Duffers toodling around the Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe soon will see a different type of ball bounding about the fairway: a soccer ball.
In an effort to boost revenue, while also aiming to attract new players to the course and the sport of golf, the Links has installed a certified American FootGolf League course on its executive nine-hole course, said Jenn Romero, municipal recreation complex manager.
The city is introducing the sport to those interested in learning more about the hybrid sport during two free plays Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 p.m.
“We want to build up the excitement for this new sport that has come to Santa Fe,” Romero said.
The Links is the fifth course in New Mexico, and the only local course, to adopt FootGolf into its lineup. Nationally, there are 315 certified courses in 45 states.
The exact origin of the sport is unknown, but it is believed that the first FootGolf tournament was played in 2008 in the Netherlands by local soccer players.
Courses are generally shorter than traditional golf courses and the game is usually played at a quicker pace. And, since it doesn’t require any special equipment other than a standard soccer ball (size 5 for adults and size 4 for younger players), it is accessible to more people.
“We wanted to bring new ideas to generate more players and to generate revenue,” Romero said. “This was a way to do that.”
What’s more, FootGolf is seen as an activity in which the entire family can participate and enjoy, she said. “And it also helps to improve quality of life.”
Few modifications to the par-3 executive course were needed to incorporate FootGolf, she said.
But the sport could attract a large new following.
“In Santa Fe, soccer is a very popular sport,” she said. “It brings soccer and golf together as a combination of the two sports. We wanted to invite soccer players to come out and see it and try it.
“We have a very large soccer community, a combination of youth and adult,” Romero said. “We want to allow our youth and high school soccer players to come out and have another alternative to soccer. It’s a great way to improve their game, add to stability and have fun.”
What’s more, it just might attract some converts to traditional golf.
“Ideally, we want to convert soccer players to the game of golf,” she said. “It’s a great way to transition into the game of golf.”
Like regular golf, players tee off from the tee box, kicking the ball as far and straight as possible. And, like golf, the object is then to knock the ball into the cup, which in the case of FootGolf, is a 21-inch diameter hole.
At the Links, the holes are all par-3s, except No. 9, which ranges in length from 76 to 202 yards and is a par-4.
While the courses used are the same, it shouldn’t mar the experience of traditional golfers, Romero said.
“Because of the layout of the FootGolf course, it won’t impact golf or pace of play,” she said. “It was made up so it wouldn’t affect that.”
Cleats are forbidden and collared shirts are required. It’s also recommended that players get in the spirit of the sports by wearing driver’s caps and knee-length argyle socks, “but we’re not going to force people wear that,” Romero said. “But we are going to recommend it and encourage people to wear that.”
FootGolf is essentially a one-season experiment but, if it takes off, she said she can see regular weekly leagues, as well as possibly tournaments and perhaps even a city championship someday.
“Because this is a trial period for us, we want to see the success rate and see if it something that we will want to continue, and if our golf and FootGolf patrons are satisfied,” Romero said. “We actually talked about that with the soccer users of the complex. That is a possibility if we see that it is being used, we do want to look at having a league or a weekly FootGolf league night.”