My first experience sharing a course with Foot Golfers last summer was not good. The millennial kick ballers were running around the course, cutting across fairways and hooting and hollering as though it was a elementary school playground. The flags and holes were in distracting positions. A couple of my balls landed in foot golf holes. I made a vow to never again share a course with kick ballers.
Two weeks ago, I discovered that our league’s course had installed foot golf holes on the front nine. The first week we did not see any of the soccer hooligans. This past week, however, they made their presence known.
This time, instead of a crew of misbehaving millennials, the foot golfers were a crew of preteen girls, loosely supervised by a soccer mom. At first, I couldn’t figure out what all the noise was. Then I saw the gaggle, crossing fairways; screaming at the top of their lungs, each kicking a ball in front of them as they ran. To them, it was not a golf course; it was just another playground.
The millennials at least made a pretense of kicking the ball from position to position. The kids were basically playing foot golf the way they play soccer on Saturday morning, kicking the ball ball forward a few feet, and running after it in one continuous motion. And of course, their kicks were just as likely to head left or right as forward. They were running into each other, picking up their balls, running in random directions and just generally engaging in chaos.
Mamma goose had no concern for the fact that her brood was disturbing other paying customers; that they were playing out of order and backing up the flow (fortunately we were ahead of them); or that by not controlling them, she was putting the kids in danger of being hit by a ball.
It culminated on the tenth tee, when we encountered the gaggle playing and lounging on the edges of the fairway, right in the line of fire, completely oblivious to the danger. Finally, apparently bored, they moved away, and my partner Larry took his stance for a tee shot.
Then, suddenly, the mother shouted and pointed, sending the girls directly in front of the tee. Larry naturally had his head down, and couldn’t see what was happening. It was only through our quick reactions in stopping him on the downswing that those girls escaped serious harm. We were also lucky that Larry didn’t injure himself checking his swing.
The mother, apparently not understanding the dangers of walking directly in front of a tee box, just happily followed the girls, strolling along as though nothing had happened. In her mind, it likely that nothing did. They had paid for their Foot Golf, and therefore had the right to wander wherever they felt, as though a golf course is a playground.
I wonder if the pro in the clubhouse offered any instructions before sending them out, such as playing the holes in order, staying in your own fairway and not wandering into the line of fire. Probably not.
It is only a matter of time before some Foot Golfer — oblivious to the idea that they are sharing the ground with people sending a small, very hard orb at high speed through the air — is seriously injured. At that point, I wonder who will be liable. The golfer? The course? You know it won’t be the victim who was playing footsie, regardless of how reckless their behavior.
<sarcasm>The victims probably will sue the club and ball manufacturers. That’s where the real money is. Lawyers will argue that golf balls shouldn’t be made so hard as to be a danger to health. And because dead kid was cute, the jury will go along.</sarcasm>
On a less sarcastic note, I think the soccer golf strategy is short-sighted. I know many regular golfers who have sworn not to share a course with the kick ballers. If they see the soccer golfers, they’ll move on. I think it entirely possible that for every once-or-twice a season foot golfer a course picks up, it will lose several traditional golfers who would play more regularly. How long will it be before the foot golf novelty wears off? And how long will it be before the hooligans figure out that they can set up a foot golf course at a park for free? They could even use the frisbee golf courses. Just kick the ball at the pole.
The best situation I can conceive of is for courses to identify their slow times and set aside a nine just for soccer golf. That will allow the kick ballers to run wild without interfering with regular golfers, or being in danger of getting killed.