East Portland course is first of its kind in Pacific Northwest

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Kathleen Brennan Hunter, natural areas program director at Metro, goes in for the kick at the opening of a footgolf course at Glendoveer Golf Course in East Portland.With brightly-colored soccer balls at their feet, a group of Metro employees are stretching and putzing around the green at Glendoveer Golf & Tennis Course, anxiously waiting kick off for the first game of footgolf.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Footgolfers are encouraged to wear golf attire, including argyle socks, preferably knee-high. “I can’t wait,” said one man, wearing a kilt and argyle knee socks.

Each player waits his or her turn before winding up to kick. One after the next, they take aim. The green goes silent before they boot the ball in the air toward a blue flag a few hundred yards away. People clap.

The game is just like golf, except with a soccer ball. It’s footgolf!

Tuesday, May 6, was the official launch of footgolf in Portland. The fusion of two of Europe’s most popular and historic sports first made its way to American turf in July 2012 in Wisconsin.

The game was dreamed up by Roberto Balestrini, a native of Argentina who lives in the golf-crazed city of Palm Springs, Calif.

Balestrini was waiting to watch his home team’s soccer game on TV when he noticed two professional soccer players — sans cleats — kicking a soccer ball on a golf course.

Balestrini thought it a fantastic way to use the landscape without roughing it up too much.

A few sleepless nights later and with a little shove from his wife, the American Footgolf League was born.

The course at Glendoveer is the first footgolf course in the Pacific Northwest.

Natalia Agarycheva is operations manager of the newly created Oregon Footgolf Association and project coordinator at Metro’s Glendoveer Golf Course, 14015 N.E. Glisan St.

“The cool thing is it’s bringing a completely new demographic to the golf course,” Agarycheva said.

“Soccer players would have no reason to come out here before,” she said.

On the day of its opening, players or groups could sign up to play a round of footgolf (18 holes) free.

Agarycheva said the course was booked from 3 to 7:52 p.m., with games starting every eight minutes. People showed up from all over the area to play, from Beaverton to Lebanon. One man, in town from Minnesota, also came to play.

Tom Vice, a Gresham native and Southeast Portland transplant, showed up for tee time with his friend, Brad Cownover, 44. Both were excited to try out the new sport.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Friends Brad Cownover and Tom Vice of Southeast Portland go over their game plan for their first-ever attempt at footgolf.Before kickoff, Vice, 39, said he expected footgolf to be much easier on the body than soccer.

“You don’t have to run, run, run,” he said. “I just get to kick the ball as hard as I can,” which as a former defender, he has experience doing.

But soccer players, leave your cleats at home. Players are encouraged to wear golf attire. That includes a golf cap, collared shirt and argyle socks (knee-high preferably). You can wear indoor soccer shoes.

The basic rules of footgolf are similar to golf. Wait your turn, wait for the ball to come to rest, play the ball where it lies and the player farthest from the hole is first to kick the ball.

Agarycheva advises footgolfers to steer clear of actual golf greens.

Also players must kick the ball with one fluid motion, without pushing the ball with the top or bottom of your foot.

From now on, footgolf will be available every Tuesday and Saturday after 3 p.m. during Glendoveer’s “twilight hour.”

The cost for 18 holes is $15 per person walking, and $23 with a golf cart. Juniors 17 years old and younger pay $10. Ball rentals cost $5.

Cownover, of Southeast Portland, said he was in disbelief when he first heard about footgolf.

He’s a soccer fan, doesn’t play golf and coaches his kids’ soccer team.

When he saw the opening at Glendoveer, he thought, “I gotta do it.”

“What’s not to like?” he said. “Kicking the ball on the golf course!”

Cownover hopes there are no water hazards, because he brought only one ball. “Even though it floats, I don’t want to have to go fish it out,” he said.

If you’re aiming to make a hole-in-one, know that the footgolf cups are located in the rough, 21 inches around.

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