Golf clubs are growing their memberships by offering 9-hole golf

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 25, 2016 12:43

At least two golf clubs in Scotland have said their memberships have grown because they have been offering 9-hole competitions.

The announcements come as England Golf is launching Golf Express, a nine hole format of the game designed to attract more participants to golf, and the organisation has been working out who would have won various tournaments if they were nine rather than 18 holes on the final round.

West Lothian Golf Club and Kingsfield Golf Centre, both in Scotland, are finding that many golfers are attracted to shorter versions of the game and visitors interested by more flexible options on offer.

With increasing demands on people’s leisure time, both clubs have adopted an innovative approach to reducing the time spent on the course.

West Lothian has even built a new ‘19th hole’ to provide their members and visitors with a new 9-hole option. Due to the course layout, the chance to play nine holes was less than convenient as the ninth green on the course lies some 500 yards from the clubhouse.

However, the addition of a new, short par three last August has changed all that, completing a nine-hole loop which comes back to the clubhouse, thus creating the opportunity to stage nine-hole competitions. These events can be run for those who are relatively new to the game, or for senior members who perhaps find 18 holes challenging to complete.

“Nine-hole competitions are also attractive to members during the lighter evenings, allowing golfers who are short of time to establish and maintain a competitive handicap over less than two hours – a major benefit of club membership,” said a spokesman.

“With The R&A also recently demonstrating its support for nine-hole golf by introducing a new amateur championship on the eve of the Open at Royal Troon this summer, the club feel they are meeting the needs of the modern golfer.”

Alan Gibson, golf club manager at West Lothian, said: “The nine-hole option has given us the scope to make the course more attractive and accessible.

“For example, an 18-hole commitment for many people, most notably with young families, is very difficult in today’s world and we have seen members coming up to play a nine-hole bounce game in the evening, perhaps after their children have gone to bed. The nine-hole option had also been requested frequently to us over the years by visiting society organisers.

“Our nine-hole competitions have been well received by members, and we tend to have 35 to 40 players competing. People have to experience something new to change their habits and we’re pleased with the way the new nine-hole option has progressed.”

West Lothian is now set to offer a nine-hole membership option to further entice new customers.

Kingsfield GC is also enjoying success. The USGA-specification layout opened in 2009 and has quickly built a membership of more than 100 golfers, proving attractive to many within the local area and beyond.

The centre, where 2014 Ryder Cup player Stephen Gallacher is attached, works hard to offer a family-friendly environment, while using the nine-hole course as a direct selling point. This season, having taken the views of their membership, the club has started nine-hole midweek medals.

“When we set up, we set ourselves a target of 50 to 100 members in 10 years,” says Andrew Corr, Kingsfield’s club secretary. “We have obviously reached this ahead of schedule and now have 107. With this number of members, it allows us to manage expectations and allows us to balance the number of medals we play with non-counting competitions, such as match plays and team competitions.

“We have increased our fees only once in six years and have now introduced nine-hole medals this season, which covers two areas of the game The R&A looked at recently – cost and speed of play.

“For our first nine-hole midweek medal this season, almost 40 golfers played and the feedback we are getting from the shorter competitions is very positive. We look forward to continuing them in midweek during the season.”

Changes to the CONGU system in recent years allow clubs to stage 9-hole competitions which count for handicapping purposes.

Meanwhile, as the world’s top golfers prepare to tee off at Wentworth for this week’s BMW PGA Championship, England Golf has reimagined what the history of the game would look like if it was played over nine holes.

To mark the launch of Golf Express, designed to inspire busy people to play more golf through the nine-hole format of the game, England Golf has conducted research into the result of every major championship of the last five years to determine how the outcome of each event would differ if played over nine holes.

To address the debate of whether the game is won or lost on the front nine or back nine holes, research has been conducted into both.

If the game was played over the front nine holes, last year’s BMW PGA Championship would have been won by Thongchai Jaidee. The Thai star, the eventual runner-up, would have clinched victory with a -10 ahead of South Korea’s Byeong-hun An, the eventual winner.

Similarly, if the game finished after the first nine holes, injury hit star Tiger Woods would have added a further two major honours to his record. In 2012, the 40-year-old former world number one would have claimed victory at the Open in Lancashire. Eventual winner Ernie Els would have finished third behind Woods (-4) and Australia’s Adam Scott (-2).

Woods would be within touching distance of Jack Nicklaus’ record haul of 18 major championship victories, if the 2013 Masters had come to a finish after the ninth hole. Woods (-4) would have beaten a field of Angel Cabrera, Jason Day and Marc Leishman (all -2) to claim a fifth green jacket at the Augusta show piece.

If the game was played over the back nine holes, England’s Lee Westwood would have celebrated his first major championship victory at this year’s Masters. Widely regarded as one of the best golfers to have never won a major tournament, the 43-year-old would have pocketed the $1.8 million in prize money up for grabs.

Similarly, Justin Rose would have added a second major championship trophy to his collection if the game was played from holes 10 to 18. The 35-year-old, a graduate of the England Golf coaching programme, would have won a green jacket at the 2015 Masters.

Justin Rose said: “During practice I often play nine holes, rather than 18. Golf Express gives people the opportunity to go out and enjoy all the benefits of the game in half the time.”

England Golf’s club services and development director Richard Flint said: “What this research does is shine a light on the nine hole game and I hope it encourages more people to get into golf.”

Golf Express offers places to play across the country through its online directory at and keep an eye out for its special offers.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 25, 2016 12:43
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