 holes in about 90 minutes, which is much faster than playing golf. But there’s no club selection, no practice swings.”

An adult can play 18 holes of footgolf for $10.50, and youngsters pay $8. No cleats are allowed, but turf shoes or thin-soled athletic shoes are fine. Stop by the pro shop and, along with golf apparel, there’s now footgolf apparel — knickers, socks and caps.

Because the land was available, along with the existing crew of groundskeepers, starters and other personnel, the cost of setting up the 18-hole footgolf course was about $3,000, Goodman said.

“We’re going to count on word of mouth to get the word out. Everyone who plays it or has seen it has enjoyed it. We have lady golfers who want to try it, we have leagues already being set up, and we’ve got 12 tournament dates already.”

And regular golfers seem unbothered by the new game.

“It’s such a good fit — a culture of etiquette on the course, a respect for the game, a bit more patience,” Goodman said. “Our golfers may be excited to see new groups of people having fun out here.”

Goodman has played 15 times or more since gradually setting up a course the past few months, and he’s come to appreciate footgolf.

“It’s a great walk, mentally and physically challenging,” he said. “It’s more a game than a sport — but it’s a great game.”

Footgolf

Where: Meadow Park Golf Course, 7108 Lakewood Drive W., Tacoma.

When: Beginning Thursday, dawn to dusk, 364 days a year.

How: For tee times, call 253-473-3033.

Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638 larry.larue@thenewstribune.com

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