You will probably think that golf’s latest plan to get new people playing has a few holes in it
A golf organisation that is backed by players, equipment manufacturers and industry leaders has devised a radical way to halt the decline in golf: Make the holes bigger. More than three times bigger.
Golf has been in sharp decline in many of its established territories in the world, such as the UK and USA, for several years, as falling membership and participation numbers have led to many venues closing down.
One of the biggest problems that the game has is the time it takes to play it – a typical 18-hole round usually requires at least half a day of a participant’s time.
To combat this, golf authorities have devised new ways to speed up the game, from reducing the number of holes needed to play a round to motivating golfers to play the game more quickly.
However, this new concept marks a sea change in that thinking and shows that the less radical ideas are not having the effect the authorities have hoped.
The TaylorMade-adidas Golf-funded organisation, HackGolf, which is trying to get more people to play golf, has introduced the 15-inch golf hole, more than three times bigger than the typical diameter of a golf hole, from approximately 4.25 inches to about the size of a pizza.
HackGolf believes nearly 100 golf courses are interested in giving the larger holes a try. At the venues that have already trialed it, the average length of an 18-hole round has been reduced by nearly an hour, and golfers saw a 10-stroke improvement on their scores.
Ted Bishop, president of the Professional Golfers Association of America, believes the larger holes could help the game.
He said: “We’ve got to stop scaring people away from golf by telling them that there is only one way to play the game.”
Two leading players, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose, have played nine holes using the ‘giant holes’, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, saw little improvement in their scores.
Sergio Garcia said: “A 15 inch hole could help junior golfers, beginning golfers and older golfers score better, play faster and like golf more.”
The concept of larger holes is not exactly new. The golf course designer Jonathan Gaunt has been calling for larger holes for several years. He said: “What would make the powers in charge of the game consider changing the size of the golf hole, for amateur golf only, to, say, six inches?
“On short or academy courses, maybe the hole size could be even larger, say eight inches? The result would be fewer putts, lower scores, more exciting and enjoyable rounds of golf and more holes in one, and quicker rounds of golf.”
“It is clear our game needs something to recapture the incredible growth and momentum we were experiencing a decade ago,” said Mark King, CEO of TaylorMade-adidas Golf. “Whether it is this 15-inch-cup concept or an idea that comes in from outside the industry, we need to spark a revolution that will bring new participants to the game.”