Play 9 Day: Nine Ways to grow the sport of golf

 

Play 9 Day is the USGA’s awesome new movement, that promotes the fun and convenience of playing 9 holes over 18 holes. This movement first started last year and quickly became a success.

 

They just finished they’re second year and are already looking ahead to next year. With the movement being such a success, what are nine ways to grow and expand the sport of golf?

 

Here are mine (Note: this is NOT a top nine list. Just a general list of nine):

 

On the way to first tee box: Playing nine holes – Can’t start this list without mentioning the reason why it’s being written. Playing nine holes over 18 is a great, quick, and usually inexpensive way to get a round in and enjoy golf.

 

Traditionalists think 18 is the only way to play but to be real, nine hole courses came before 18 hole courses. Nine and 12 for that matter. St. Andrews started out as a 12 hole course where players would play 10 twice, making it 22 holes. Eventually, it just turned into playing 18.

 

Musselburgh Links, the second oldest course in the world (First round was documented in 1567), started off as a seven holer, then became a nine and still is a nine today. Oakhurst Links, the oldest course in America was and still is a nine hole course. therefore, 18 holes is NOT the true and traditional way to play so we need to erase this from our brains.

 

If you want to find a nine hole course in your area, then I recommend you check out the USGA’s Play 9 website: http://www.usga.org/play9info/

 

1. Playing par-3, putting and pitch & putt courses – Par-3 courses are usually nine hole courses and are much shorter and cheaper than a regular nine holer which is already cheap. These are an excellent way to introduce kids to and still have a fun, golf experience. It’s also a great way to test your accuracy.

 

I can relate, having played my first of many rounds on a small par-3 course in Chicago. Par-3 courses are a joy to play and feature very interesting course design features.

 

Pitch & Putt is very similar. Except the courses are even smaller than a par-3 courses.

 

With a Pitch & Putt track, you’re relying on pitch shots and flop shots to nail the ball close to the hole. It’s a ton of fun, it’s extremely affordable and it is played on an amateur tour level all around the world.

 

Putting courses are similar to mini-golf courses. Difference is that they are professionally designed to test even the streakiest of putters.

 

At the same time, they are great for the whole family to enjoy. They are inexpensive to design and inexpensive for the golfer while also taking less time.

 

Some courses are 18 holes set on one giant green. Some putting tracks are 18 separate holes. Some even have hazards such as bunkers and water.

 

Think of it as a full sized course shrunk down in size.

 

Some of the most famous putting designs include the newly opened PunchBowl course at Bandon Dunes and the Thisledhu course at Pinehurst. Probably the most legendary is the Himalaya putting course at the Old Course at St. Andrews.

 

It received a phenomenal 5 out of 5 rating on Trip Advisor. There were over 200 reviews and 188 gave the Himalaya course a perfect 5 out of 5.

 

Driving ranges are excellent locations for putting courses. Top Golf, which I’ll get to later, has a putting course at their Chicago location and although they call it a mini-golf course, I definitely see it more as a putting course.

 

Here’s one of my favorite sites on the web when I want to look for any of these small beauties: http://www.par3-executive-golf.com/index.html

 

2. The Sport of Long Drive – Long Drive is a sport where competitors attempt to hit the golf ball as long as possible. In most cases, this includes screaming after hitting a gorgeous tee shot.

 

It can be quite intense as you just never know who’s going to pull it off. You need to not only hit the ball the furthest, but need to keep it in-bounds on a giant field that looks similar to a football field.

 

The LDA (Long Drivers Association of America) is the home of Long Drive and carries the Re/MAX Long Drive Championship which has rapidly grown. Thanks to the coverage from Golf Channel, the Re/MAX Long Drive Championship has been seen by thousands of fans worldwide.

 

Probably the two most popular players of all-time are Jason Zubak and Jamie Sadlowski who are both instrumental in Long Drive’s popularity. Jeff Flagg of Alabama is the current champion, defeating the extremely accurate Jeff “The Critter” Crittenden.

 

Besides, who doesn’t love seeing golf balls being smashed 400+ yards? Coolest stuff ever and can definitely be a huge draw for younger, casual, new generation fans. The events are usually held in hot places such as Nevada and Texas.

 

Las Vegas has been the legendary location for the Championship.

 

The only thing is that the events aren’t spread enough across the country. There should be events in locations all over the U.S. to help get the sport out the many all over and provide a fun event for everyone to enjoy.

 

I understand it can be tricky with all of the space that is needed but it would be great. This is a cool way to get many young sports enthusiasts into golf.

 

If they see an LDA event and see guys booming the ball so far, they’ll think “WOW! That’s so cool!”

 

You can learn more about the LDA at their website at LongDrivers.com.

 

3. Using less clubs and/or making cheaper sets – OK, so this one’s a biggie for those who are trying to get into golf. Price of equipment.

 

When there’s 14 clubs in a bag, it can definitely raise prices. But then again, who really needs 14 clubs? You don’t. All you really need is five, maybe six clubs, seven max.

