By Christine Bryant
A popular international sport has made its way to central Ohio, with Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park offering visitors the chance to try their hand – or foot – at it.
For the first time, the park has opened a challenge course for FootGolf, a precision sport in which players kick a soccer ball into a cup in as few shots as possible. The sport, which is a hybrid of soccer and golf, is popular in European countries.
It was only in 2011, however, that the American FootGolf League was founded, but just three years later, more than 240 courses had been built in the United States.
Ricardo Grandos, a naturalist with Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, says the park’s course opened in September and will remain open through Oct. 16.
“This year was an experimental year,” he said. “We had an idea, but we didn’t want to build something permanent or semi-permanent without knowing what Franklin County residents thought about it.”
If visitors enjoy it, the park likely will bring back the course for a longer season next year, he said.
Using materials already found at the park, staff designed the 9-hole challenge course using boulders, straw bales, logs and other items as obstacles. The park then purchased a few soccer balls that guests can use when visiting.
“I think it’s a pretty neat thing that we were able to do that whole course and build everything in one day using everything we already had in the park,” Grandos said.
Though there are a few soccer balls on hand, Grandos recommends families bring a ball just in case the loaner balls are being used.
“A typical ball is a size 5 regulation soccer ball, but we don’t enforce that,” he said. “We have a lot of people play with other sizes, like 3 or 4, or even use kickballs.”
No reservations are needed, and use of the course is free, he said.
“It’s something the whole family can do,” Grandos said. “Everyone can kick a ball. It’s universal and something the entire family can engage in.”
The FootGolf challenge course is located in the Cedar Ridge Picnic Area of the park, 1775 Darby Creek Drive. For more information, go to metroparks.net.
How to play
FootGolf is played similarly to golf, but instead of using a golf ball and golf club, players kick a soccer ball – working toward a cup that is in place of the usual golf hole.
Each player will tee off from a designated start point, and the player who finishes the course with the fewest shots wins.
Throughout the course, obstacles such as bunkers, trees, water and other items will make it more difficult to reach the hole.Because soccer balls travel shorter distances that golf balls, FootGolf courses are typically shorter than golf courses. In regulation matches, a No. 5 soccer ball is used.