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Kicking Around On Bay View Fairways

Soccer balls are starting to fly around Bay View Golf Course with the blessing of the local clergy, who keep a proud, watchful eye on such shenanigans. It’s called FootGolf, an internationally sanctioned sport that has converted about 300 American golf course owners to its fun, affordable and family-friendly ways.

“The nice thing about it,” said Bay View’s golf pro, Larry Dunn, “is that kids of all ages can play, and so can parents who don’t play golf. And you don’t need expensive equipment.”

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Yes, this is Bay View Golf Course, and no, Lucas Peterson is not playing golf. The sport of FootGolf has come to the scenic Kaneohe course where new fans can grab their soccer balls and try it out daily. Golfers and FootGolfers alike are sharing the links peacefully as owner Windward Church of the Nazarene revs up the action with the internationally sanctioned sport. Photo by Bodie Collins, bcollins@midweek.com.

Windward Church of the Nazarene bought the 115-acre, bankrupt Kaneohe golf course property in 2011, about the time that FootGolf started to catch on nationally. Pastor Jerry Appleby tried it recently, and Dunn, also an ordained minister, is getting the hang of the game, too. They envision the sport as a kind of ministry to bring families together for fun in the outdoors. Right now, they said, Bay View is the only course in Hawaii certified for FootGolf (though Turtle Bay is soon to follow).

“It took us an hour and a half to play nine holes the other day,” recalled Dunn. “It’s quick, it’s fun — and we’re no soccer players.” He admitted, however, that the 21-inch “cups” can be deceptive as players watch their No. 5 soccer balls hop gleefully off the rim.

“You think, ‘Oh, this is so easy,’ and then you get frustrated (just like golfers do).”

Golfers and FootGolfers seem compatible on the par 60, 18-hole course. Players tee off at separate spots and follow each other around the holes, which also are separated. FootGolf is only played on the front nine at this time.

Introductory kamaaina rate is $11 per person for a 9-hole round; $30 for an Ohana party of four. Soccer balls can be rented if players don’t bring their own. The course is open now to both sports from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

To spread the word and the fun, Bay View plans an introductory FootGolf tournament at 10 a.m. March 26 with lunch and prizes. For details, call Dunn at 247-0451.

While the Nazarene church and its school still are based on Puaae Road — in the neighborhood across Kaneohe Bay Drive from the golf course — its future plans are for the makai side of the road. First off, Appleby and Dunn see the golf course/FootGolf hosting private school sports, summer camps, public school practice rounds, and junior golf, as well as reopening the golf pro shop. All are in the works now, and the grounds are back to a lush, green state. If the church can get its zoning variance, Appleby said, an expanded Windward Nazarene Academy will occupy the property as well.

The church also owns Waikalua fishpond, which is leased to Pacific American Foundation for 99 years. The driving range and mini-putt/zip line concessions are contracted out, but the church operates the golf course itself. Other churches meet on weekends at the clubhouse, where private catered parties can be reserved.

The city’s massive sewer project, the gravity-flow tunnel from the Kaneohe to the Kailua treatment plant, will go under golf course land, which already has meant adjusting par on hole No. 11 while trucks and cranes operate on site.

Meanwhile, it’s “Play ball!” for little and big balls on the scenic expanse.