By Rachel Davis
Steve Saad ’08 JD can be found in the offices of Cranfill, Sumner, and Hartzog, in Raleigh, working as a criminal defense lawyer Monday through Friday. But every weekend, he and his friends can be found at the Keith Hills Golf Club, which Campbell University owns and manages, playing FootGolf -- a soccer-golf hybrid sport where the aim is to kick a soccer ball into a hole in as few tries as possible.
Keith Hills, located less than a mile from Campbell’s main campus, became the first club in the Triangle area to add a FootGolf course in February 2014. The 18-hole, par-71 course measures 2,610 yards and runs alongside nine holes of a regular golf course, though the 21-inch holes for FootGolf are placed in the rough so they don’t interfere with the more traditional game.
“A lot of golfers were pretty concerned at first, but they’ve warmed up to the idea by now,” said Kenneth Jones, general manager of Keith Hills.
Others have, too. It quickly has become popular with families who live in the Triangle area and with Campbell faculty, staff, and students. Campbell’s soccer and basketball teams have played it as part of team-building exercises.
“On opening day we had families with little kids come out,” said Martha Sutton, director of golf at Keith Hills. “They all had fun.”
FootGolf is fun for Saad, too. He grew up in Garner playing soccer and took up FootGolf when Keith Hills added the course. He quickly came to love the sport. “It’s a recreational thing,” he said.
In May, he competed at the FootGolf Premiere National Tournament, held in Indianapolis, Indiana. He won his age category. His enthusiasm for the sport has only grown since. He even put a FootGolf hole in his backyard so he can practice daily. “FootGolf is going to grow like gangbusters,” he predicts.
Here are five things to know about the new attraction at Keith Hills.
1. “It’s target-based soccer but has the frustrations of golf.” So said Saad. FootGolf combines soccer and golf. Players try to kick a soccer ball into a 21-inch-diameter hole in as few kicks as they can. The scoring, rules, and methods are nearly identical to traditional golf. FootGolf even has tee boxes, bunkers, hazards, and 18 holes of play.
2. It began in Europe, and is spreading fast across the U.S. The sport has been played in Spain since 2008, though the Netherlands became the first to open a FootGolf course in 2009. It hit California several years ago, and has swiftly expanded across the rest of the U.S. More than 190 golf courses in the U.S. have added FootGolf courses over the past four years. There are five courses in North Carolina, including at Keith Hills. Three more are expected to open in the state this fall.
3. It’s an accessible sport. FootGolf requires no additional training and no extra equipment, except a soccer ball, Jones said. Also, it takes only about two hours to play a full round of FootGolf, about half the time it takes to play a game of golf. This has made FootGolf a draw for families and children, Jones said, adding he met a woman at a conference who said she loved the game because her grandchildren could play with her. “Everyone knows how to go out and kick a ball.”
4. It still looks a bit like traditional golf -- in terms of etiquette and attire. Though FootGolf has become popular with soccer players, Keith Hills is trying to maintain a golf-like environment, Jones said. The rules of etiquette for FootGolfers at Keith Hills, for example, are the same as they are for traditional golfers. That means no soccer jerseys and no soccer cleats. All guests must wear collared shirts and shoes without cleats.
5. It’s worth a try. Keith Hills’s FootGolf course is open to the public, and Campbell students, faculty, and staff are welcomed and encouraged to give the sport a try, Jones said. Students are eligible to receive one free game of FootGolf or traditional golf each month. Tee times can be booked online or by calling the course at 910-893-5051.
FootGolf Course Map
Learn more at keithhills.com/footgolf »