A group of Baton Rouge Soccer Club coaches took their favorite sport to City Park’s Golf Course on Wednesday as they debuted BREC’s newest activity: footgolf.
Footgolf will be available BREC’s City Park and J.S. Clark golf courses, and it combines elements of soccer and golf. A player lines up at a tee area and kicks a soccer ball dozens of yards down the course until the ball rolls into a craterlike hole. As in golf, the players aim to beat or make par.
Golf courses can simultaneously accommodate traditional golfers and footgolfers because the games have their own space carved out on the course. Par signs and white flags direct the footgolfers to where they should tee off and aim their shot.
Footgolf is one of many changes BREC is making to its golf courses, which received a number of suggestions during a National Golf Foundation evaluation. Golf courses across Baton Rouge have struggled to lure new people to the game, which has caused many to close.
BREC golf director Michael Raby said they hope to attract a new demographic to the golf courses: soccer players. Still, he acknowledged that traditional golfers have not given the game the warmest of welcomes. Raby said he expects golfers to eventually realize that footgolf will not affect their games, and Saturday and Sunday morning hours will still be reserved for golf only.
BREC invited the Baton Rouge Soccer Club players and media members to play the game on Wednesday morning before it officially opens to the public this Saturday. The Soccer Club coaches said they wanted to continue playing and improving at footgolf, and that they hoped it would take off among fellow soccer lovers.
One of the players, Patrick Bueno, said the coaches often do not have enough spare time to be as active as they would like. Footgolf will be a fun change of pace to keep them active with soccer without actually playing the game, he said.
But footgolf brings new challenges for soccer players, who are used to kicking and receiving balls that are moving targets and already carry momentum.
Another player, Adam Allerton, misjudged a kick when he was teeing off and his ball rolled into a tangle of low-hanging tree branches.
“I’m just gonna scissor-kick it, man,” he called from beneath the tree as his friends laughed.
He kicked the ball and it rebounded against another branch. Finally, on his third shot, he dislodged it from the tree.
BREC’s assistant golf director Kelly Wall pointed to Allerton’s example and said soccer players who do not know the fundamentals of golf will have some learning to do when they start playing footgolf.
One hole, for example, was underneath a tree.
“They’re all aiming for the tree,” Wall said. “They should be aiming for the right of it. That’s just general golf strategy that they probably don’t realize. If you can’t get there, put yourself in the best position for the next step.”
Allerton and the other players continued to learn as the game went on, as they followed more of Wall’s instructions when the lined up for the remainder of the 18 holes. And the men say they will be back — and that now that they know the course, they will have better luck when they tackle it again.
BREC is opening the City Park and J.S. Clark footgolf courses for free from noon to 4 p.m. this Saturday for others looking to give the game a try. In the future, players can set up a time to play up to six days in advance.
The game will cost $10 on weekdays and $12 on weekends, when the footgolf courses will open after 11 a.m. BREC encourages players to wear athletic or turf shoes, and they can bring their own balls or rent one from BREC.