 

What needs to happen here is instead of being forced to get a set of 14, there should be sets of five or six, better yet, have the customer choose how many clubs he/she wants and accumulate the price then. It would make the price much cheaper and will make walking the course more of a joy than a pain (You can always grab a push cart if you have too and I’ve seen some for about $50).

 

4. Playing Urban/Street Golf – Urban Golf is playing golf anywhere and everywhere you want. This is an excellent way for those who can’t really afford the time or money to playing on a course, to get some golf in.

It is actually the very first form of golf. Before courses, Dutch sailors would hit rocks with sticks around the town of St. Andrews and they would count their strokes along the way.

 

This being before the Old Course at St. Andrews even being discovered. The rest as they say, is history.

 

With Urban Golf, the rules are simple; find a target, whether you’re at the park, in the city, on the beach or at a school, find targets to aim for and hit to that spot in as less strokes as possible.

 

It’s highly recommended that you use softer golf balls or short flight golf balls such as the Almost Golf balls or the Birdie Ball. All you need is one club but can use two if you want to putt.

 

But really, all you need is a pitching wedge or 7-iron. One of the most beautiful things about Urban Golf is that YOU are the golf course designer. You choose or set up the targets.

 

You can use baskets or buckets if you want or the guys over at Birdie Ball and Almost Golf also carry targets you can get. Every year, there is a European Urban Golf Cup which is in a World Cup style format with teams representing each country (Except the U.S. but this HAS to change and the EUGC has said quite a few times that they’d gladly welcome an American squad.).

 

A U.S. Urban Golf organization needs to happen very soon and a U.S. Open wouldn’t be so bad either at some of the country’s finest parks.

 

5. Playing FootGolf – Do you have a kid that loves soccer and golf or loves soccer but is up in the air about golf? FootGolf is one of the most rapidly growing sports in the world.

 

This gives many players a chance to experience the joys of playing on a golf course and hitting off of lush, green fairways while still bringing in the fun of playing soccer, the world’s most popular sport. What makes this so powerful is that, there are millions, upon millions of soccer enthusiasts worldwide and this gives soccer fans a chance to get on the course and enjoy playing golf, but with a soccer ball.

 

The goal is exactly the same as golf except you’re kicking a soccer ball and you’re aiming for a giant hole. You can check out the AFGL’s (American FootGolf League) website for info and gear.

 

6. Convenience in golf – Another major obstacle in golf has been the convenience of the game. What makes sports like basketball and soccer so wildly popular, is how simple and convenient it is to play. Basketball, all you need is a basketball and a court. In soccer, all you need is a soccer ball and a soccer field/pitch or you can set up your own goals pretty easily.

With golf, you’re carrying a long, heavy bag full of clubs. This can be tough, especially for those of you who live in a busy city and have no vehicle.

 

And more than likely, if you are in an environment like that, you probably live in an apartment which can be cramped and a full set of clubs can get in the way. There needs to be much more “pick up and play” convenience in golf.

 

Thankfully, DV8 Sports had just recently released their set of clubs, which is conveniently tucked into a backpack. These are interchangeable clubs and are perfect for those of you who need your clubs with you everywhere you go (Like me).

 

It also fits beautifully into the Urban Golf scene as well. Makes a perfect fit for the adventure golfers out there and yes, they are very gorgeous clubs.

 

7. Golf video games – Video games have become an entertainment juggernaut ever since the first games came out in the early 80’s such as Pong, Pac Man and Donkey Kong (DK made Mario, then named Jumpman a megastar). If you know me, other than golf and other sports, I am a video game lover and play any chance I get.

 

In some ways, video games helped me love golf. I remember getting ready for my first lesson at my local course (The same course that features the little par-3 course I mentioned), and I decided to download the demo for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08.

 

The demo had you playing as Tiger and playing the first three holes at TPC Boston. I remember really enjoying bombing it off the tee with Tiger at Boston, with all of the beautiful and colorful Fall leaves all around Arnold Palmer’s design.

 

It was just a stepping stone to how I officially fell in love with the game. My first lesson was cancelled because the coach had another lesson that same day so I hit the driving range and hit a few driver shots which officially made catch the bug.

 

And I was someone who didn’t know anything about golf except Tiger, Michelle Wie, and a little bit of John Daly. I knew about none of the courses, the first course I really heard about was Pebble Beach and that was about it.

 

It all started with video games for the most part. And now, we have three great golf games that are available to play.

 

The Golf Club which features a very deep golf course design feature, allows you to create any course you want, whether it looks realistic or weird and totally out there. The gameplay is also a ton of fun. There are over 70,000 courses to play in the game because of the course design feature.

 

Perfect Golf, a game by Perfect Parallel, is a game for the PC that also features a golf course design feature. There has been plans to make the game available for home consoles such as the PS4 and Xbox One.

 

EA Sports just released Rory McIlroy PGA Tour which features beautiful graphics one some of the big name courses such as TPC Sawgrass, St. Andrews and Whistling Straits. The game also features a couple of fun fantasy courses and a Night Club mode with different mini games to play and could be very appealing to kids.

