COMMENTARY | Golf, it's great. Football (or soccer for the American folk like me), it's also great. Why hasn't someone found a way to combine the two? Well, someone has.
The idea is pretty simple: Instead of carrying around 14 clubs, golf balls, tees and other accessories in a bag along an 18-hole course, a player just needs a soccer ball. The players kick the ball down the length of the hole until they can manage to find the bottom of the significantly larger cup compared to the standard-issue cut at your local muni.
The game seems like a lot of fun. Perhaps a player can't hit a 300-yard drive off the tee, but they can call on their playground days and elementary-school kickball to crush one down the fairway. If the tee shot finds the rough or a fairway bunker, the player has a pretty good chance to advance the ball at least as far as from the short grass. If, for whatever reason, the ball finds the water, it'll float -- unlike golf balls.
There's also a short-game component. It's arguably easier to chip and pitch a golf ball to an exact position than have a light enough foot to stop a soccer ball close to the flagstick. Putting has to be a heck of a challenge.
So why share the concept? Isn't this just some kind of gimmick? Maybe, but there's a real applicability here that might help the game of golf grow in the United States and beyond.
Soccer's growing in popularity in the U.S., both as a recreational sport for kids and in terms of the number of people who care about teams and leagues domestic and abroad, and is the world's game. Major League Soccer has never been stronger or more popular, while TV ratings for international competition have soared to the point that ESPN, NBC Sports and FOX Sports have all made huge investments in rights to air games from the best leagues for American audiences.
Golf can embrace that when looking toward kids that might want to play the game. Yes, the skill set is different (that is unless they're being taught how to use the ole foot wedge), but soccer golf could be a gateway to kids wanting to learn how to play real golf.
A oft-cited barrier to get kids in the game is cost. Soccer golf is anything but expensive. Just get a ball and go. The game doesn't have to be played on a golf course even, which could be great for programs in urban areas where space for a driving range, pitch-and-putt or other kid-friendly golf spaces are sparse. Kids would still learn strategy, etiquette and get to experience how fun it can be to compete in some form of golf.
Maybe the experiment would convince enough kids that getting their hands on a starter set of clubs and returning to play with the smaller, dimpled ball is worth their time.
Ryan Ballengee is a Washington, D.C.-based golf writer. His work has appeared on multiple digital outlets, including NBC Sports and Golf Channel. Follow him on Twitter @RyanBallengee.
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