PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — As the quickly emerging sport of FootGolf continues to grow in popularity throughout the United States, the sport’s governing body, the American FootGolf League, has been busy making sure FootGolfers have plenty of opportunities to play.
Recognized by the Federation for International FootGolf as the exclusive governing body in the United States, the AFGL has certified more than 100 courses to date in 2014, bringing the total to more than 200 in almost 40 states.
A combination of golf and soccer played with a regulation soccer ball on a shortened golf course, FootGolf is played much like golf, with the goal being to get the soccer ball into the 21-inch hole with as few kicks as possible.
“FootGolf is the sport of the future,” said Roberto Balestrini, who, along with his wife Laura, introduced FootGolf in the U.S. in 2011. “As we saw with the World Cup, the popularity of soccer is incredible in the United States and it will only grow. FootGolf provides a new fun – and competitive – outlet for the more than 24 million soccer players here.”
The sport has grown so much in popularity since its introduction in the United States in 2011 that the AFGL will stage its inaugural U.S. Pro-Am Tour later this fall with a national championship to follow in 2015. The Pro-Am Tour features an East Coast event at Crystal Springs Resort in Hamburg, NJ, from Sept. 14-16 with a West Coast event being held at River Ridge Golf Club in Oxnard, CA, Sept. 19-21.
This tour will offer a total cash purse of $25,000. The tournaments will be multi-day events to attract players at all level and categories with the intention of creating more awareness about FootGolf nationwide and around the world. More than 50 players from 10 different countries are already registered. AFGL officials have confirmed participation of top players worldwide in both the East and West Coast Tournaments.
The AFGL has recently introduced a handicap system similar to golf in order to provide a foundation for competitive events. “Our vision is that FootGolf will evolve into a competitive national sport,” Balestrini added. “We are hosting the first pro-am events in the history of our sport this fall and are already working on national and international events for 2015. The momentum behind this movement is amazing.”
FootGolf players are not the only ones showing enthusiasm for the game. Golf facilities continue to line up to receive certification and official equipment from the AFGL.
The sport is proving to not only drive much-needed revenue for the golf industry by filling up unused tee times but also bringing new demographics out to their facilities. Haggin Oaks, long considered an innovator in the golf industry, has embraced FootGolf at its facility in Sacramento and is reporting more than 1,000 rounds per month.
“We have been a proud partner of the AFGL since we started our own FootGolf course last year,” said Mike Woods, director of golf at Haggin Oaks. “Their growing and diverse player profile is an ideal fit for our facility.”
The AFGL made the strategic decision to sanction only existing golf courses as official FootGolf facilities. “We felt that golf courses were a natural fit as the basic layout is already in place and they are run in a professional manner,” said Balestrini. “As we’ve seen with Haggin Oaks and many others, this strategy is definitely working.”
The golf industry has also embraced FootGolf as an alternative way to grow the game. FootGolf and the AFGL have been recognized by many national organizations. The soccer industry is also supportive of FootGolf. The US Youth Soccer is promoting FootGolf through a video on its social networks and the MLS recently conducted a FootGolf tournament with AFGL officials in attendance at its 2014 All-Star Game 2014 presented a FootGolf Tournament in Portland, OR.
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