Michigan Golf Courses Put a New Spin on the Sport with FootGolf

FootGolf, a hybrid of golf and soccer, has been popping up at Michigan golf courses this summer. Today, guest blogger Janina Jacobs tells us how these Michigan courses are putting a new spin on the sport. 

Love it or hate the idea, FootGolf has arrived. What is this phenomenon that’s bringing new life to area golf courses and why is it here?

Photo courtesy of Shanty Creek Resort

Photo courtesy of Shanty Creek Resort

First, the why: There is no debate that overall, golfer numbers have declined in recent years, even in this golf rich state. Assuming the downturn comes from core golfers playing less and newer golfers slowly trickling in, new markets are needed. The Pure Michigan campaign is beginning to bring people in from all over the U.S., but it does take time for folks to pack their clubs and head over. For us long-time golfers – those growing up in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s – soccer was not what we did; a little kickball maybe, but not the local, regional, and national traveling leagues and organizations that abound today. Almost every kid born after 1980 was introduced to soccer primarily in school, along with parents who drove them to every game and practice.  And so, enter FootGolf. Sort of a hybrid between soccer and golf, some facilities are embracing the concept and allowing footgolfers access to tee times along with regular golfers. Other than the initial shock of watching four players, likely dressed in Hogan caps, plus-fours, and argyle socks kicking soccer balls up the fairway ahead, regular golfers will experience no interference from the relatively new sport, which has actually been around since the 1980’s but is fresh to Michigan. In fact, golfers would do well to keep up considering FootGolf holes are shorter and flatter, the only club selection necessary is which foot to use, no time is spent looking for lost balls, and can take half the time to play.

Here’s how it works: Ideally, holes are mapped out along a portion of the normal course routing but using more level ground. Tees are placed in a closely mown area on the fairway, usually away from regular tee boxes. Footgolfers use their own #5 Soccer ball and the kicking commences until reaching the green which is actually a closely mown fairway, about 30-feet in diameter and often near a regulation green. So you can erase any idea of greens becoming mutilated from footgolfers stomping and kicking all over the beautiful bent grass greens so beloved to Michigan golfers…..or worry about what happens if you should accidently hit your golf ball into the 21-inch cup. If you do, take it out please! You will find it at the bottom of the ‘normal’ size cup where the flagstick is nestled within the larger hole.

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 9.25.55 AMIt is not as easy as you think. I was introduced to FootGolf at Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire, which has transformed the lesser-used but magnificently conditioned Summit Golf Course into a multi-use facility. Director of Golf Brian Kautz came from a very traditional club in Florida, and no one is more surprised than he at the transformation taking shape: You can 1) play regular golf using standard 4 and ½ inch cups; 2) play regular golf using the 8-inch cups cut into every green; 3) play the par-3 tees on each hole using either cup; or 4) play FootGolf using the alternate greens and oversized cups. I hadn’t kicked a soccer ball in years, so after a few holes of 6 or more kicks, where even the slightest elevation and rough will make you aware of leg and hip muscles you didn’t know existed, you’ll gain new respect for the sport. The kids will get a kick out of it…pardon the pun…because for them, it’s easy and familiar. Even better, they can walk; and in the process, they may also observe regular golf and get the urge to try that as well. Watch for the possible re-introduction of the pull cart, which in the last decade or two virtually disappeared from golf clubs. How better to solve the problem of trying to walk and play FootGolf while transporting adult beverages?

In case you think that rules are relaxed even for this seemingly tame sport, you should know that there is an international governing body, the Federation for International FootGolf (FIFG), and its Rule Book is 47 pages long. Rules govern ball size, weight, hole dimensions, and many other situations that regular golf rules cover. And there are leagues and tournaments…plenty of them.

Other courses around the state are offering FootGolf, including Elmbrook Golf Course, which celebrates their 50th anniversary this year. Owner Carolyn Olson felt it was ideal considering their location: “at first we thought it was for kids or birthday parties and such. But it’s a perfect fit for Traverse City, with all the elite soccer clubs and coaches in the area.” Ironically, the median age for footgolfers is about 20-35 years old.

Photo courtesy of Fox Hills Golf Course

Photo courtesy of Fox Hills Golf Course

In the metro Detroit area, Fox Hills Golf and Banquet Center in Salem Township opened their FootGolf course on the renowned Strategic Fox, a popular 18-hole par-3 layout, in May. They are already seeing interest. In Grand Blanc, even the stately Warwick Hills, a private club that hosted multiple PGA Tour Buick Opens, is contemplating the idea. Treetops Resort in Gaylord offers every FootGolf customer on the Rick Smith Tradition course a deal sweetener: a voucher for a free golf clinic. Prices average about $10-$20 per round at most facilities.

For the naysayers, one cannot argue that Footgolfers bring a different energy to the course: high fives, acrobatics – including doing cartwheels down the fairway – and more yelling. All of these formerly frowned-upon outbursts certainly change the dynamics of golf courses where everyone is often afraid to cheer, shout, or even talk. Sometimes people cannot use the words ‘fun’ and ‘golf’ in the same sentence. With FootGolf, it is hard not to.

