Growing Golf: Of Shorter Layouts & Obvious Solutions

It seems like a classic no-brainer.

The fact is, recreational golf is struggling. A spate of recent reports lament course closings, fewer rounds being played and Golf businesses battling with the bottom line and a shrinking customer base.

There are numerous reasons given for the decline, but most will agree that at least one of three major factors: cost, time and difficulty can be found somewhere in each and every story of golf's current woes.

That said, a clear path to increasing participation would logically be to create and promote a golf "option" that is less expensive, less time-consuming and less difficult. Ironically the basis for that option already exists: par three, nine hole and executive courses... shorter layouts.

These types of courses actually can offer a more accessible golf "option", but they have to be made available, which would mean retrofitting longer courses into shorter courses and... equally important... promotion of such courses and the kind of golf they lend themselves to. Because as equipment technology has allowed for more and more distance... and golf carts have became ubiquitous... the recreational game has been taken over by a certain breed of neanderthal golfer who values distance over strategy. As a result shorter courses have fallen out of style and are, ironically, often the first to close in any given town. It seems today's golfers, no matter how pathetic their games may be, dismiss these courses as "too easy".

A piece by Jeff Neuman in today's Wall Street Journal addresses this topic and points to the promising development of a 12 hole par-three course on the ocean at the Bandon Dunes complex in Oregon. The course is being designed Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw with strategy, creativity and ...shockingly, fun... in mind. It seems many of the area's golfers are delighted with the idea. ~ I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in hoping this might be a trend.

Photo: Vail's Grove Golf Course is a friendly 9-hole track in Brewster, NY, where I played last week. It was fun and challenging round that took less than two hours.