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.

Get in a Few Practice Swings at These Excellent Michigan Golf Schools

Michigan Golf Month may be winding down, but it’s still prime season for Michigan golfers and enthusiasts to get out and enjoy their favorite courses. If you’re looking to improve your game by getting in a few practice swings this summer, there are many top golf schools to check out across the state. Today, golf expert Kevin Frisch, owner and CEO of Fusion Media Strategies, gives us the run down. 

After a long and cold winter, summer has finally arrived at America’s Summer Golf Capital and golfers all over the state and Midwest are getting out and experiencing Michigan’s quantity and quality of great golf. In addition, golfers are also looking to improve their game this summer at many of Michigan’s top golf schools. The state features some of the top instructors in the country along with award-winning golf schools.

If you are looking to combine a golf vacation getaway with top golf instruction, then a trip to northern Michigan should be on the menu. The region combines more golf school instruction with award-winning resort destinations than anywhere in the country.

Academy-Jason-II

Photo courtesy of Treetops

Leading the way for the past 20 years has been Rick Smith, one of Golf Digest’s top instructors, and his Rick Smith Golf Academy at Treetops Resort. It is one of GOLF Magazine’s Top 25 Golf Schools, and Smith, who has spent many years out on the PGA Tour working with the games elite players, returns to Treetops often to teach the game he loves. Programs like the Rick Smith TOUR Performance School, the Rick Smith Premier Session and the popular Weekend Workshop highlight the academy’s offerings. Make sure to also check out the Treetops Ladies Golf School. 

Heading up the road to BOYNE, golfers will find the popular BOYNE Golf Academy lead by Brian O’Neill, who is one of Golf Digest’s top instructors in Michigan and Mike Fay, a U.S. Kids Golf -Top 50 Kids Teacher. Golfers can experience top instruction combined with nine golf course options including the spectacular Bay Harbor Golf Club.

The BOYNE Golf Academy combines new technology including Trackman with golf fitness using the popular Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) and a new “holistic” approach to golf instruction. The academy also offers a variety of programs including the Fore Women School, short game schools, Nike Junior Camps, and its flagship program, The BOYNE Golf Academy Performance Experience. New for 2014 are corporate Team Building programs that incorporate some of the fun challenges seen on the popular Golf Channel’s Big Break.

The Traverse City region finds a number of golf schools and resorts with leading instruction and quality golf.

Leading the way is the Crystal Mountain Golf School, a GOLF Magazine Top 25 Golf School located in Thompsonville. Lead by some of Golf Digest’s top teachers in Michigan including Brad Dean, the Crystal Mountain Golf School offers more than 100 schools, clinics and programs for all levels of golfers.

Some of the most popular programs include the Two and Three-Day Golf Schools, as well as the Women’s Three-Day School. The Junior Golf Academy is also a popular choice for beginners as well as elite players, and Get Golf Ready Classes lead the Player Development Programs. Visit

Photo courtesy of Grand Traverse Resort

Photo courtesy of Grand Traverse Resort

Located in Acme, just outside of Traverse City, the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa offers a 12-month golf school with The Grand Traverse Golf Academy led by six-time Michigan Open Champion and 2008 PGA Professional National Champion Scott Hebert. The 2,000 square foot Academy building features three fully heated, indoor-outdoor hitting bays equipped with mirrors and motion-capture technology for swing analysis including the GC2.

The academy offers single, two and three-day programs, individual instruction, playing lessons with course management as well as a summer junior programs for kids aged 5 –17. In addition, the golf academy has become a popular venue for corporate clinics and association meetings.

Other leading instructional programs in the Traverse City region include the Shanty Creek Golf Academy lead by Brian Kautz and featuring instruction for all levels of players including full swing and short game. In addition, programs for beginners as well as juniors are also offered.

The Homestead Resort on the Leelanau Peninsula in Michigan is home to the Dave Pelz Short Game School. It is one of only six locations in the world offering the nationally acclaimed golf school, which is also a GOLF Magazine Top 25 Golf School. Operating under the theory that golfers most often drive up their scores within 100 yards of the hole, the school focuses on the short game and putting. The programs include 1-2-3 Day Scoring Schools that offer instruction for chipping, putting, wedge and sand play.

For golfers looking to stay closer to home and receive top golf instruction, they should be sure to check out some of these leading golf schools around Michigan.

Photo courtesy of Hawk Hollow

Photo courtesy of Hawk Hollow

The Jason Guss Golf Academy at Eagle Eye and Hawk Hollow in Lansing is led by Jason Guss, who was recognized by Golf Digest as one of “America’s Best Young Teachers” as well as the 2013 Michigan PGA Teacher of the Year. The Academy offers a variety of multi-day schools, women’s programs, individual and corporate instruction. Guss is also recognized for having one of the premier junior golf instruction programs in Michigan. Visit

In the Ann Arbor area, a trip to The Kendall Academy at Miles of Golf will provide all aspects of instruction. Lead by Dave Kendall, the academy offers private lessons, a series of lessons, as well as specialty schools, day schools, as well as on course playing lessons. Visit

Two other top teachers in Michigan that are quickly gaining notoriety include Charley Vandenburg in Grand Rapids, and Bob Krause in the Detroit area.

