The next time someone yells ‘fore’ at Riverrun, you might be in for a surprise.
Instead of ducking or dodging a golf ball, it could very well be a soccer ball now that the North River club has started taking bookings for FootGolf.
“FootGolf is definitely more accessible than golf,” said Aiden Manley, director of sport and recreation at Riverrun. “It requires less initial investment as well. You don’t need to buy clubs, you don’t need special shoes. All you need is sneakers, comfortable clothes and a few hours out of the day.”
FootGolf is played very similar to golf. It follows the layout of Riverrun but features different tee locations and new holes have been created to accommodate a soccer ball.
Players must follow the regular pace of play. The only difference is the fact foot golfers are kicking a soccer ball. The goal of getting the ball in the hole in the least amount of shots is still the goal.
All of the regular course hazards remain in play meaning if a ball lands in a sand trap, it has to be played from the sand trap. If it lands in water, large dip nets have been placed around the course to help retrieve the ball. Finding the water will also cost a stroke.
“We know you can’t kick a soccer ball as far as you can hit one with a golf club so the holes for FootGolf are shorter,” continued Manley. “Some of our longer golf holes actually feature two FootGolf holes.”
The FootGolf concept was brought to Riverrun by owner Greg Jones. Manager Sergio Garrido says the idea was met with a positive response. Now the club offers 14 holes of FootGolf.
Riverrun is the first club in the province to offer FootGolf.
“From our standpoint, we’re looking at ways of diversifying the business as much as possible,” he said. “We want to be a family-friendly club and FootGolf is one of the ways we can do that. A lot of young people are playing soccer. Typically, you’d never see them on a golf course. With FootGolf, it’s created an opportunity for families to come out and try something new.
We have our coffee roaster up and running, we’re preparing to open some walking trails and we will even have some animals along those trails. We want to expose this area. It’s a beautiful place and we’re hoping this is reason for more people to come out.”
FootGolf is gaining in popularity. An association – the Canadian FootGolf Association – has been established and provinces like Alberta and Ontario currently lead the way when it comes to the sport.
Witnessing the momentum, Garrido says Riverrun had nothing to lose by offering it in Colchester County.
“You definitely get some weird looks from people when four people set out with soccer balls instead of golf clubs,” he said. “There is a lot of curiosity and that’s good. In most cases, people genuinely want to learn more about the sport. We’ve already had some of our regular golfers come into the clubhouse and tell us they are interested in trying it out.”
Given the fact it’s something new and relatively unknown, it’s also created some concern. Both Garrido and Manley feel the club has done a good job in addressing those concerns.
However, they admit some changes could be made should issues arise in the future.
“Foot golfers have to follow the same rules of the course as golfers would,” continued Garrido. “The same course etiquette applies to them. That means they have to wait for golfers who are in front of them just like golfers playing behind them would wait. Foot golfers book a tee time just like golfers so it won’t be uncommon to see both on the course at the same time.”
One of the main concerns was the impact FootGolf would have on the greens. Manley says it’s a non-issue.
“The greens are definitely more delicate than the rest of the course and the slightest change can impact them,” he said. “The FootGolf holes aren’t on the greens. They’re off to the side. It’s been made very clear to anyone playing FootGolf that if the ball happens to land on a green, they’re to pick it up and remove it from the green without penalty. Under no circumstances should they be kicking a ball off a green.”
The par for the 14 FootGolf holes is 65. Right now, there are plans to increase the number of holes. Manley says most who complete the 14 holes are pretty exhausted when they return to the clubhouse.
“It does play a little bit quicker than golf because the setup time isn’t there. You drop the ball and kick it,” he said. “That’s why we created 14 holes. It means foot golfers are on the course approximately the same amount of time as golfers. When it comes to the holes, in most cases, we tried to follow the same par numbers as the golf holes. So if it’s a par three, it would be a par three in FootGolf. There are a couple of longer holes where they’re actually a par six for FootGolf.”
For more information, visit www.riverruntruro.com.