The embattled golf course industry, looking for new customers and new sources of revenue, is not laying down its clubs. But it is putting its foot into it.
Cedar Hill will be the first course on the Lower Island to offer FootGolf on a regular basis. It is a new sport, with a sanctioning body, in which participants kick a soccer ball into a 54-centimetre cup in as few shots as possible. It begins Sunday at Cedar Hill and is initially $9 for nine holes. FootGolf will be available throughout the year on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays.
Crown Isle in Courtenay offers FootGolf tee times daily after 2 p.m. Cost is $15 for adults and $12 for juniors for 18 holes.
“It’s done very well and has been worth the investment,” said Rod Prieto, director of golf for Crown Isle.
FootGolf has been featured over the past year on CNN, Golf Digest and PGA.com.
“We’re all affected by the downturn in the golf industry. Golf courses on the island are under-utilized. Rounds are down. This opens it up to a whole different demographic than which usually uses a golf course,” said Craig Rencher, the head pro at Cedar Hill.
FootGolf is played in the areas adjacent to the fairways and won’t interfere with golfers, say its adherents.
“We’ve had some mixed reaction from golfers,” admitted Rencher.
“It’s a learning curve. We’re very much open to feedback and discussion. But it’s not that big a deal. The FootGolf holes are off to the side of the fairways and are not near the golfing greens.”
Prieto said once golfers see what FootGolf is and that it can co-exist, “they have been receptive [at Crown Isle].”
For Doug Henderson, director of parks and recreation for Saanich, the question is a simple one for the municipal-owned Cedar Hill course: “How do we keep this facility vital and busy?”
“This brings another group from the community onto the course. We still have lots of capacity on the course. And I won’t be complaining when this new group buys food and beverage [in the clubhouse],” added Henderson.
“Our golf rounds are up over the last year, but overall the industry is still down from eight-10 years ago. In the heyday, we did 80,000 rounds of golf a year. Now it’s about 40,000.”
It’s anybody’s guess how the public will take to FootGolf at Cedar Hill.
“There is nothing that isn’t an option,” said Henderson.
He got the idea when watching FootGolf last year in Indio, California.
“Some golfers were apprehensive there initially. But then the two groups just blended together on the course,” said Henderson.
Soccer organizations and teams, along with other groups, will be targeted in marketing FootGolf.
Soccer cleats will not be allowed but indoor turf or running shoes will be. Players can bring their own soccer balls or rent one from the club. People can book FootGolf tee-times the same way they do for golf by phoning the club.