FootGolf, junior leagues among features at local courses

By: Thomas Franz | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published April 22, 2015

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Bello Woods Golf Course in Macomb Township will celebrate its 45th season of being family owned and operated this summer, but it will feature something nearly brand new for this year’s golf season.

Bello Woods experimented with FootGolf last October, and after hearing positive reviews from participants, the course will host FootGolf days on its gold course on most Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays this year.

“We designed the course last year and opened it in October, and it really took off,” said Janet Schrade, one of the course’s family owners. “So we decided to have foot golf outings this year. It doesn’t really get in the way of the normal golf course.”

FootGolf is a new alternative to the old links game. The game is scored the same, as the lowest score wins. Participants begin from a tee area just like the normal game, kicking a ball through fairways, roughs and hazards until reaching a 21-inch diameter hole, which is usually flagged off to the side of the normal golf green.

The holes are shorter than regular golf holes. A par 5 at Bello Woods measures at 250 yards, while Par 4s and 3s range from 90-130 yards.

A normal nine-hole round is usually finished in 45 minutes.

“We designed it with the course. We have plenty of room. We could probably put 18 holes in, but we just decided to put nine holes in to get it going and get it started,” Schrade said.

An even par score on the FootGolf course is 36, and the course record at Bello Woods was set at 35 by a youth soccer player last year.

“I’m anxious to see what kind of scores they come up with this year. We’re improving the course little by little,” Schrade said.

FootGolf is just one strategy that golf courses are using to attract younger people to their grounds.

At Cracklewood Golf Course on 24 Mile Road, the topography and course layout won’t allow for a FootGolf course, but a junior league is being reintroduced on Mondays to hopefully attract younger golfers.

“Our facility just isn’t set up to incorporate FootGolf now, but that’s a great thing to get kids outside and active,” said Kevin Nicholl, general manager at Cracklewood. “We’re trying to throw out some junior clinics and junior leagues to get the kids involved at a young age.”

Nicholl said that nationwide and locally, youth golf participation has decreased in large numbers. He added that is likely due to a combination of the economy hurting the ability of parents to get kids involved with golf and kids simply choosing other activities to participate in.

“We’re seeing a very disturbing decrease in the amount of juniors getting involved in outdoor activities,” Nicholl said. “As the economy went bad and parents probably had tighter budgets, they were probably limiting what their kids could get involved in, and that kind of put a decrease in the numbers.”

Cracklewood’s junior league will start toward the end of June on Monday afternoons.

“Hopefully, they’ll show interest and get the parents to get involved and bring them out to the golf facility, whether it’s just chipping and putting and hitting range balls,” Nicholl said.

At both courses and elsewhere, golfers young and old will find better course conditions this spring than those of a year ago.

This year’s winter was a bit more forgiving to local courses than the record-setting 2013-14 winter, allowing for greens and fairways to be ready for play as early as March 20 at Cracklewood.

“Unlike last winter, with the extent of how long the winter went for, our course came through with very minor winter dormancy grass and no winter ice damage at all,” Nicholl said. “It didn’t look good in the beginning of March to be open at all during March, and we had kind of a different thaw than normal. We were much drier than expected, and we were able to open far sooner than we anticipated, so that was very good to see.”

Nicholl said that spring golf rates at Cracklewood will likely be offered through Memorial Day.

At Bello Woods, which opened on April 3, a nine-hole round of FootGolf will be offered for free during the weekend of April 25-26.

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