Foot golf makes splash in local debut

Joe Avento • Apr 4, 2014 at 10:27 PM

UNICOI — For all the golfers who have ever been tempted to use the old foot wedge, there’s a new game that might be right up your fairway.

Foot golf, a game combining the skills of golf and soccer, made its local debut Friday evening at Buffalo Valley Golf Course. Golfers — and the term was used loosely — used soccer balls and kicked their way around the course, playing to holes made of buckets dug into the ground, usually right next to the fairway.

It was a joint venture between Johnson City’s Parks and Rec Department, Johnson City Indoor Soccer and the golf course.

“We wanted to see how it would work,” said Michael Balluff, who runs State of Franklin Adult Soccer and is in the process of buying Buffalo Valley’s indoor soccer facility from Johnson City. “As a soccer organization, we’re obviously interested in anything that allows us to put a foot to the ball.”

The sport has officially been around for four years. It is played in 20 countries and in 2012, eight countries played in the first World Cup in Budapest, Hungary.

About 30 players participated at Buffalo Valley, many colorfully dressed.

“We’ll see where it goes,” Balluff said. “At the very least, we’ll do a couple tournaments a year. If Parks and Rec decides they want to integrate this more often, I think that would be great. With the indoor place being right there, we’d love to do this more often.

“This was just a dry run.”

It was a dry run for most everyone involved, but one player, Hunter Tipton, didn’t stay dry for the entire round. He jumped into a pond after his tee shot rolled into the water. He eventually waded chest deep and attempted to play out of the pond. Three kicks later, his ball was out.

Tipton wasn’t the only one with water woes. One particular hole was playing into the wind, and every ball kicked with right-to-left spin rolled into the pond.

The laughter and smiles from the participants indicated that foot golf might not have made its last appearance in the area.

“I think we’ll probably do it in the fall and maybe look at a trial run again in August,” said Jim Hughes, Johnson City’s golf director. “Whether it becomes a weekly thing, a daily thing, we’ll see.”

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