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Lawrence's Orchards Golf Course opens new FootGolf facility; update on downtown's Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade
Dear homeowners along Bob Billings Parkway,
Don't be alarmed if you find me in your living room with a soccer ball, argyle socks, and a pair of 1980s-style soccer shorts that cause my children to disown me. Chances are, I'm just looking for my wayward ball with a new type of golf played at Lawrence's Orchards Golf Course.
The game of FootGolf is coming to Lawrence. The owners of the Orchards Golf Course, 3000 Bob Billings Parkway, have built a FootGolf course to go along with their traditional, nine-hole executive golf course.
Based on the fellows I play golf with, I thought FootGolf had arrived years ago because the foot wedge is clearly the best shot my buddy has. But that's not how the real sport of FootGolf is played. Instead, the golf ball is replaced by a soccer ball, and there are no clubs involved. You simply use your feet to advance the ball, and you count strokes like you would with golf. (I take that back: I think the FootGolf people want you to actually count every stroke.)
The course is basically laid out alongside the traditional golf course. The cup, so to speak, is a 21-inch diameter by 14-inch hole in the ground. No, it is not on the actual putting green of the golf course. In fact, foot golfers are given a one-shot penalty if they put a ball on the green.
The sport gives players an experience that involves a little bit of golf and a little bit of soccer.
"I've noticed that when you kick a ball, it is just kind of natural that you jog after it," said Richard McGhee, who owns the course with his wife, Chris. "It is a pretty good aerobic exercise."
The Orchards Course ranges from a par five that is 270 yards to a par three that is 97 yards. The course is designed so that both traditional golfers and foot golfers can play at the same time. Just like in regular golf, though, you'll need to wait your turn, or else have a really fast golf cart to outrun the big guy that you just beaned in the back.
The game is played with a regulation soccer ball. You can bring your own, or Orchards will rent you one for $3. (Green fees are $11 for 18 holes.)
"I think it is a little tougher to lose your ball in FootGolf," McGhee told me.
(I don't know who he thinks he's talking to. I'm excellent at finding golf balls, including that one that landed in that fellow's BBQ grill. If you think chipping out of sand is tough . . . And that reminds me, I still owe him a filet mignon.)
The game of FootGolf has become popular on the coasts, and also overseas. Kansas City has one golf course that has a FootGolf course, and so does Manhattan, McGhee said. The sport has a governing body, which has sanctioned the Lawrence course. (Sanctioned is a good thing in this case, unlike some other sanctions I have received from several neighborhood associations abutting golf courses.)
McGhee said he expects the game to become popular in the Midwest as well. Golf courses are looking for ways to generate new revenue and expose new people to their properties. McGhee thinks the game will be particularly popular in a town like Lawrence.
"One of the things we have going for us here is that lots of people are looking for ways to get out and exercise," McGhee said. "We think there are people looking for ways to exercise besides just walking down the sidewalk."
The Orchards, which is being renamed Orchards Golf and FootGolf, is open for FootGolf during all regular business hours, except on Tuesday and Friday mornings, when the course will be reserved for a pair of traditional golf leagues.
In other news and notes from around town:
• An update on a major downtown event: As we reported last month, the Old-Fashioned Christmas parade in downtown Lawrence lost its major sponsor. Parade organizers tell me interest has been strong from potential sponsors since we spread the word in mid-July. A deal hasn't yet been struck, but parade president Marty Kennedy said he is optimistic that a deal will be reached soon.
But here is the major point: Regardless of the timing of any future deal, this year's parade will take place. We reported in July that the 2014 wasn't in jeopardy, but some folks must have overlooked that part of the article because Kennedy said the organization has heard from several people who were under the impression that this year's event would possibly be cancelled.
Kennedy said the organization has the resources it needs to put the parade on, which is slated for Dec. 6.
"The parade is still a go," he said.
• Also, if you will allow me, a brief bit of recognition for another important Lawrence event. As I've been telling you for the last couple of weeks, the Douglas County Fair has been a big part of my family's schedule recently, and it wrapped up Saturday night with the annual livestock auction. The event isn't always top-of-mind when it comes to great Lawrence traditions that help the community, but indeed it does. It is not an exaggeration to say that scores of local businesses and other bidders literally gave tens of thousands of dollars directly to Douglas County youth on Saturday night. Bidding on animals — goats, sheep, swine and cattle — lasted for nearly four hours, and I don't remember any animal going for less than $400 and some champion animals went for around $4,000. More than just the youth-owners of the animals also benefited. Dale Willey Automotive, for example, purchased several animals and donated the meat to Just Food, the local food bank. There were other organizations that did the same, but I didn't get their names. If you have them, feel free to list them below. My kids sold two hogs, including one that went to Just Food. They and the other youth thank all involved.