Las Vegas Sun

May 25, 2019

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Footgolf brings soccer skills to the Las Vegas links

FootGolf at Chimera Golf Club

Steve Marcus

Malik Rafih, left, 14, reacts as his ball misses the cup during a game of FootGolf at Chimera Golf Club in Henderson Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. FootGolf combines soccer and golf and is played with soccer balls with 21-inch diameter cups.

Tony Machado stands about 20 yards from the hole at Chimera Golf Club ahead of his second shot. He makes great contact with the soccer ball—yes, soccer ball—and watches it roll onto the green and into the hole for an unlikely eagle on the par-4.

FootGolf at Chimera Golf Club

Bill Rafih of Calgary, Alberta, Canada tees off during a game of FootGolf at Chimera Golf Club in Henderson Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. FootGolf combines soccer and golf and is played with soccer balls with 21-inch diameter cups. Launch slideshow »

Zachary Machado-Welch, Machado’s 11-year-old son, is so excited, he jumps into his father’s arms to celebrate. “A lot of fun,” Machado-Welch says of the outing, which is unlike most others on the links.

Footgolf, a combination of soccer and golf, is played in the afternoons at Chimera to bring families like the Machados, or those locals who are part of the American FootGolf League, to the Henderson golf course. There’s also a layout at the Siena Golf Club in Summerlin.

The footgolf holes—21 inches in diameter—are mostly to the side of the golf greens and are covered in the mornings during golf play. Footgolf is played with a size 5 ball for adults, size 4 for children.

Want to play?

• Where: Chimera Golf Club, 901 Olivia Parkway, Henderson; or Siena Golf Club, 10575 Siena Monte Ave., Las Vegas

• Cost: At Chimera, $25 for 18 holes, $5 ball rental (if needed); at Siena, $25 for nine holes, $35 for 18 holes; $5 for ball rental

• To book: Chimera 702-951-1500; Siena 702-341-9200

• Information: footgolf.us/american-footgolf-league

“It’s a lot more casual than normal golf,” says Jon Spatz, director of golf at Chimera. “It’s definitely more laid back and takes on the true form of recreation.”

The rules mirror those of golf, except that participants kick a soccer ball instead of hitting a golf ball. The scoring and terminology—teeing off and going for birdie, for instance—are the same. And so are the hazards.

Just ask Bill Rafih, whose family played Chimera on a recent Friday afternoon. On the first hole, he kicked his approach shot too hard. “Too much,” Rafih yelled. “Oh no, sand. Stop!” He proceeded to kick out of the hazard, and in following golf protocol, got the rake and covered his footprints in the sand as he exited the hazard.

The 18-hole footgolf course runs about 4,000 yards, slightly shorter than the facility’s golf course. The initial nine holes of footgolf are played on the initial seven golf holes, so as to avoid the Chimera man-made lake on hole No. 9. (The soccer ball has still found the water, forcing the footgolfer to wait for the ball to float the edge of the hazard.)

The holes range from 50 to 200 yards, with a mix of par-3, par-4 and par-5 holes. There are more hole-in-ones in footgolf, according to Spatz.

Proper footwear

Both courses forbid soccer cleats for competitors. Tennis or turf shoes are required.

Machado, who has also played the course at Siena, says resisting the temptation to strike the soccer ball as hard as possible is one of the keys to keeping scores low. His son has a simpler approach. “Just don’t fall on your face,” Zachary jokes.

Spatz says the course, which debuted footgolf about two years ago, hosts more than 1,000 participants annually. And some are there for a little more than recreation.

In 2017, Chimera and Siena combined to host an American FootGolf League-sanctioned event, bringing in competitors from all over the world to play the two courses. The players follow a similar dress code: knee-high Argyle socks, flat hat, collared shirt and shorts. Soccer uniforms are prohibited.

The event featured multiple divisions based on players’ handicaps, and the play was so intense, Chimera offered a practice hole for warmups. “Those guys take it serious,” Spatz says. “It goes to show how much the game is growing.”

With the game’s growth comes great opportunities for the course. While some “traditionalist” golfers aren’t thrilled with sharing the course with footgolfers, Spatz says the two sports actually work well together.

“Footgolf helps the game of golf,” says Spatz, who has worked for decades at Las Vegas area courses. “It’s an opportunity to bring people to the course who otherwise wouldn’t have the interest.”

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.