Sports Stories

A new sport has worked its way into the Verde Valley, specifically the Village of Oak Creek. In fact it is the only place north of Loop 101 in Phoenix to have the new hybrid sport: Footgolf.

Unlike pickleball, its name does not leave too much to the imagination; it is a combination of golf and soccer.

“It’s an outdoor game and you get fitness from it, the more you play the better you get and enjoy it,” said Darrin Karuzas, who helped design the course. “Like golf, it’s two steps forward and one step back. It’s challenging for a game most anyone can play.”

Canyon Mesa Country Club had its soft opening on Friday, June 9, after an approximately four-month planning and installation process that totaled about $2,000. The idea came about when Canyon Mesa Golf Director Willie Darke had received interest from Northern Arizona University students as well as Karuzas.

“It gives more options to do at Canyon Mesa,” Darke said. “The biggest thing is to have fun and it brings younger people in. We want to be known as a fun place.”

Darke contacted courses in the Phoenix area and the sport’s national governing body, the American FootGolf League, for advice.

“I give Willie credit, he heard a little about it and wants to be the first and pioneer it,” Karuzas said.

The footgolf holes are played from the same tee boxes and along the same fairways as the regular golf holes. This means that golfers and their club-less counterparts will share the course at once.

Karuzas was aware that it may not be popular with golfers at first, but footgolf is usually played at a faster pace. At Canyon Mesa, the average distance at each hole is between 80 and 210 yards.

The main difference is the footgolf cups, which measure 21 inches in diameter and look exactly like a regular golf cup, are placed around the greens. Footgolfers cannot play their ball from the green; the ball must be moved to the closest adjacent side of the green from their lie.

Balls that land in the bunker are played the same as regular golf. Should a regular golf ball land in a footgolf hole, players can take a free drop.

Darke and Karuzas designed the course, Arizona’s 10th. They walked the course about 10 times, planning out hole placement and making adjustments each time.

Being that Canyon Mesa is a nine-hole, relatively small golf course, the footgolf layout was adjusted for difficulty.

“It’s quite technical, it’s shorter than many of the bigger courses,” Karuzas said. “So it has a little more undulation and hills. We tried to make it as challenging as possible because of the length.”

To be successful at the relatively new sport—the American FootGolf League was established in 2011—knowledge of both golf and soccer is useful for different reasons.

Having the ability to read the course as in regular golf helps.

“If you play golf it helps with reading the typography of the land and how the slopes go,” Karuzas said. “Short game is extremely important as in real golf.”

But overall, according to Karuzas, soccer skills are more handy since one needs to be able to strike the ball how they want.

“It all depends on the mindset, if you know you have to work hard, you’re going to love it and enjoy it,” Karuzas said. “Like learning golf it’s very fun but very frustrating. But it’ll balance and hopefully the fun outlasts the frustrations.”

The players’ striking foot must be separate from the ball before making contact; one cannot flick the ball or use the bottom of their foot to push it.

Unlike in golf, kicking the ball for distance is a difficult thing to do.

“It’s hard to hit 100 yards with a soccer ball,” said Darke, adding that the ball does roll for a very long time once on the ground.

Uniform and Necessities

Regular golf attire is to be worn. The most important part is the footwear; cleats with rubber moldings or spikes may not be worn. Indoor soccer shoes, turf shoes or regular shoes may be worn.

Playing at Canyon Mesa

Those interested can play at any time of the day, but it is suggested to call ahead and set up a tee time. Rates for nine and 18 holes are $12.50 and $20, respectively, and $7.50 for players 16 and under. Ball rentals are $3, and standard cart rental fees apply [$6 per rider, driver’s license required].


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