The popularity of shorter formats of the game of golf are on the rise, according to new findings released by the R&A.
The figures demonstrate that nine hole golf has experienced a significant rise in popularity, with substantial increases across Great Britain and Ireland that include a 200% increase of competitive nine hole club rounds by men and boys in Ireland from 2016 to 2017.
Meanwhile GolfSixes, the game pioneered by the European Tour, has been embraced with a junior GolfSixes league that is set to expand through new partnerships across Europe.
And it's not just club golfers and national organisations welcoming shorter forms of the sport. Stars of the sport, including Padraig Harrington, So Yeon Ryu, Jon Rahm, Charley Hull, Mel Reid and Richie Ramsay feature in a new series of videos produced by The R&A with the support of various national bodies about their memories of playing nine hole golf and their enjoyment of the shortened format.
“Nine hole golf is a shorter form of the game that people of all ages and abilities can enjoy together and can be played after work, after school and at the weekend,” said Ramsay, a three-time European Tour winner.
“It’s encouraging that golf clubs are now offering their members opportunities to play alternative, shorter formats of the game in order to meet the demands of busy, modern lifestyles. I think this is important for safeguarding the future of the sport, while providing a fun and enjoyable means to exercise and socialise with family and friends.”
The work being achieved by golf’s governing bodies in Great Britain and Ireland to promote nine hole golf and shorter formats as a way of enjoying the sport in less time, either recreationally or for handicap purposes, is illustrated by new figures which demonstrate the rising popularity of competitive nine hole golf.
Key findings on nine hole golf have revealed the following:
➤ England Golf has reported a 50% increase in nine hole competitive scores returned between 2014 and 2017 (70,127 to 105,254). Between 2016 and 2017, competitive nine hole club rounds by males increased by 17% (50,667 to 59,336) and 6% by females (43,314 to 45,918).
➤ In Ireland, from 2016 to 2017, competitive nine hole club rounds by women and girls increased by 64% (18,753 to 30,803) and by over 200% by men and boys (2,370 to 7,250).
➤ Wales Golf has reported a 28% increase in nine hole competitive scores returned between 2016 and 2017 (12,201 to 15,671).
➤ Scottish Golf has reported a 30% increase in nine hole competitive scores returned between 2016 and 2017 (30,021 to 39,107).
The popularity of nine hole golf is also evident in other countries; in Portugal, there has been a 269% increase in the number of nine hole qualifying scores recorded from 2007-2017 (1,688 to 6,225), while in Spain the number of nine hole rounds played from 2014-2017 has increased by 36% (35,777 to 48,806).
In Australia, last year’s Play 9 initiative, which gave players the challenge of tackling the back nine holes at the Emirates Australian Open, attracted 163 clubs and 2,442 competitors. Organisers are aiming for 350 clubs and over 10,000 players to enter Play 9 this year. Elsewhere, in Canada, nine hole scores submitted between 2007-2017 rose from 277,722 to 732,072, an increase of 164%.
Golf’s professional circuits are also embracing shorter formats of the game with the exciting GolfSixes event recently played on the European Tour and the popular junior GolfSixes League expanding through new partnerships across Europe. Meantime, England Golf and the European Tour have just announced a partnership which will start by engaging members at over 1,900 clubs through GolfSixes.
Duncan Weir, Executive Director - Golf Development at The R&A, said, “The figures reported by the national associations in Great Britain and Ireland, and those in other countries, demonstrate that nine hole golf is rising in popularity. We are encouraged to see that shorter forms of the sport are being embraced by clubs and golfers as a perfectly valid means to play golf in less time, either recreationally or competitively.”
This year’s R&A 9 Hole Championship Final will be played on Saturday 14 July ahead of The 147th Open at Carnoustie and thousands of golfers are competing to try and qualify through events being held by clubs throughout Great Britain and Ireland.
In Scotland, the first ever national nine hole final at Milnathort in June will now be played over two days after over 170 clubs registered for the chance to go forward to play at the famous Angus links. Over 300 courses in Scotland now also have a designated nine hole Standard Scratch Score (SSS) to stage nine hole medals, with more than 50 new ratings so far this year.