Shanty Creek Resorts in Bellaire and other golf courses nationwide are trying to get a leg up on the competition by attracting more feet in the door with a growing phenomenon — the officially sanctioned FootGolf.
Played with a regulation soccer ball, FootGolf has its own tees and “greens” — typically shorter-cut grass off to the side of a traditional green. The cups are 21 inches in diameter and have a flag.
The rules of FootGolf closely correspond to regular golf and can be played at virtually the same pace and intermixed with traditional golfers going about their rounds. Many courses will set up two FootGolf holes on each par 4 and maybe squeeze in a third on par 5s. At Shanty Creek, there is one FootGolf hole per regular hole on the Summit course.
In metro Detroit, Plymouth Township’s Fox Hills began offering FootGolf this spring.
Brian Kautz, director of golf at Shanty Creek, says his vision was mom and dad playing golf, while the kids partake in FootGolf, maybe catching the bug to try putting a golf club in their hands down the road. The majority of FootGolf players are ages 18-30, and Kautz anticipates more than $10,000 in FootGolf revenue this summer.
“It’s been a huge success,” he said at a media event recently. “I found judging the slope of fairways, plus how much the grassy rough would or would not keep a ball from rolling back down some hills, was a key part of the strategy.
Kautz adds that there has been no backlash from traditional golfers at all. There have been thoughtful questions about what’s going on, but nothing negative has come from the new concept. He sees a future where large groups looking for new activities will take up FootGolf.
Ted Bishop, president of PGA of America, says since January, FootGolf has spread from 25 golf courses in 10 states to nearly 150 courses in 31 states.
Shanty Creek’s Summit course added 8-inch cups four years ago with special tees that created an all-par 3 course within a normal course. Now with FootGolf, there are three distinctive pins and holes on or near every green. This summer, the alternative 8-inch cups will be swapped out for 15-inch cups. Rounds at the Summit have never been more brisk.
“It’s all about making golf easier, making it about fun,” says Kautz, adding that he firmly believes the golf industry needs new opportunities to attract families and young people to the game.
So far the set up at Shanty Creek’s Summit course — one of four courses at the northern Michigan resort — is doing just that.
Tom Lang is a freelance writer who has written for the Detroit Free Press, Lansing State Journal, and GolfWeek. He is also a regular blogger for DBusiness.com.