Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Shorter Courses Appeal to Golf Newcomers

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Shorter Courses Appeal to Golf Newcomers

Article excerpt

Byline: Garry Smits, Times-Union sports writer

ST. AUGUSTINE -- The decision is made: You want to take up golf. Equipment is bought and lessons are taken. Then, after hours of practice and guidance, it's time to play.

And newcomers to the sport then discover a new and sometimes discouraging world apart from a half-hour session at the practice range: Five-hour rounds, wind, water, sand and high grass, and a group of 10-handicappers impatiently hitting into your group. The more nervous, confused and frustrated you get, the worse you play.

According to research, it's an oft-cited reason why newcomers to golf quit playing.

Help may be coming, if prospective golf-course owners and builders heed a study commissioned by Golf 20/20, an industry initiative of the World Golf Foundation that is holding its second annual conference this week at the World Golf Village.

In an effort to bring new players into the game, construction of more "alternative facilities" is being stressed. Courses of nine holes or fewer, with shorter yardages, can offer a more pressure-free environment for beginners than tackling a full-sized course.

Sportometrics, a golf economics research company commissioned by Golf 20/20, found 5,542 alternative facilities in the U.S., almost a third of more than 17,000 overall courses and clubs.

However, half of those 5,542 facilities are stand-alone practice ranges. Less than a third are par-3 courses of either nine holes or 18 holes, 16 percent are "executive courses, "with shorter yardages than usual, 3 percent are "pitch and putt," courses (facilities with par-3 holes less than 100 yards) and only 1 percent are facilities of other configurations.

That means only 15 percent of golf courses have fewer than 18 holes, too few, according to the research, if the Golf 20/20 goal of doubling the number of players in the U.S. within 25 years is to be realized.

There are three nine-hole courses on the First Coast -- the Palm Valley Golf Club, the Jacksonville University course and the First Tee of Jacksonville Brentwood Course. …

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