Vandenberg Instruction at the Thousand Oaks Golf Academy features a state of the art facility on the cutting edge of golf technology. Training aids such as the MEGSA perfect practice equipment help students reach their potential. Charley Vandenberg was named the 2014 Michigan PGA Teacher of the Year for a fifth time.

The Bob Krause Golf School offers top individual instruction using the games leading technology and has also become a popular school for corporate sessions. Bob has also become the go to person for many professional athletes. Visit

Over the past 25 years Michigan has been a leading golf destination with award winning golf courses and resort destinations, but it has now become a popular state for golf instruction. Visit Michigan.org for more information.

How do you like to get your swing in shape for golf season in Michigan?

MG_2299CRweb-150x150Kevin Frisch is the owner and CEO of Fusion Media Strategies, a Michigan based marketing and public relations company specializing in the golf industry serving golf clients nationwide.

Growing the Game of Golf in Michigan with Family Friendly Programs

June is Michigan Golf Month, and it’s the perfect time of year to get out on the course! If you’re new to the sport or would like to get your family involved, guest blogger Janina Jacobs shares some ways to take advantage of junior and family friendly golf opportunities in Pure Michigan.

Photo courtesy of Shepherd's Hollow

Photo courtesy of Shepherd’s Hollow

School’s out and Michigan’s 850-plus courses offer great places to spend endless summer days. Family and junior programs abound everywhere and are vital to growth of the game. Making golf more fun is the goal for one spectacular opportunity you may wish to consider for your kids this year: the National Drive, Chip & Putt competition, sponsored by the USGA, the Masters Tournament, and the PGA of America. It could lead to an appearance at Augusta National Golf Club next April. Last year’s inaugural event had limited qualifying opportunities but the number of qualifying sites for the 2014 event has been greatly expanded and includes many Michigan golf courses.

Girls and boys ages 7-15 are encouraged to enter the contest, which awards points for accuracy in driving, chipping, and putting – certainly the key to lower scores for any golfer. Local qualifiers in each of four divisions separated by gender and age groups of 7-9, 10-11, 12-13, and 14-15 will advance to Sub-Regional qualifiers at Fox Hills Golf Club and Banquet Center in Plymouth on August 15 and Binder Park Golf Course in Battle Creek on August 23. Regional finals will be held September 6 at Prestwick Village Golf Club, in Highland. For official rules and to register, visit www.drivechipandputt.com. Entries close at 5pm, five (5) days prior to the local Michigan competitions, which are listed below:

Drive, Chip & Putt Local Qualifying Sites:

June 17 – Hawk Hollow Golf Club, Bath
June 22 – Marquette Golf Club, Marquette
June 25 – Railside Golf Club, Byron Center
June 28 – Whispering Willows Golf Club, Livonia
July 1 – Pheasant Run Golf Club, Canton
July 8 – Forest Akers East, East Lansing
July 12 – Ferris State University/Katke, Big Rapids
July 15 – Treetops Resort, Gaylord
July 19 – The Orchards, Washington
July 22 – Binder Park Golf Course, Battle Creek
July 26 – Apple Mountain, Freeland

Photo courtesy of Gaylord CVB

Photo courtesy of Gaylord CVB

There is no entry fee for the National Drive, Chip & Putt Contest, however space is limited and entries are accepted on a first-come first served basis. Each local qualifier has its own starting time, which is listed on the individual site. Of note, those who make it to Augusta and become Championship finalists will receive three Monday Practice Round Tickets to the 2015 Masters.

SPECIAL OFFER FOR HIGH SCHOOL GOLFERS: Free Golf Association of Michigan (GAM) memberships are available to all high school golf team members and their coach. To receive the free GAM membership, your golf coach must call 248.478.9242, Ext. 19. Perks include an online Michigan E-newsletter, weekly Global Golf Post digital edition, subscription to Golf Digest or Golf World, the Michigan Links Magazine and 2014 Annual Course Directory (which lists every golf course in the state, pertinent information, and also directions on how to get there) exclusive tee time booking, opportunities to play in the GAM Scramble, tournaments, events, and $60 Golf Days, sponsor offers, Swing & Save discount program, and handicap services. Visit www.gam.org for more information or for regular membership, which at $39, offers superb value.

Michigan Golf Schools and Lessons

A number of courses across the state offer private lessons and classes for those just getting their swing in shape. To find golf schools and lessons in your area, check out michigan.org.

Janina-Jacobs-headshot111-150x150Janina 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.