So we’ve got Golf Express 9, Sprint 6, Fast Family 4. What’s next? Run 1?!

Why are we making players rush around a course in order to speed up play and make the game more exciting?

If we want to speed up play, players need to take less shots. To take less shots, players need to start closer to the hole.

I’ve just witness 2 players on our 9th hole (80 yard carry from the yellow tees over the water) have 7 attempts to get over both using drivers, only1 ball made it, just. It’s a tough hole, 220 yard par 3 from the white tees and tour player average is over par from that distance. So what were they doing back there if they couldn’t drive the ball 80 yards?

Golf for your average 18 hanidcapper, shouldn’t be trying to sprint round 6 holes with a shot clock. They’re not good enough and it takes some beginners 30 seconds to remember which pocket the tees are in. Although I get the concept of Sprint 6, I don’t see this as a solution to growing the game, but more an alternative format for lower handicappers.

Golf England have also focused on the speed route with their new project Golf Express 9. “All the game in half the time!” No. No its not. A better slogan might have been, “Half the game in between 90 minutes and 3 hours depending on your ability.” More accurate but less catchy. There’s nothing express about it. I’m speaking from experience of running a 9 hole golf league. Specifically using 9 hole courses for players of all abilities and using much shorter tee positions. However, this can on occasions take some beginners 2 ½ hours.

The family 4 hole concept is also being rolled out at a number of clubs and although I feel having the whole family involved is an important component, we’re now down to 4 holes.

We have more members on our 9 hole academy course than our Millenium (18 hole) course. However, less holes is not the appealing factor as a number of members play 18 or 27 in a day. What appeals to the players is the length of the course. It’s all par 3’s with a maximum length of 200 yards and what’s even more appealing for beginners are the banked fairways, lack of rough and absence of bunkers. Sounds quite plain but its very hard to lose a ball and doesn’t take 5 hours.

So, not less holes shorter holes. This is not a new concept as US Kids have been doing it for years.

US Kids Tee positions

US Kids Tee positions

There are also many clubs that have shorter ‘junior’ tee boxes (some not short enough but it’s a start). But why are we only doing this for juniors?

If we want to speed up the game and make it more appealing we need to make it easier. Want to take less shots? Start nearer the hole! This concept should not just apply to junior golfers. It should be linked to ability and carry distance for players of all ages.

If you’re a guy with a 28 handicap who has never got over 30 stableford points, start from the junior tees half way down the fairway and only take a 7 iron, wedge and a putter with you (if you don’t have an ‘academy’ or par 3 course). When you’re an 18 handicap from that position, we’ll let you start from the red tees. We’ll also call them red tees, not ladies, as starting position should be down to ability. And while you’re at it Mr 28 points off 28, if there is a competition from the white tees, that’s not for you!

Can someone please enlighten me as to why this isn’t happening? Players would shoot lower scores and enjoy it more. If for some unexplained reason you are enjoying having 120 shots in 5 hours, good for you! The guys behind you aren’t enjoying it though.

Every golf course can do this with a few additional markers, it took us 20 minutes to add and measure 9 holes from a shorter tee box and 2 minutes to fill in a form for a new SSS.

However, instead have this, golf has decided to rush everyone around the course and increase the maximum handicap of players. So we’ll now have to wait an extra shot for a 54 handicapper to get his / her “9 for 1.”

We’re currently testing the (much) shorter hole concept and will publish our findings when complete.