Just to start with, this is a real – and fast-growing – sport that just held its second World Cup, in Argentina in January, and one of the competitors was Steve Crane, who has helped set up a FootGolf course at Windermere Country Club, just 12 miles north of Walt Disney World.
Set in a beautiful residential area and with acres of natural countryside, including lakes and other water features, WCC has the perfect set-up for locals and tourists alike, and Steve should know as he is originally from Britain and was a tourist here himself once.
He told us: “FootGolf is a hybrid of football and golf, played to the same rules as golf over 18 holes, only you don’t use golf clubs and a small ball. Instead, you use a Size 5 football and you have to kick it from tee to hole, and the holes are all 21 inches in diameter.
“You still have the same hazards as in golf, like sand-traps and water, but it is much quicker and easier to play, and you don’t need to go to the expense of buying or hiring clubs. If you can swing a leg, you can play FootGolf!”
The club at Windermere is a classic example of a Floridian course, packed with natural beauty and a lovely drive, away from the main tourist areas but still being easy to find (it is just off Highway 535, which runs north of Disney, or south of the 408 Expressway). It is also close to the fab shopping centre of Winter Garden Village, so it makes for a nice double opportunity away from the theme parks.
The FootGolf course is open after 2pm five days a week – not Tuesday or Wednesday – and you can either just turn up and play or, which is more advisable, book in advance with Steve directly. Call 407 595 2095, or 407 876 1112; or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To see more details, check out the website www.centralfloridafootgolf.com.
It costs just $15 for a round (plus $5 each for ball hire, although you can bring your own). If you want the fun of a golf cart as well, that is an additional $5, and you need to allow up to two hours to complete all 18 holes over the full 2,300-yard course. A speedy pair might get round in little more than hour, but it would be a shame to rush around a course as beautiful as this.
Players can also take advantage of the clubhouse facilities, which include an excellent bar and restaurant, and there are even Cart Girls circling the course selling beer and soft drinks while you play! Alternatively, you can hire a cooler and buy some drinks before you start – the Country Club really looks after its guests.
“Anybody can play,” Steve told us. “It is a great way to keep fit and I have had players as old as 73 and as young as three. It is really catching on in Europe but Florida has a big advantage with the weather and the courses we have here. It is a great place to come and slow down during your holiday.”
Because the FootGolf course is intertwined with the main golf course, there is still a dress code and etiquette to observe, but Windermere is fairly relaxed. As long as you don’t turn up in a vest and flip-flops, you’ll be good to go. A shirt with a collar (like a polo shirt) is preferred, and shorts are perfectly acceptable (but not jeans). You will obviously want a good pair of trainers or similar sports shoes, but Orlando is an extremely good place to buy some if you didn’t bring any!
One other note about FootGolf. If you knock your ball into a sand-trap, you are not allowed to take a run up at it when you boot it out. You just have to take a swing at it from a standing position. And do remember to rake the sand flat again afterwards.
The regular golfers at the course are completely used to the FootGolf players, but you do need to pay attention to anyone teeing off, and allow golfers to play through occasionally. Otherwise, you are free to enjoy the course, and a lovely walk in gorgeous surroundings (some of the houses that back on to the course are in the multi-million dollar range).
We have both tried it (that’s Simon, below) and found it at once addictive and challenging. It is certainly easier than playing golf – as well as a lot cheaper – but it still requires a bit of skill and perseverance. If taken purely as entertainment (like mini-golf), it is lots of fun (be prepared to laugh—a lot!), and it is sure to appeal to more adventurous families, especially if they’re looking for something different.
The par for the WCC course is 71, which takes some beating, but regular players can shoot in the low 60s and it is not necessarily about who can kick a football furthest, as you have to pay attention to the contours of the fairways, as it’s easy for a ball to roll 50 yards the wrong way.
You also need to pay attention to the wildlife, and not just the occasional squirrel, possum or raccoon. Like with many Florida golf courses that have extensive water areas, there are a few (smallish) alligators lurking in the ponds, and it is highly inadvisable to go into the water at any stage. If you do have the misfortune to kick a ball into the water, it will float and the breeze will eventually blow it back to one side or the other. Just pay attention to your surroundings when picking it out!
Steve is currently working to convert more golf clubs to the FootGolf craze, so we expect to see a lot more of this in Orlando in future, and throughout Florida. And, if you meet Steve at all, you can congratulate him on being the first player to score a hole in one at the World Cup this year. He and the rest of the USA squad also won the team event.
It all makes for a unique opportunity in a place that really knows how to do unique, and we think this will definitely go on to become one of the must-try opportunities for those who like to be a little active on holiday. We will certainly be back, and it’s surely something the kids will want to challenge mum and dad to. Just remember, no cheering if you win!
PS: If you want a pair of those snazzy golf socks like Steve’s, go to www.golfknickers.com, with ‘knickers’ meaning knickerbockers, not unmentionables!
If you have questions on this story or anything to do with Orlando or Florida, be sure to join Susan and Simon on the fabulous ATD discussion forum here.
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