“In the 21st century, the 18-hole round is impractical.”
The game of golf is rife with traditions, from the stuffy organizations running the game, to the 14-club limit, to par 3s, 4s, and 5s.
While traditions connect us with the history of golf, the game also has changed to keep up with the times.
That is, except for the 18-hole round.
The first recorded evidence of golf is from more than 540 years ago. James II of Scotland, in an act of Parliament dated March 6, 1457, had golf and football banned because these sports were interfering with the archery practice of the defenders of the Scottish realm.
According to Scotland's Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrew's, the course originally had 12 holes. Golfers returned to the starting point by playing the same greens and same holes (except number 11 and number 18, which were at opposite ends of the course) in the reverse direction, thus making a normal round 22 holes. In 1764, however, the first four holes became two holes, and the standard golf round became 18 holes. This tradition has carried forward to the present day.
In the 21st century, the 18-hole standard is impractical.
Urbanization has forced golf courses to the edges of populated areas, requiring golfers to travel farther to the facilities, thus increasing the time investment needed to play a round. And the game has gone mainstream. The vacant courses and three-hour rounds of the past have been replaced by the overcrowded courses, golf carts, and five-hour rounds of today. Meanwhile, fierce competition in business and the pressures of modern family life have made free time that much more precious.
So how can we adapt golf to the modern world? How about this idea:
Break each 18-hole facility into 6-hole segments. Each 6-hole segment would count (for handicap purposes) as a round of golf. Therefore, an “official” round of golf could consist of a 6-hole round, a 12-hole round, or an 18-hole round. This format would satisfy time requirements for all golfers. A 6-hole round would take about an hour and 20 minutes; a 12-hole round might take two hours and 45 minutes; and an 18-hole round would take the usual four to five hours.
While 6-, 12- and 18-hole segments could be everyday options at all facilities, a standard might be set to make tournaments at least 12-hole events. Six holes may not be sufficient to determine the outcome of a.
The 18-hole tradition just doesn't work in the modern world. If golf technology can move from hickory shafts and gutta percha golf balls to titanium clubs and elastomer golf balls, why shouldn't we alter another of golf's traditions — one that was created by a random circumstance in the distant past?
John Haime has competed in tours in Canada, Australia, Asia, South Africa, and the U.S. He is president of Corporate Golf Links and Learning Links Inc., companies offering golf services to corporations. Reach him at (613) 271-7356 or firstname.lastname@example.org.