August 6 Hoped to be Opening Date
“Build it and they will come.”
We've all heard that line from the movie “Field of Dreams”.
The head honchos at the Claremont Country Club, thinking outside the box, are taking that theory to a different level by implementing soccer holes on their nine-hole golf course.
“It should be ready to go by August 6 (this Sunday),” said Claremont Country Club's Board of Directors Chairman Joe Trabka, taking time out for an interview sitting at the picnic table outside the club's main entrance last Friday evening. The 'it” Trabka referred to is soccer golf, also known as foot golf. “The game is played pretty much like regular golf except you use a number five (5) soccer ball and it is hit toward a 21-inch hole,” Trabka continued. “We've worked it out so there will be a soccer hole near each golf hole. The concept is the parents can come up here with their kids and everyone can play at the same time.”
Trabka admitted attendance at the club has fallen off and this implementation of soccer golf may be just the way to get new people interested in registering.
“I pitched the idea about five months ago here and it didn't take right off,” Trabka reported noting the idea had come to him after a trip to South Carolina and listening to the manager at a golf course there tell him how successful soccer golf had become at his establishment. “There was no hurry to act on it. Our big thing here is we are missing that 30-something group. As time went on we actually started thinking about it and what a wonderful opportunity it would be for parents to bring their kids here and do something together. It's a beautiful setting here.”
Trabka got excited when talking about the lead-up to Sunday's event. “We had the soccer coaches up here Thursday night and we drove around to look at the layout. Obviously we want it to be a safe environment. We all took in the flow of the course. I think they are thinking of coming here Thursday night for a practice run. I'm thrilled they are into it.”
Jason Stone, Stevens High School's boys varsity soccer coach, responding via e-mail, stated, “I absolutely love the idea. During our fall season we try to do a few “team building” activities. This will be a perfect activity for us to do with the kids once or twice with the group. It's nice to take the team out of their element and see how they pull together around it. Opening up the golf course to soccer definitely has the potential to open some of the youth up to the world of golf. I think that it certainly is the club's intention, to get more people involved in golf. I know I can put a couple of tournaments together for them. This is a little outside of the box. I commend the CCC for their willingness to take this on. I think it will be surprising how many people are drawn towards trying soccer golf, also.”
Tom Belaire, girls varsity soccer coach at Stevens, who plays some golf, conversing via phone, went on record saying, “It definitely is going to be enjoyable. It will be a team builder, for sure. I can see it getting bigger every year. I'm all for it!” Belaire said he has heard of another soccer golf course in the area, that being in Fairlee, VT (Lake Morey).
Soccer golf, as noted earlier by Trabka, is played similarly to golf, with the exception that players use a soccer ball instead of a golf ball, and the ball is kicked rather than struck with a club, working toward a 21-inch hole rather than the usual golf hole of 4.25 inches. The player who finishes with the fewest shots wins. Soccer golf, according to Wikipedia, is quicker to play than regular golf, more accessible, and does not require expensive equipment. The game's emergence coincided with the decline of the popularity of golf among young people, with 643 courses closing between 2006 and 2014. The sport has financially saved many struggling golf courses.
Beginning Monday morning, CCC's Superintendent Andy Fowler and his crew began the task of cutting the nine 21-inch holes, which may become permanent. “We have a lot to get done between now and August 6,” Trabka voiced. “I'm sure it's going to be a little difficult, but we feel pretty confident we can do it.”
The 55-year-old Trabka, who lives in Unity, said the normal greens fees will be the cost to those who decide to give the sport a try, $8 for nine holes and $15 for 18. The cost to the country club will be minimal as Trabka has volunteered to purchase the number five soccer balls with only material and labor costs for Fowler and his crew charged to the club, now in its 102nd year of operation.
“If I hadn't gone down to South Carolina and listened to that guy, I'm not sure I would have bought into this idea,” Trabka, who came to Claremont from Connecticut 20 years ago, expressed. “I'm somewhat old-school. Where I came from soccer wasn't really popular. I knew Claremont was a big soccer town. If this doesn't work out, it's not that big of a deal. We like the family environment here, but what do we have to offer? This kind of fills the bill.”
Trabka finished by saying, “I know it's going to be a challenge. If it takes off, who knows? We will be taking one step at a time. It will be a learning experience for us. As problems arise, good, bad, or indifferent, we will deal with them. I'm hoping its something we can pass on for generations to come.”