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The Sport Where You Kick a Hole in One

Eduardo Bicerne channeled his passion for soccer into FootGolf. Players try to kick a soccer ball into 21-inch diameter cups set up on a traditional golf course.
Eduardo Bicerne channeled his passion for soccer into FootGolf. Players try to kick a soccer ball into 21-inch diameter cups set up on a traditional golf course. Photo: ANDRIANA MEREUTA for The Wall Street Journal

Eduardo Bicerne had to stifle his urge to yell, “Goal!” the first time he kicked a hole in one. Celebratory shouting isn’t allowed on the golf course, even when you’re playing FootGolf. “We follow the etiquette of the other golfers on the green even if we aren’t playing with clubs,” he says.

A soccer-golf hybrid, FootGolf requires players to “shoot” a soccer ball on a shortened golf course into 21-inch diameter cups. FootGolf courses are located on nine holes of a traditional golf course. Players sometimes play the course twice to get a full 18 holes. The holes vary in length from 70 to 220 yards. Greens and tees are normally in the rough, just off the fairway. As with traditional golf, the player to finish the course in the fewest shots wins.

Mr. Bicerne grew up in Argentina and moved to Miami in 2002. A self-described soccer fanatic, he was introduced to the relatively new sport five years ago. “I was crazy for the game after the first round,” he says. “I couldn’t play enough. It became my stress reliever.”

Mr. Bicerne, who had never set foot on a green until then, liked the individual and mental aspects of FootGolf. “You need more concentration and foot power to hit those precise shots,” he says. He also liked the low injury risk.

At the time, Mr. Bicerne wasn’t in great shape. He is 6 feet tall. Despite playing in an adult soccer league and coaching youth soccer, he weighed 232 pounds. “I played goalie and defense so I could run less,” he explains.

A general manager in the Miami office of Solution Box USA, an Argentina-based telecommunications distributor servicing Latin America and the Caribbean, Mr. Bicerne, 42, blamed his poor fitness on a demanding travel schedule and unhealthy eating habits.

During his first tournament, he struggled to keep up with the mostly 30-year-old players and realized that if he wanted to be competitive, he needed to “train like an athlete.” His obsession with playing in the FootGolf World Cup motivated him to shape up.

Four years ago he hired a personal trainer, adapted his routine for the road and changed his diet. He says he dropped 40 pounds, going from a size 42 to 36 waist.

He entered the weekend ranked 34th on the American FootGolf League Tour and was recently named captain of the 2018 U.S. men’s FootGolf team. They will defend their world title at the FootGolf World Cup in Marrakesh, Morocco, in December.

Mr. Bicerne kicks the ball out of a sand trap. His passion for FootGolf motivated him to shed 40 pounds. He was recently named captain of the U.S. FootGolf Team and will play in the 2018 Footgolf World Cup in Marrakesh.
Mr. Bicerne kicks the ball out of a sand trap. His passion for FootGolf motivated him to shed 40 pounds. He was recently named captain of the U.S. FootGolf Team and will play in the 2018 Footgolf World Cup in Marrakesh. Photo: ANDRIANA MEREUTA for The Wall Street Journal
The Workout

Mr. Bicerne says his fitness transformation required baby steps. “I was too weak to lift weights,” he recalls. “I didn’t want to do core work because I thought I’d never have abs. When I told my trainer I only needed strong legs, he laughed at me.”

Their first sessions focused on balance. Mr. Bicerne built up his cardio endurance on the stair climber and would hold the rails for support. He now runs a 3.2-mile loop five days a week after he drops his children, ages 8 and 10, at school.

He does a full-body strength workout that always includes the leg-press machine, squats, lunges and, yes, crunches. He plays FootGolf three times a week. “The old-school golfers give us funny looks,” he says. “But we try to respect the course and the golfer always has priority.”

He goes to the park three times a week to practice his sport and takes a golf lesson once a week. “Knowing the golf movements and mind-set helps with FootGolf strategy,” he says.

Mr. Bicerne is president of the Miami FootGolf Club, which plays in a tournament nearly every weekend. He also uses his work travel as an opportunity to play new courses. “I’ve played in Puerto Rico, the Netherlands, Italy, Honduras and across the U.S.,” he says.

He hasn’t lost his love for soccer and still plays in an adult league twice a week.

The Diet

Mr. Bicerne’s diet used to consist of bread, pasta, red meat and beer. Two years ago he cut his red-meat consumption back to once or twice a week and added fish to his diet. He stopped eating pasta for dinner and pizza became a once-a-week treat. He used to go all day without eating and fill up with a large dinner. Now, dinner is his lightest meal. He has an omelet and fruit for breakfast. He snacks on strawberries or apples and makes a point to drink water throughout the day. Wine replaced beer. He allows himself two glasses a week. “Always from Argentina,” he says.

The Gear & Cost

His kit consists of Bermuda shorts, a polo shirt, knee-high socks, a cap for sun protection and Adidas Nemeziz Messi Tango 17.3 turf shoes ($80). “Balls are very expensive, because they are specially designed to be aerodynamic,” he says. He plays with Adidas Jabulani soccer balls ($300 each). “I always have two on hand, because if one goes into the water, you don’t want to wait for the ball to come to shore,” he says. He pays $16 for one round of FootGolf at Killian Greens Golf Club in Miami and $50 a golf lesson. His family YMCA membership costs $90 a month.

The Playlist

“Music gives me extra power, especially early in the morning,” he says. Artists on his playlist include The Ramones, Metallica and Ozzy Osbourne.

A Crash Course in FootGolf

FootGolf came into play in the early 2000s, though the sport’s origin is debatable. The first tournament on a golf course was organized in the Netherlands in 2008 and played between professional soccer players. The American FootGolf League, based in Palm Desert, Calif., was founded in 2011. According to league CEO Laura Balestrini, more than 10,000 players book tee times every month in the U.S. and there are over 500 courses across the 50 states and 1,200 world-wide.

“It’s a great way to introduce new demographics to a golf course,” she says. “It’s also very family-friendly.”

Jo Reid, an Anchorage, Alaska-based assistant coach for the U.S. national FootGolf team, discovered the sport while recovering from knee surgery. She played Division I soccer at Creighton University. Those without a soccer background should start by learning to kick a soccer ball. “Watch YouTube videos and practice the kicking motion with and without the ball,” she says.

Ms. Reid suggests asking a trainer to develop a routine focused on the quads, hamstrings, glutes, abdominal muscles and hip flexors. “The game is mentally challenging, so don’t get down on yourself if you miss a few holes,” she says. “Keep it fun at the start. Bring friends, enjoy the camaraderie and take in the beauty of the course.” Before going to the green, read up on course etiquette and if sharing the course, respect golfers, she says.

What’s your workout? Tell us at workout@wsj.com

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