However, the game currently only has 12 courses but the game will not be a yearly title so there’s supposed to be more courses added in the future.

 

In previous golf games, there has been motion control featured where you can have a more authentic golfing experience at home. With the new Project Morpheus coming out for the PS4 next year among others, let’s hope motion control makes it’s way back into golf games.

 

8. Playing Night Golf – Night Golf has started to become more popular and has proven to be a very smart move, especially for those who get out of work in the evening. Installing lights on courses will help keep the course open all night long and keep golfers cool since the sun isn’t out.

 

Probably the coolest and funnest ways to enjoy Night Golf is by going to TopGolf and let me tell you, TopGolf is an absolute blast and has exploded across the country. I remember when there only a few, now they’re everywhere!

 

TopGolf is a driving range that is open all day and night and is not only just driving range, but a target practice game where you can test your accuracy and earn points. You can also watch sports and eat food in the little bar & grill spot and they usually give you a free bowl of popcorn while you play.

 

Music also plays in the background while you enjoy your game and there are heaters so you can play in the winter time. I remember playing out there in 20 degree weather and it was fun and I stayed warm enough to enjoy everything!

 

There’s even a beautiful mini golf course that you can play at night at the WoodDale, IL location (The one I’ve been to many times).

 

Going back to the Rory McIlroy PGA Tour video game’s Night Club feature, it could definitely help expand the popularity of Night Golf if many gamers play and enjoy the game.

 

Then, there’s a company called GlowGear that sells Night Golf gear so you can enjoy it yourself or if you’re a golf course owner, you can set up your own Night Golf events. The folks at GlowGear are also big Urban Golf enthusiasts as well which is awesome.

 

Night Golf is a great way to keep the fun going all night long.

 

9. PowerPlay Golf –  PowerPlay Golf is a new way to enjoy golf. It was created by amateur golf legend and golf course designer Peter McEvoy along with sports venue owner David Piggins and golf agency owner Andy Hiseman. It is played on nine hole courses.

 

The rules of PowerPlay Golf are just like Stableford, but you have two flags to choose from on each hole instead of one. You have a white flag and a black flag.

 

Now, here’s where the fun and strategy come into play. The white flag is the safer play, however, you will be rewarded with less points. If you were to go for the black flag, you’d get more points but would be the much more difficult play.

 

This takes the strategy of golf course design to a whole new level and brings a whole new level of excitement.

 

There was a PowerPlay Golf tournament that was filmed for TV and featured golf legend Gary Player, major champion Paula Creamer and Paul Casey among others.

 

unfortunately, there are no directories for where to find a PowerPlay course and the website is pretty basic, only featuring an email address. You can visit the website at PowerPlay-Golf.com and grab the email and send in any questions you may have.

 

However, one of the main three reps from the PowerPlay group has said that they are trying to bring PowerPlay Golf back into play. That would be so awesome if they did, and I know they could too. The guy I talked to was awesome.

 

You can also get some more info on PowerPlay Golf on the Wikipedia page.

 

Just another great variation of golf that has a chance to sky rocket if all goes well.

 

On the way back to the clubhouse: The First Tee program – Since we finished our nine hole round, it’s time to head back to the clubhouse, and how can I get through this list without mentioning The First Tee program? I was in The First Tee about six years ago as kinda both a member and minor mentor.

 

It really is a terrific program and you learn a lot from it. It teaches you things like respect, honesty and responsibility. These are just three of the “Nine core values” which pretty much makes The First Tee what it is.

 

You also get taught some basic fundamentals of the game while you learn these core values. Many kids who join The First Tee, usually do well in school and improve grades among other things.

 

Golf has that kind of power and I think The First Tee needs to definitely be recognized more often. The great thing is, it has quickly become one of the best youth programs in the country.

 

The PGA Tour has done a superb job of promoting it and I think it’ll just continue to get stronger and stronger.

 

If you want some more info on The First Tee, then visit TheFirstTee.org.

 

So. there you have it, these are just some of the many ways you expand the great sport of golf. Golf is the most versatile sport in the world so I think we definitely need to take advantage.

 

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @ChiGolfRadio and send me tweets with YOUR thoughts on how to expand the sport!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Colin GP Mieczkowski

Colin Mieczkowski is the Editor-in-chief of the award winning GP Golf Report. He hails from Chicago,IL and is a big Chicago sports fan (Except the Cubs, sorry. Chi Sox baby). His writing journey began when he used to write in his notebook and write free verse poems. Later, he created a blog that covered Chicago sports, golf and video games (Weird combination) but decided to just focus on his main passion of golf. That's when the GP Golf Report was born and since its humble beginnings, the blog has reached well over 100,000 unique visitors and continues to grow. He also has built a love for golf course design and is a lover of "Street Golf" which is practically how he picked up the game. Colin is also a video game YouTuber as well. He goes by the name "GhostPanda" on there. You can click the YouTube symbol to check him out. Follow him on Twitter @ChiGolfRadio and add him as a friend on Facebook!

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