Janina-Jacobs-headshot1Janina Parrott Jacobs is a lifelong Michigan resident but her passion as a multi-media golf and business specialist and international golf and travel writer takes her all over the world.  Her website, www.janinajacobs.com, features many other entrepreneurial adventures as a motivational speaker, professional musician and performer, owning Capers Steakhouse in Detroit, and volunteer efforts with the U.S. Navy where she advocates for and mentors young people concerning health, nutrition, and fitness issues.

Michigan Golf Courses Prepare for the Summer Season Ahead (Plus a Giveaway!)

With more than 800 public golf courses surrounded by lush natural beauty and the Great Lakes, Michigan is a perfect summer golf destination! To get ready for summer golf season, we spoke with Janina Parrott Jacobs to learn more about how Michigan courses are preparing for the busy season ahead after our record-breaking winter. Plus, learn how you can win tickets to the Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores!

Photo courtesy of Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

Photo courtesy of Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

In golf, records are made to be broken. Usually, we’re not referring to the weather. Mother Nature busted the all-time snowfall record on Tax Day 2014, when a couple inches dusted the Detroit metro area, bringing totals above 94 inches. For northern Michigan folks, that’s child’s play, and exactly why you may be able to visit northern courses earlier than some southern state locales. Here’s why: the thaw-freeze cycle. When the ground freezes and snow falls, the snow provides a cushion for the grass. If it’s cold all winter, the ground is protected. However, if there’s a thaw – even a brief one – followed by an ice storm that coats the ground with snow on top of that, the grass is deprived of oxygen and ‘suffocates’ under the ice layer. Grasses can only handle this condition for 60-90 days depending on species, until they start to die, resulting in disease and bare spots.

According to Grand Traverse Resort and Spa’s Public Relations Director J. Michael DeAgostino, “we cannot put golf maintenance equipment on the courses until the frost is out of the ground and the turf is firm enough to support the equipment without tires sinking into it. So far, the greens on our courses look great but there is some winter damage to fairways and tees. GTR has already staged staggered openings of all three courses, Spruce Run, Wolverine, and The Bear.

hole1_slide

Photo courtesy of Tullymore Golf Resort

Farther downstate, Tullymore Resort, near Mt. Pleasant, normally has lake-effect snowfall providing a happy medium between heavier mixes up north and lighter precipitation in the Detroit metro area. According to Alex Greenacre, Director of Golf Course Maintenance, the resort’s two courses, Tullymore and St. Ives, came through basically unscathed, with snowfall in the ‘high normal range.’ “This year’s winter was different; we never received a large rainfall or warm days to melt any snow, which resulted in heavy amounts of drift areas that were more prone to disease – but these are actually in the rough and only superficial. Our greens, tees, and fairways were 99.9% unaffected.”

However, it’s not as if courses don’t prepare for winter’s bite. Typically, they’re treated chemically in the fall and this prevents winter damage and snow mold. The Grande Golf Club in Jackson, which opened in early April, annually spends about $4,000 to apply the anti-mold chemical, according to General Manager Brian Roberts. “It’s not fun to spend that much money going into the off-season….but you’ll really pick out the courses that didn’t use it.”

Golf-in-MichiganSo what does this mean for golfers itching to get out and play? Before planning golf trips, call first, even into May and June. And consider hoofing it: with wet conditions, courses will let walkers out sooner than carts. High school golf teams and league players are mostly affected because they begin play earlier in the season. For organizations conducting tournaments whose dates have been in place for months, there could be a concern. Michigan PGA Executive Director Kevin Helm said, “there are some facilities in the Detroit area that have been hit pretty hard. We didn’t start our schedule until the last Monday in April, so it is hard to say how our events may be affected; but at least we have not heard from any of our host sites saying we have a major problem.”

One important event happening regardless of weather is the Michigan Women’s Golf Association’s Legacy and Lifetime Achievement Awards golf celebration honoring three legendary Michigan women who have impacted golf for decades on Monday, May 19, 2014 at Travis Pointe CC in Ann Arbor.

Also, the Bogey Golf Tour, the ‘premier tour for the average golfer’ which hosts events in southeast Michigan and across the border in southwest Ontario, is already off and running with five events scheduled in May.

Finally, the Senior PGA Championship will be teeing off at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor May 22 – 25, 2014. Read below to find out how you can win free tickets to the event on the Pure Michigan Facebook page!

FACEBOOK GIVEAWAY: Do you want to score free tickets to the Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor? Head to our Pure Michigan Facebook page and simply tell us in the comments section why you want to attend the Senior PGA Championship. We’ll randomly select five lucky winners to win two tickets to the event. To be eligible, submit your comments by this Friday, May 16th at 12:oo p.m. EST. We’ll  follow up with our winners via Facebook on Friday afternoon.

