When Piero Menor, 32, goes to the International Links Melreese Country Club, he sports an aqua blue polo shirt, knee high athletic socks, indoor soccer shoes, golf shorts, a size five soccer ball and a golf hat.
Menor, one of the hosts of Miami’s channel América Tevé’s Agárrese Quien Pueda show, doesn’t go to Melreese to play golf. He goes to play FootGolf.
“The only thing I need to play FootGolf is, besides the uniform, a soccer ball and nothing else,” Menor said.
Footgolf was founded in the Netherlands in 2008 and it’s most popular in Europe and Argentina. FootGolfers play on a shortened golf course with a size five soccer ball and a strict uniform.
Marcelo Landau, 56, executive director of FootGolf Miami and FootGolf Florida, has been instrumental in bringing prominence to the sport.
Landau, an American citizen born in Argentina, was the first to represent the United States in a FootGolf World Cup back in 2012.
Once the tournament ended, he came back to Miami and worked with Charles DeLucca Jr., manager and operator at Melreese, to bring FootGolf to the city.
“After the World Cup, the Melreese became the first golf course to have year-round FootGolf not just in Miami, but in the United States,” Landau said.
Miami-Dade County has a total of three golf courses that have FootGolf: North Miami Beach’s Greynolds Golf Course, Killian Greens Golf Club in Kendall and Melreese by Miami International Airport.
The sport was brought to the Greynolds in September through the Miami-Dade County Parks Department. The grand opening will be Nov. 14. Anyone who books in advance will get a complimentary round along with an introduction to the sport.
Matthew Pardon-Sabe, 35, golf marketing coordinator for Miami Dade County Parks, said it was easy to convince John Miller, manager at Greynolds, because FootGolf is an opportunity for golf courses to attract a new clientele.
“We really wanted to bring a new recreational opportunity to Miami,” Pardon-Sabe said. “We’re optimistic FootGolf will grow once the word gets out.”
Pardon-Sabe said he’s sure the sport will be a hit in Miami-Dade and hopes other golf courses in South Florida pick up the sport.
“We would love if Broward County implements something similar,” he said. “Our hope is for inter-county tournaments.”
The expansion of FootGolf courses in South Florida triggered the creation of Miami FootGolf Club, Miami’s first club team, in January.
“A few months ago, me and four friends, who are all as obsessed with FootGolf as I am, founded the club,” Menor said. “Our priority is for the sport to grow, so we host tournaments every month.”
Menor played on a youth team for the Atlético de Madrid, a soccer team from Spain’s top division, but never made it as a professional soccer player. FootGolf allows him to fulfill his fantasy of “making it.”
“The typical FootGolf player is pretty much the frustrated soccer player who never made it as a professional,” he said. “In FootGolf, they see the possibility to compete in a competition at the highest level, something they could never do with soccer.”
The highest level of the sport is the World Cup, which will be in Buenos Aires in January. The Federation for International FootGolf, the international governing body for the sport, will sanction the tournament.
The American FootGolf League, the governing branch of the sport in the United States, brought FootGolf to the United States in 2011.
“It was a once in a lifetime chance to introduce a new sport to this country,” said Laura Balestrini, 54, league president.
The league sanctions official FootGolf courses throughout the country and helps golf course owners make their courses FootGolf friendly. It also organizes the United States FootGolf National team and recently named Landau as the national team’s coach.
“We really respect Marcelo and what he’s done,” Balestrini said. “He’s really instrumental in the growth of the sport in Florida and nationwide.”
The federation is pushing for FootGolf to become officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee to become a summer Olympic sport.
“FootGolf reminds me of snowboarding,” Landau said. “At first, skiers would mock snowboarders, and their long unruly hair, but now it’s an Olympic sport.”
WHERE TO PLAY
International Links Melreese Country Club
▪ Where: 1802 NW 37th Ave., Miami
▪ When: Spring and summer, 4 p.m. to sunset; fall and winter, 3 p.m. to sunset
▪ Price: $20 members, $30 nonmembers
▪ Phone: 305-633-4583
▪ Website: http://internationallinksgolfclub.com
Greynolds Golf Course
▪ Where: 17530 W. Dixie Hwy., N. Miami Beach
▪ When: Weekdays after 3 p.m. and weekends after noon
▪ Price: For nine holes: $7 adults, $5 juniors. For 18 holes: $10 adults $7 juniors
▪ Phone: 305-949-1741
▪ Website: http://greynoldsgolf.com/
Killian Greens Golf Club
▪ Where: 9980 SW 104th St., Miami
▪ When: Daily, starting at 4:30 p.m.
▪ Price: $16 adults and $7.50 juniors
▪ Phone: 305-271-0917
▪ Website: http://www.killiangreensgolfclub.com
Miami FootGolf Club
▪ Phone: 636-219-1170
▪ Website: http://miamifootgolfclub.com
▪ Phone: 786-287-5746
▪ Website: http://www.footgolfmiami.com
▪ Phone: 786-287-5746
▪ Website: http://www.footgolfflorida.com