There are a few obstacles every golfer faces when heading to the first tee. Outside of the obvious hazards and bunkers, hooks and slices, the less obvious snags of time and money can combine to make golf a difficult hobby to sustain.
The United States Golf Association knows this, and is trying to do something about it. The idea? Playing nine holes instead of 18.
Play 9 Day, led by the USGA -- with help from Rickie Fowler and American Express, -- took place Wednesday for the first time to promote a different way of playing the game.
Executive Director Mike Davis is aware the concerns of the golf industry and took part in the event, answering questions and playing nine holes at Neshanic Valley Golf Course in New Jersey.
“It’s all about awareness and trying to do something for participation in the game,” Davis said. “There are a lot of people who play the game that think 18 holes is the only way to play.”
He wants that mentality to change. It’s a campaign that requires the help from every corner of the golf industry, however, from the USGA to golf course owners and operators and even the golfers themselves. As steep a goal as that may seem, Davis is optimistic it can work.
“For some of the courses, they have to figure out a way to do it,” Davis said. “A lot offer that reduced rate, but when they can take those off peak times … you’re still going to get the 18-hole golfers in the peak times, but people will come out for those nine holes.”
With the average price of nine holes with a cart on the weekend at $22, affordability is another benefit of the 9-hole round. That number was one Davis highlighted throughout the day, also noting that handicaps can be built from 9-hole rounds, too.
The Play 9 effort is designed in part to help reverse a decade's worth of declining popularity in the game. The USGA, of course, would love for everyone to be able to tee it up for 18 holes. If you can't, there is still a chance to Play 9, with the added benefit of saving time and money.
“It comes down to, would you rather have somebody play nine holes versus playing no holes?” Davis said. “I think that’s what this is really about.”