Mix Up Your Game with Alternative Formats
What’s wrong with good ol’ fashioned golf?
Not a thing! Passionate players like us love the game just the way it is.
As golf industry leaders – along with a number of outside agencies – look for ways to appeal to new generations of golfers, however, the general theme is clear: find new ways to attract more people to the sport by offering multiple ways to enjoy it. If we can also make it quicker, easier and more affordable, so much the better.
Let’s look at some key developments in this trend.
Course design – playability over punishment
Slowly but surely, golf course design has moved away from the idea that harder is better. Fairways have gotten wider, rough lighter, forced carries less common. So-called “minimalist” architects, like Tom Doak (Riverfront Golf Club, Suffolk, VA) and the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (Talking Stick Golf Club, Scottsdale, AZ), have led this charge since the early 1990s.
The most breathtaking example yet may be Gamble Sands in central Washington state, named “Best New Course of 2014” by Golf Digest. Designed by David McLay Kidd, who authored the original course at Bandon Dunes Resort, Gamble Sands features sprawling fairways kept firm to give golfers plenty of roll. Challenges lie in playing links-style bump-and-run shots along the ground’s natural contours.
Marrying golf with other sports
Existing courses are embracing fresh ideas, as well. What do soccer and skateboarding have in common? For one thing, kids love ’em.
For another, each sport is being paired with golf to give this traditional “old man’s game” a more youthful appeal.
The soccer-golf pairing is called FootGolf, and it’s expanding rapidly across the U.S. Introduced to America just five years ago, FootGolf is already being played at hundreds of courses nationwide.
It’s quite simple, really. Instead of hitting a tiny ball with an angular club, FootGolfers kick a soccer ball down the fairway toward 21-inch cups (placed away from the actual greens).
Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
So does the GolfBoard. It’s not a game unto itself, but a sportier means of transportation around the course. Riding a four-wheeled platform with room for clubs, GolfBoarders “surf the earth” in pursuit of birdies and pars. And they do it quickly: According to the manufacturer, GolfBoard riders can play 18 holes in a little over 2.5 hours.
Then there’s something called FlingGolf, a golf-lacrosse hybrid. FlingGolfers use a regular golf ball, which they chuck with a FlingStick – while running, if they so choose – until they reach the green. Once on, they use the FlingStick to nudge the ball toward the hole.
Those are just some of the creative ways golf courses are wooing new customers. Many have installed “family-friendly” tees while encouraging 9- and even 6-hole rounds. Some hold casual tournaments where the standard, 4.25” cup is replaced by a whopping 15-incher. (Now there’s an easy way to eliminate three-putts.)
And let’s not forget Topgolf, a genuine phenomenon that’s drawing hoards of players to its stand-alone facilities.
Wherever you stand on the tradition vs. progress spectrum, these developments seem to only promote growth and adoption of the sport. And it’s hard to see much harm in that.