18 holes ‘deters people from playing’

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir January 11, 2013 05:36

The chief executive of The R&A has urged golf clubs to offer something shorter than 18 holes of golf in order to attract new players.

Several people within the industry have recently expressed concern that the time and expense it takes to play an 18-hole round of golf is acting as a barrier to get new people to try the game – which is essential to securing many clubs’ futures.

Peter Dawson, CEO of The R&A, golf’s ruling authority in all but two countries in the world, said: “Too often we hear of golf courses and facilities encountering severe difficulties because what they offer does not match what golfers want or their capability to pay.

“A full round of 18 holes is, and will no doubt continue to be, the norm, but our hectic business and family lives often mean less time for recreation. This is where golf facilities offering a less time consuming and costly alternative can be an effective way of introducing new players to our sport and of retaining their interest and participation in the future.

“All of us who work to ensure a sound future for golf know that, for the game to flourish, it must be affordable and accessible.”

The R&A has published a guide to growing that accessible version of the game, in which it showcases Portmore Golf Park in Devon, which offers a nine-hole par three course that it built for less than £120,000, and has provided free teaching plus discounted first-year membership, as well as its 18-hole course, as a case study of best practice.

Dawson’s comments come just a few months after the Scottish Golf Union (SGU) called for no more 18-hole courses to be built, but stated that there was demand for smaller facilities.

Andy Salmon, the SGU’s development manager, said: “There’s a need for shorter courses such as six holes, or three loops of six holes instead of two loops of nine holes. All the research tells us that the number one barrier to golf is time – even ahead of money. We don’t need any more 7,500-yard championship courses.”

And towards the end of last year a survey of golfers found that more than 50 per cent of them wanted to finish their rounds in less than three and a half hours, but just one in four golfers achieve that.

Eighteen holes is the default number for a round of golf throughout the world, but it only became laid down as a ‘stipulated round’ in the Rules of Golf from 1950. As recently as 1919 half of all golf courses in the UK were nine-hole venues, and the first 18-hole venue, the Old Course at St Andrews, only became that size in 1857 – more than 100 years after golf had become a popular activity in the UK.

In addition, next month the Indian Premier League is launched, which features 14 holes of golf.


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Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir January 11, 2013 05:36
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  1. Sean Mysel January 14, 03:25

    Question is this: if golf clubs know this…why don’t they make the changes? It’s the lack of taking action that’s killing the sport, we know what the problems and solutions are.

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  2. Dirk January 11, 20:08

    I agree that a well kept 9 hole course is more appealing than 18 holes. a) I don’t have the time to play 18 holes and b) after 9 holes I could if I wish play another 9 holes or less. Their are some great 9 hole courses about – so check your area and try them.

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  3. Keith Elliott January 11, 16:44

    As most courses can be played as seperate 9’s 10′ 11’s or 12’s quite happily, depending on which is the last of those holes nearest the club house, as well as the “usual” 18, the flexibility to select the number of holes and the time you want to spend playing is largely down to the individual. At a time when most clubs seem to be pushed for income, the ability to spend £120K on a new par three course, I would suggest is rare. Certainly we have built too many courses over the last 20 years, this has resulted in an oversupply as in every industry the weakest go to the wall, the idea of building new shorter facilities which will further divert new golfers from traditional venues seems rather short sighted.

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