Golf clubs should place more emphasis on nine hole rounds of golf, perhaps even doing something crazy like introducing 9-hole Saturday competitions.
I was pleased to see The Links Shell Cove Golf Club recently launch a 9-hole competition for members to play this summer. While they’re not the only golf club managing 9-hole competitions, they are sadly a rarity in an age when two hours seems like the perfect length of time to play golf.
It feels to me like the interest in playing nine holes has waned in the past 10 years. Sadly many golfers don’t consider anything but 18-holes as a true test of golf these days. Perhaps it’s as a result of the lack of 9-hole competitions available to play.
In my junior golf days (some time ago now), you could turn up any time of the week, pay a small fee and play a quick nine which would not only contribute towards your handicap but it could well earn you a ball or two. It was less about the prize though, and more about knowing that there was something – albeit a small round thing – on the line.
Some might argue that you shouldn’t need an incentive to play but many golfers do, particularly in Australia where at the moment competition rounds of golf are the only way you can alter your handicap.
A quick internet search yields numerous sites offering great deals on 18-holes at decent courses, often with a cart and lunch thrown in. But too seldom are packages offered to encourage people to play just nine holes.
It all appears counter-intuitive to the busy times that we live in.
With the arrival of balmy, summer evenings, club-managed 9-hole competitions seem a no-brainer to entice more people to the golf course and into the clubhouse. Too often I’ve seen golf clubs attracting members with special priced dinners or raffles rather than for the very reason they joined in the first place, golf.
The idea of 9-hole Saturday competitions was recently proposed to me by a fellow golfer. At first I scoffed at the thought. The Saturday competition round is the most important of the week with the largest field and the best prizes, not to mention the monthly medal.
But the idea of replacing it now and again with a 9-hole competition has stuck with me. I can’t help but think that it’s a crazy, innovative, yet sacrilegious proposal that will have veteran members squirming in their seats. But if the aim is to get time-poor members and new golfers on the golf course, this may not be as crazy as it sounds.
I have fond memories of ducking off to the local club with Dad in the late afternoon. We’d play nine holes, have a bite in the clubhouse and drive home talking about the 18 points I just made, all in under two hours.
It all seemed so quick and effortless compared to the five-hour rounds that are unfortunately now an inherent part of weekend competition golf.