Somehow Tipton’s course avoided the wave of privatization which raised greens fees exponentially in the 1990s, the same decade another wave of golf-course building took place.
Most of the courses in the 90s were expensive layouts, privately-owned, and in exclusive communities, according to the National Golf Foundation, which predicted back in 2009 that golf would lose 500 to 1,000 courses over the next decade and that golf participation would basically flatline over that same period.
The reality has been much, much worse. Golf has now been on a downward trend in participation for more than a decade, from 29.8 million active participants in 2001 to about 24.1 million last year, according to golf consultant Jim Koppenhaver of Pellucid Corp., as quoted in a recent article in the greenskeeper trade website, turfnet.com.
The Tipton course costs the city of Tipton about $100,000 a year to operate, once costs and revenues are reckoned, and Tipton Mayor Don Havens, a golf course supporter, said he sees the course as a solid recreational offering for the city.
“Every city makes a real effort to provide a minimum level of parks and recreation choices for the community,” Havens said. “We’re trying to use [the course] as a community attraction factor.”
Ripberger’s plan is to offer 18 holes of footgolf for $12 weekdays, and $13 on weekends.
The players can’t wear soccer cleats (soccer turf shoes are OK) and they’ll have to observe course etiquette, and respect the regular golfers. A round probably won’t take as long and the holes will be set away from the regular greens.
Players will use a regulation soccer ball and try to kick it into holes which are just under 21 inches in diameter and around a foot deep.
“We think it will be a good thing to get younger people out to the golf course, and to provide a new revenue stream,” Ripberger said. “Hopefully as they get older, they’ll get interested in golf.
“It’s like the skiing industry, where they realized they needed something to bring more people out, so they introduced snowboarding. We’re just trying something new.”
Scott Smith is on Twitter, @JasonSSmith1, and can be reached at email@example.com.