Chris BaldwinThis Week at August 23, 2006

Why no respect for nine-hole courses?

One of the biggest complaints lodged about the game of golf is that it just takes too long to play. Golfers moan to their buddies that if only it didn't take five hours, they could talk their wife into letting them out of the house for a round more than once every millennium. Head pros groan that an army of Ben Cranes who swing like Charles Barkley and think their every putt is more important than the ones Tiger Woods lines up are crippling the industry.

Yet, no one makes the easy leap to a clear solution: Just play nine. And more importantly, just encourage time or attention-strapped golfers to keep it to nine.

When's the last time you walked into a clubhouse and saw a nine-hole rate posted? When told that you want to play only nine, most big name courses will give you a "that's nice" and charge the full 18-hole rate. And if a club happens to actually have a nine-hole rate, it's hidden away behind the counter like the hard porn at a convenience store.

Forget about any real nine-hole golf courses either. Courses where the par 4 doesn't come in at 178 yards. I played one in the Lake Placid, N.Y. region recently - almost 3,000 yards and real par 5s - and it was like being caught on a golf museum.

You weren't quite sure it was still 2006.

For nobody plays on a nine-hole course anymore. That would be like actually talking to someone when you could text message.

Part of it's a macho golfer thing. But a bigger part of it is an industry so rigid thinking that it believes "outside the box" is putting a few free tees in the carts.

"If the golf industry was serious about attracting new players, almost every course would encourage nine-hole play," said Tim Hurja, a pro who's taught celebrities such as Mel Gibson and sees golf in anything but conventional ways. "It's not that hard to do logistically."

It's easier to just complain though.

As always, welcomes your comments.

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