by Jeff Skinner
My foray into golf started when I was in my mid-twenties and like many I started playing just nine holes. I would hustle out of work with some buddies and squeeze in nine and a few beers. I also would spend nine holes with my Aunt Vi, a skilled and experienced golfer, who taught me the etiquette and finer points of the game. I loved the game but for the longest time I was a “nine hole golfer.”
Even after a few years of playing it was still nine holes. Raising three kids, working too many hours, taking care of the house all required so much time there was little left for golf. It was nine holes, maybe twelve if we could squeeze it in before it got too dark, but nine holes ruled the day.
Later on I got into ”big boy golf” and found time to make it 18 holes. And somewhere along the line I lost the desire to play nine. I fell into that old, erroneous belief that if you were a real golfer you had to play 18 holes. But all things must pass and the “18 holes or nothing” mantra has gone the way of hickory shafts and neckties on the golf course.
Even though I now have, and certainly make time to play full rounds I also find myself playing more nine hole rounds and enjoying them just as much. Some of favorite playing partners find it difficult to spend the time 18 holes requires and I have a new attitude towards nine hole rounds: it’s golf…enjoy it. And enjoy it I do.
This month in Golf Digest Magazine, Bob Carney has an article on a new push by The USGA and The PGA of America as they team up on a crusade to promote more nine hole rounds. For years participation in golf has been dropping and this is a way to get those golfers who have left the game, and new players wanting to start, back on the course without having to spend five or six hours on 18 holes. (The article isn’t available online, so go buy the magazine.)
They are calling the program “Time for Nine” and are taking actions to get clubs to cater to the nine hole golfer. The USGA and PGA will “build a list of nine hole friendly courses and will encourage their members and member clubs to offer and promote nine hole play.”
Bill Pennington of The New York Times featured the joint endeavor by the USGA and PGA in a piece titled “A Return to the Nine-Hole Round.”
The PGA is in the business of getting golfers on the course and none more so than its president, Ted Bishop who owns a 45 hole facility near Indianapolis. From Pennington’s article. “We’ve got to get some people thinking again about nine holes that take two hours to play,” said Bishop. “It’s a good way to target lapsed golfers and new golfers. The 18-hole round has its place, but let’s see how many people we can attract to the game with an offer of a quick nine holes.”
Bishop offers a $19 nine-hole round seven days a week, with or without a golf cart, after 4 p.m.
“It’s brought a real spike in the number of rounds played,” Bishop said. “And it’s been a lot of people I haven’t seen before.”
Jerry Tarde, the editor in Chief of Golf Digest and a partner in the “Time for Nine” initiative says, “We’re not trying to get everyone who plays 18 holes to play nine holes instead. We’re after the people who aren’t playing because they think golf is a half-day proposition, which it isn’t.
“The message is that nine-hole golf is legitimate golf. It is not half golf or kids’ golf.”
The “Time for Nine” program comes at a crucial time in golf. With the number of rounds decreasing and players leaving the game this effort should be able to entice some former golfers back and make it easier for new players to enjoy the game.
And isn’t that what it is supposed to be…enjoyable? Forget the nine hole stigma and get out and play a quick nine. After all, nine holes of golf is better than none at all and sometimes better than 18.
Golf Digest will keep a list of “nine hole friendly” courses on GolfDigest.com. If you know a good Nine Holer or a club that promotes nine hole rounds send your suggestion to firstname.lastname@example.org or Timefor9@usga.org. or email@example.com