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16 Mar 2016

A Real Kick: The Growing Sport of FootGolf Gets Its Day in the Spotlight

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American FootGolf League founder Roberto Balestrini: “The beauty about FootGolf is that it can be as fun or as competitive as you want." American FootGolf League founder Roberto Balestrini: “The beauty about FootGolf is that it can be as fun or as competitive as you want."

Imagine legendary U.S. soccer stars Abby Wambach and Julie Foudy kicking around a soccer ball here in the Coachella Valley … on a golf course.

No, it’s not an April Fool’s joke.

Welcome to the fast-growing sport called FootGolf, a combination between soccer and golf, that’s getting lots of attention, nationally and internationally, across all generations and genders.

Wambach and Foudy, both retired U.S. National Team soccer players, each with two Olympic gold medals to their credit, will participate along with LPGA golf stars in an exhibition match against Japan on Tuesday, March 29, at the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, as part of the ANA Inspiration women’s golf tournament (formerly known as the Dinah Shore).

In fact, the headquarters of the American FootGolf League (AFGL) is here in Palm Springs.

“Coachella Valley is the U.S. golf capital; hence AFGL was established here (in) 2011,” said Roberto Balestrini, the founder of the AFGL. The AFGL is the national governing body for the sport and a member of the Federation for International FootGolf.

Balestrini said anybody can play the sport regardless of age and skill.

“The game is played with a regulation No. 5 soccer ball at a golf course facility on shortened holes with 21-inch diameter cups located yards away from golf greens,” Balestrini said.

The point is to reach the cups with as few kicks as possible. FootGolf can be played on nine holes for about an hour, or 18 holes for about two hours. The sport itself does not require expensive gear and equipment.

“All you need is golf attire, a soccer ball and shoes with no cleats,” Balestrini said.

According to Balestrini, the game is on the rise in large part because youth are discovering the sport and coming out to play it. It’s also helping the revenues of some golf courses.

Locally, FootGolf can be played at Desert Willows Golf Resort in Palm Desert, at The Lights in Indio, the Golf Center of Palm Desert and the Cathedral Canyon Golf Club in Cathedral City.

“The AFGL has a partnership with the National Golf Course Owners Association and works very closely with the entire golf industry since it is (the sport’s foundation),” Balestrini said.

There are 125 golf courses in Coachella Valley, so there’s a lot of potential for this new sport to grow.

“The beauty about FootGolf is that it can be as fun or as competitive as you want,” Balestrini said.

The ANA Inspiration’s Footgolf Faceoff: USA vs. Japan will take place at 5 p.m., Tuesday, March 29, at the Mission Hills Country Club, in Rancho Mirage. Admission and parking for the event are free; park at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage. Complimentary shuttles to the course begin running at 3 p.m. For more information, visit www.anainspiration.com/footgolf.

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