Photo by Crossroads Chronicle

With the Blue Ridge Mountains as the backdrop, vacationers to the Sapphire Valley area seek adventure – whether it’s visiting a local restaurant with a patio burrowed in the woods, discovering a new hiking trail, or grabbing a fishing rod and heading down to the lake. Travelers could seek solace on their deck and relax in the mountain sunlight, but with all of the outdoor things to do, this is a vacation spot for families who love to be active.

Sapphire Valley Master Association, managed by SPM Resorts, Inc., offers year-round activities for vacationers including a zipline, mini golf, gem mining, fishing, skiing, and snow tubing.

FootGolf is the newest amenity added to the Sapphire Valley Master Association’s already impressive array of activities appealing to families traveling to the mountain destination, and its popularity since its launch has surpassed all expectations.

As the name implies, golfers use their feet instead of their clubs to play the game, kicking soccer balls instead of swinging at golf balls, to the special FootGolf tee on the golf course.

“I first read about FootGolf in one of the golf publications that I try to stay tuned into,” said Steve Martell, Sapphire Valley Amenities Director, SPM Resorts, Inc. As he continued to research the activity, he discovered many nine hole courses across the country were adding this activity as a means to complement their bottom line and to attract either additional business or future business from existing clients. He explained,”I was amazed that in 2013 there were only two courses nationwide and in 2015 there were 450+. I figured that there must be something to this and continued to do the due diligence.”

The sport allows people to enjoy the property without having to deal with the technical aspects of golf, nor the cost of golf. Martell points out, “The ultimate benefit here is that golfing parents can play alongside their kids kicking a ball all at the same time.”

The course lies alongside the regular par-3 golf course. The starting points (tees) are the same. Tee markers that are orange in color represent the starting points for the FootGolf. The ending points, which are represented with orange flags and 21 inch holes, are placed either short of or to the sides of the regular golf greens. Players receive a separate scorecard for FootGolf which indicates the par, the basics of FootGolf, and the FootGolf rules. The game is played by kicking a soccer ball with the scoring being similar to golf as it is the number of kicks it takes players to get it into the hole. With the present set-up, the two activities can co-habit perfectly, whether participants are playing golf or playing FootGolf. Golfers and FootGolfers just need to wait for the group ahead to leave the hole. The pace of FootGolf is presently a little quicker than regular golf, but both disciplines are currently co-existing.

Martell’s research led him to the American Foot Golf League, the governing body of the sport. “We elected to join their organization for $200.00 in an effort to get their guidance, but this also put us into a category that we would then be listed on their website as an existing facility and get referrals from them,” he said. Joining the league allowed the resort to purchase the equipment at a reduced rate. The investment for the equipment including flagsticks, flags, the cups, and the lids, and 40 soccer balls was $2559.00.

The game has been so popular, it has nearly paid for itself in just 40 days of operation. So far, 78% of the costs have been recovered.

“One of the things that makes SPM outstanding is our motivated employees who take the initiative to bring new ideas to enhance the resorts we manage,” said Bill Young, President / CEO of SPM Resorts, Inc., “and I was thoroughly impressed to see families enjoying Sapphire Valley’s newest amenity on a recent visit to the property. Not only will FootGolf generate new revenue, it’s also adding a new experience for families to enjoy.”

Martell concluded, “We are particularly impressed that we have now added something that families can enjoy and spend some additional time together. We have had golfing parents with kicking kids, grandmothers walking with their grandchildren, moms and dads with their kids, and all smiling in the end. And, that is what we are all about, family fun.”