Sacramento is arguably the FootGolf capital of America.
There are seven courses in the area. Haggin Oaks hosts the most rounds in the country. Four of the 15 players representing the United States at the FootGolf World Cup that starts Wednesday in Buenos Aires are from Sacramento.
But the sport has plateaued locally. Cherry Island closed its course last week, and the number of 2015 rounds at Haggin Oaks was down 10 percent from the year before.
Cherry Island, which peaked at 200 rounds a month since opening in November 2013, hadn’t hosted a round since October. Rod Metzler, president of Empire Golf, the company that operates Cherry Island, said keeping the FootGolf course open wasn’t worth the negativity from traditional golfers.
Never miss a local story.
Strangely, the majority of gripes, Metzler said, weren’t from golfers competing for space with FootGolfers but from seeing flagsticks on the distant FootGolf greens.
“It was fun to watch,” Metzler said. “Especially in the beginning, the real soccer players flying the ball to 100-yard holes.
“But we didn’t see any crossover. That’s what we were hoping for.”
Haggin Oaks, the area’s first course to offer FootGolf in July 2013, did almost 800 rounds a month during its 2015 peak, head pro Mike Woods said. He speculated the 10 percent decline was because of increased competition – Woodcreek, Cordova, Foothill, Land Park, Bradshaw and Rolling Greens also have courses – rather than a decline in participation.
“I think it needs another level of promotion and life,” Woods said. “If we’re going to expand, we need to get out into the soccer community more.”
FootGolf turns 10 this year. The goal is to kick a regulation soccer ball into a cup 21 inches in diameter in as few shots as possible. Few do it better than Arturo Barragan, Robert Cohmanschi, Ken Fleck and Nick Wallace, Sacramentans representing America this week in Argentina.
There are 451 courses in 48 states, according to Roberto Balestrini, who introduced the sport to North America four years ago and heads the American FootGolf League, headquartered in Palm Springs.
He said management is key to the success of a FootGolf course. Courses such as Haggin Oaks that offer the sport sunup to sundown seven days a week have an advantage over those that limit play to afternoons or select days, he said.
Woodcreek, which opened its FootGolf course in September 2014, did 3,000 after-2 p.m. rounds in 2015, said Rob Frederick, the director of golf. Rolling Greens in Granite Bay has offered FootGolf for about a year and has averaged 50 rounds a month, said director of golf Frank Mayer.
Frederick and Mayer said the sport been a positive addition, especially for birthday and team-building parties.
“It’s something we haven’t seen out here,” Mayer said. “Junior golfers, 10- and 12-year-olds, will have a birthday party. Some will play golf but most will play FootGolf. It’s been great.”
▪ A team led by Natalie Gulbis lost out to one led by Tom Weiskopf in a bid to renovate Torrey Pines North near San Diego. Gulbis was the point person for Heritage Links, a Texas-based course construction company.
▪ Sacramento’s Philip Dawson Jr., was named one of the top 25 teachers of elite junior players in America by Future Champions Golf.
▪ Del Paso Country Club turns 100 on Thursday. In August, the club will host the 47th Big “I” National Championship, which is the third-oldest junior tournament in the United States and annually attracts the best junior players in the country.