Janina-Jacobs-headshot-224x300Janina Parrott Jacobs is a lifelong Michigan resident but her passion as a multi-media golf and business specialist and international golf and travel writer takes her all over the world.  Her website, www.janinajacobs.com, features many other entrepreneurial adventures as a motivational speaker, professional musician and performer, owning Capers Steakhouse in Detroit, and volunteer efforts with the U.S. Navy where she advocates for and mentors young people concerning health, nutrition, and fitness issues. Contact Janina at Jjacobs2456@gmail.com. 

Top Golfers Try Their Hand at Harbor Shores this Spring

The 75th Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid makes its second appearance in Michigan May 20 -25, 2014 at The Golf Club at Harbor Shores. Jeff Hintz, PGA Championship Director, answers our questions on the tournament and gives an overview of what attendees can expect from the course.

Tickets for the Senior PGA Championship are on sale now – including holiday packages for the golf enthusiast on your shopping list! 

Q: This year is the 75th Senior PGA Championship. Will there be any special events or celebrations to commemorate this?

A: The Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid has a long and rich history since it began in 1937. We are currently exploring opportunities to host a variety of community events to celebrate the 75th anniversary from a concert series to a 5K run/walk race. Details about these events will be posted on the Championship website as we get closer to the event.

We also unveiled a new logo for the 2014 Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid to commemorate the 75th anniversary and honor the history and tradition of the Championship.

Q: What can attendees expect to experience at the Senior PGA Championship this year?

A: Every fan experience is unique from Championship to Championship. In 2014, we’re committed to enhancing our customer service throughout the course and creating a great entertainment value for our fans. Daily grounds tickets range from $15 to $35 and all juniors, 17 years of age and younger, will be admitted into the Championship for free with an accompanying ticketed adult. We are looking into incorporating a new Kids Zone at the Championship this year which will include activities for juniors and families. And, we’ve introduced a new ticket category for the 75th Championship – the 19th Hole – which gives fans access to an upgraded viewing structure on the course. Single-day tickets to the 19th Hole tickets will be sold for Championship rounds (Thurs. – Sun.) for $50. Practice round tickets to the 19th Hole are $35.

Q: Who can attendees expect to see playing this year?

A: The Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid, the most historic and prestigious senior major, features the strongest field in senior golf. Golf fans will have a chance to see the world’s greatest senior golfers and walk with history.

We expect a strong field in 2014 filled with past Champions and fan favorites including Tom Watson, Tom Lehman, Jay Haas, Fred Couples, Kenny Perry, Mark O’Meara, Bernhard Langer and 2012 Senior PGA Champion Roger Chapman.

Q: What makes Harbor Shores such a unique golf course? Why was Harbor Shores chosen to host this premier event?

A: Harbor Shores is a Jack Nicklaus Signature Design golf course, the only one on the shores of Lake Michigan. What makes this course so unique is the extensive environmental transformation that took place to develop the course. The Nicklaus team transformed abandoned land, dilapidated vacant factories, and a city dump into one of the top courses in the state of Michigan. The course and surrounding development serves as a catalyst for ongoing community transformation in Benton Harbor.

Thanks to our partnership with KitchenAid, Harbor Shores was selected as the site of the 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 Senior PGA Championships presented by KitchenAid.

Q: Are there any “must-play” holes for golf enthusiasts at Harbor Shores? What’s your favorite hole at Harbor Shores?

A: All 18 holes at Harbor Shores are must-play holes for golf enthusiasts! The course features three distinct styles of terrain including lakefront dunes along Lake Michigan, Northern Michigan hardwoods and native wetlands along the Paw Paw River. Holes 7, 8 and 9, overlook the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan and give golfers a stunning look at the beach. Hole 10 is one of my favorite holes. The 10thgreen is a three-tier green and the largest in Nicklaus’ portfolio of more than 300 golf course designs around the world.

Q: Outside of the course, what are some “must-sees” in the Benton Harbor area for visitors to check out while in town?

A: While you’re visiting Benton Harbor for the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid, you must take some time to visit Jean Klock Park Beach along the shores of Lake Michigan. The center of Jean Klock Park is made up of holes 7, 8 and 9 at Harbor Shores on the lakefront dunes.

There are a number of great restaurants and shops within walking distance of the course in the Benton Harbor Arts District. Some of our favorite dining options in the Arts District include Larks Bar-B-Que, Charlie’s Piggin’ N’ Grinnin’, The Ideal Place and The Livery. The North Shore Inn is also a must for some of the best burgers in town. And, the St. Joseph Pier Lighthouse is a popular stop for visitors in nearby St. Joseph, Mich.

Q: Where can people go to learn more about the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid?

A: Fans can visit the Championship website to buy tickets and get more information about the 75th Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid. We also encourage fans to visit our Facebook page and Twitter account.

Will you attend the Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores this spring?

Jeff Hintz is the Championship Director of the 73rd and 75th Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid. As Championship Director, Hintz oversees all aspects of the Championships on behalf of The PGA of America. He also manages the day-to-day business relationship between The PGA and KitchenAid, the presenting sponsor of the Senior PGA Championship since 2011.