World Footgolf tournament to be held at Disney World, amateurs welcome too
FootGolf has come a long way since we first covered it in Orlando seven years ago. It was added to Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Courses five years ago, and next week the 2023 Federation for International FootGolf World Cup is being held there.
Around 1,000 players from 40 countries will compete in three categories (men, senior men, and women) in two different formats (individual stroke play and team match play). These individual and team competitions will take place on 18-hole FootGolf courses at Walt Disney World Golf and the new Evermore Orlando Resort (formerly known as Grand Cypress).
FootGolf is played on a golf course, and pretty much follows the rules of golf, but instead of a small ball and clubs, all you need is a soccer ball and a pair of legs for kicking. Walt Disney World Golf, operated by Arnold Palmer Golf Management, invited us out to hear more about the tournament and to play a few holes.
You may not have heard of FootGolf, but it’s been growing in popularity since the early 2010s. The first World Cup was held in Hungary in 2012. Disney’s Palm golf course, which will stage the World Cup events, is no stranger to the sport, and just last year played host to the U.S. FootGolf Open, the Jansen Cup, and the Pacific Trophy.
Roberto Balestrini is the president of the American FootGolf League. He and his wife helped get FootGolf to where it is today. He said, “When I introduced the idea with my partner and wife back in 2011, it was really hard. For to a guy with my accent calling a golf course and asking them to allow my guys to kick a soccer ball on the fairway, I got all kinds of answers. All of them were funny.
“My wife says a golf course is like a park with a beautiful manicure. And for a soccer guy to be able to kick a soccer ball on a golf course, is like a dream come true. The PGA of America understood that people were living two or three blocks away from a golf course, but never spent a minute, or dropped a penny on those golf facilities because they don’t play golf. But with a soccer ball, you can bring those demographics to a golf course.”
Although none of us journalists will likely become pro FootGolfers anytime soon, we were able to play with one. Darrin Karuzas from Tarpon Springs, Fla. is a professional FootGolf player. Although he has made money playing in tournaments, there’s not enough money in FootGolf yet for him to quit his day job as an assistant principle. He was a golfer before he was a FootGolfer.
“I was a high school teacher and administrator, and I coached the golf team, not because I was very good at it, but I was pretty good and I was the coach,” said Karuzas. “My passion and love was for playing soccer. The day I found this sport, I fell in love. So the combination of my two favorite sports played on nature’s beauty against yourself and friends was an instant passion and instant addiction for me back in 2016.”
Yes, he’s very good. In our group of six, he outshined us all. His one kick went as far as three of mine (and went right where he wanted it to). But the game isn’t all about being great. Getting out on a “park with a beautiful manicure” on a beautiful day and being able to just start playing without worrying about which club you need makes it extra relaxing and fun.
“Just like real golf, FootGolf is a family sport. I’ve been playing with my children for six years, and play with my wife sometimes and friends. The opportunity to come out and play at any level with family, with friends, for fun or for competition, is just makes the sport what it is.”
Alex Forsyth is the director of Sales & Marketing for Walt Disney World Golf, and a big proponent of FootGolf at Walt Disney World. Why bring FootGolf to Walt Disney World. Well, as Karuzas said, it’s a family sport.
“We kind of felt that that same marriage, of utilizing our golf courses in another manner to bring a whole new demographic of people here to Disney golf that would never have stepped foot on our golf courses before,” said Forsyth. “Yes, we have millions of visitors a year to the Walt Disney World property, but only about 10 percent of them are golfers.
“You know we have a tremendous amount of visitation from around the world … With all those people coming here to Orlando, we’re thinking, ‘hey, we’ve got a golf course here that could accommodate this (World Cup), and this burgeoning sport. It really was a match made in heaven.”
Karuzas added, “Well, nobody does it better than Disney. And they’ve proven that throughout the years, and with their promotion of FootGolf itself, and how it’s grown exponentially has been a big part of America and a big part of the world.”
The 4th FIFG FootGolf World Cup will be hosted from May 27 to June 6, 2023 at Walt Disney World Golf and Evermore Resort Orlando. If you can’t make it out in person, you can watch the tournament at orlando2023.com/tv.
You’re welcome to try your foot at FootGolf with a provided soccer ball on Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course, which shares an entrance with Disney’s Shades of Green Resort, in the late afternoons on select days. For more information, visit golfwdw.com/footgolf. The cost ranger between $25 to $35 per person. Kids under 18 get 25% off. Parking is free.
How screwed up is a sport, players are permitted to use a ball no longer manufactured and costs $700-1,200…there must be a universal standard ball at a reasonable price used by every player/team. Every other sport using a ‘ball’ does this for the good of the sport.