The number of golfers keeps declining and the sport’s gatekeepers haven’t been able to find an answer for more than a decade.
So the board at the Tipton Municipal Golf Course is embarking on an experiment, hoping the brand new sport called “footgolf” will bring twentysomethings out to the city’s links.
Tipton director of golf Rusty Ripberger has ordered 18 oversized cups, to be installed as soon as they arrive, in hopes of having 18 holes of footgolf ready to go by early April.
“Tipton Municipal Golf Course, where a foot wedge is not only allowed, but required,” Ripberger joked about his new recreational offering.
“It’s something people who have played soccer might like, who don’t want to learn how to play golf,” Ripberger said. “We think it will be people from 15 to 35 years old, predominately.”
The concept of footgolf is about what you’d expect: golf played with soccer balls. There’s match play and stroke (er, kick) play, and some courses are even erecting barricades, or setting holes in hard to approach areas, to make it a tad more difficult.
According to the sport’s sanctioning body, the American Footgolf League, there are now about 60 golf courses around the country offering the sport this spring, up from just a handful last year. The world sanctioning body, the Federation for International Footgolf (www.fifg.org), has been around since mid-2012.
For golf course operators seeking extra revenue, footgolf may be a godsend.
The number of golf courses in the country has been steadily decreasing as golf has failed to attract enough young people to grow the sport.
Much of that has to do with the cost, which lost its way in a haze of greed in the 1990s.
In the 1960s, when Arnold Palmer was the blue collar golf hero of the nation, the sport’s popularity exploded and more than 3,000 golf courses were built, most of them municipally-owned.