Soccer + golf equals 'Footgolf'

Brian Brown (foreground) and Scottie Howard

Being "first" for something is certainly nothing new to Charleston. Any tour guide worth his pluff mud will volunteer any number of memorable points of interest that put Charleston on the map both in Colonial days and even now.

It's time to add one more "first" to the list. The golf course on the Charleston Air Force Base, more properly known as Joint Base Charleston these days, is the first and only accredited spot for Footgolf in the state. Ever heard of it? I was unfamiliar, too, until a recent introduction to the sport at the Wrenwoods Golf Course.

Footgolf combines the passion and energy of soccer with the precision of golf. Essentially, a soccer ball is kicked around a course to a large hole marked with a flagstick.

At Wrenwoods, nine holes have already been set up by the greens superintendent, Brian Brown. Another nine will be sanctioned by the national organization in August.

In less than two months, Wrenwoods General Manager Aaron Sales estimates more than 200 rounds of Footgolf have been played on his course. Golfers always have the right of way, but Sales believes there's plenty of room for both to exist.

It's definitely the first time I've ever seen a basket of soccer balls in a golf pro shop.

Some will tell you Footgolf is the fastest-growing sport in North America. At the moment, there are more than 180 courses in 37 states.

For Sales, this is a business opportunity that hopefully will engage younger, enlisted airmen to use the golf course. He's also especially fond of the physical training that's possible as more and more people are attracted to the sport.

Already, there are plans to establish Footgolf leagues for the fall. It's a game Sales believes can gain a foothold (pardon the pun), especially with younger men and women who know how to kick a soccer ball but are intimidated about trying to play golf.

The rules are simple. A soccer ball is kicked toward a hole that is positioned about 150 yards away. The hole is 21 inches in diameter and is buried 18 inches into the ground. The idea is to take as few kicks as possible to get your ball into the hole.

There are a few rules to govern play and there are also a few clothing suggestions: Indoor or turf soccer shoes with no cleats. Knee-high socks, preferably argyle. Walk - don't run - to the next shot. And to cap things off, a flat hat, a la Ben Hogan or Payne Stewart, is incorporated into the uniform of the day.

It's certainly an unusual approach to adding an activity to an already existing facility. Could it really catch on? Hard to say right now. Can't fault the timing, on the heels of The World Cup.

The biggest impediment to public exposure here may be gaining access to the base. Since 9/11, it's considerably tougher to get through the gate.

It certainly has more of a chance to work at a place like Wrenwoods than, say, some of the high-end private or resort courses. Sales also hopes that some of the squadrons on base might see it as a fun fundraiser. There's also a chance that members of The Battery might be approachable for a pro-am tournament. Who wouldn't want one of those guys on your team?

At the very least, it's a concept that makes us more active. Maybe there will be stubbed toes along the way, but getting more people outside is never a bad idea.

Reach Warren Peper at 937-5577 or wpeper@