By Russ Evans
If you’re a regular reader of this column, you know by now that I’m an advocate of making golf fun. As my good friend Dr. Gary Wiren told me many years ago, “Golf is a game, and as such, it is meant to be enjoyed.” So anything that makes the game of golf more enjoyable, less difficult, and less time-consuming is okay by me. With that being said, I was thrilled to learn of a new initiative called ‘Time for Nine’, which is a joint venture by The PGA of America and the USGA, along with Golf Digest. The ‘Time for Nine’ initiative will be spreading the word that a little golf is better than no golf at all.
Golf Digest contributing editor Bob Carney joined me on the Golf Exchange radio show recently to discuss the idea.
“Today’s Americans are spending on average 500 more hours at the office than their parents did,” said Carney. “Most people have seen their leisure time shrink to 1-2 hours per day. A lot of us have put off playing golf because we couldn’t play 18 holes. But most of the things we do today, whether it’s going to a movie or watching a kid’s soccer game, are a couple of hours, not five hours. This idea that you have to spend half the day on the golf course just doesn’t ring true. So we decided to start promoting this: find time in your schedule for nine holes of golf. Playing nine holes is better than not playing at all.”
Golf courses are slowly getting better at offering nine-hole rates. Some courses are even promoting nine-hole rates on weekends, when traditionally only full 18-hole rounds were accepted. And for the skeptical traditionalists in the crowd who might be on the fence, you can submit a nine-hole round as an official score for a USGA handicap index. The USGA can also issue nine-hole handicaps for players competing in nine-hole leagues.
This acceptance of nine-hole rounds is a reaction to the changing face of golf. The game isn’t the same game your father played. Total rounds played have been declining each year in this country over the past decade. There are fewer private clubs today than there were 10 years ago. Many formerly private clubs are now semi-private, opening their doors to the public in order to survive. Along with courses offering more nine-hole rounds, many facilities are now allowing players on the course without collared shirts, and some are even allowing denim. There are also more opportunities for parents to play with their children, as the golf industry is finally realizing today’s junior golfers will be their bread-and-butter 10-20 years from now.
“The golf industry has struggled recently because of the down economy, but it has also struggled partly because of its own policies,” said Carney. “The industry got high and mighty there for a while, thinking every golf course had to be a championship layout that was very difficult, and in doing that drove some players away by making the game appear harder than it needs to be. Now courses are saying, ‘We want you to come out and play. We want you to bring your kids, we want you to have a good time. You don’t have to play by every single rule if you don’t want to. You don’t have to wear special golf clothes necessarily. Just get out and play. Whether it’s 18 holes or nine holes or six holes or less, we just want you to participate.’ And that is a great message, and it’s a message that will bring a lot more people to the game.”
Find time in your schedule to get out on the course more often for nine holes. For more information on the ‘Tine for Nine’ initiative, log onto www.usga.org/playnine.
Listen to Russ Evans every Sunday morning from 9-11am on Golf Exchange presented by The Honda Classic. You can follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/RusEvanswww.twitter.com/RusEvans. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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It's Masters time! With Tiger Woods sitting as the world's #1 golfer once again, the 2013 edition of the tournament promises to be memorable. Will Tiger win his fifth green jacket, or will he be denied for an 8th straight year? The ESPN 106.3 staff predicts “Tiger vs. The Field”:
By Russ Evans
April is my favorite sports month of the entire year. The month begins with the end of March Madness. College basketball, especially this time of year, is more appealing to me than the NBA product – even more so since I have a dog in the fight. As a University of Florida alum, the NCAA tournament has become, since Billy Donovan’s arrival in Gainesville roughly 15 years ago, a fabulous time of year for me to root on my beloved Gators. And who doesn’t love a Cinderella story? Whether it’s Villanova in 1985, or Providence in 1987, or Loyola Marymount in 1990, or Valparaiso in 1998, or George Mason in 2006, or both VCU and Butler just two years ago, the NCAA Tournament always delivers a memorable ‘rags to riches’ story suitable for the silver screen.
This year the Final Four is once again in Georgia, which will make Jim Nantz’s quick turnaround from hardwood to dogwood that much easier. Augusta is just a 2 hour drive from Atlanta, and the second week of April is all about the Masters. “A tradition unlike any other”, as Nantz has famously said more than once. My first Masters memory was as a 10-year-old boy watching Jack Nicklaus’ final round 63 on Easter Sunday at my grandfather’s house in Lantana. Jack of course donned his record sixth green jacket that day back in 1986. Some of my fondest Masters memories since then include Freddie Couples’ tee shot at the 12th hole magically avoiding water in 1992, Ben Crenshaw crying over his mentor Harvey Pennick’s passing upon holing the final putt in 1995, Tiger Woods’ dominating the course and the field in record setting fashion in 1997, Phil Mickelson’s mini-leap on the 18th green after holing the winning putt in 2004, Tiger Woods the following year in 2005 hanging a Nike logoed golf ball on the precipice of the 16th hole for what felt like an eternity, and of course Bubba Watson’s amazing pitching wedge last year out of the trees on the 10th hole en route to a playoff victory over Louis Oosthuizen, who earlier that week made the first Albatross that I’ve ever watched live on television. I’ve even been fortunate enough to attend the Masters in person twice, most recently in 2010. Words can’t describe how beautiful a place Augusta National Golf Club is, and I can’t wait till I have a chance to return to the Masters once again.
The first sport I ever loved was baseball. I vividly remember watching Don Mattingly, Reggie Jackson, and Dave Winfield in the early 1980’s kick off each new season with spring training reps in Fort Lauderdale. I will never forget what that tiny stadium smelled like, how green the grass on the field looked, hearing small jets take off at the executive airport nearby, and hearing the roaming vendors yell “Beer Here!” To this day, the smell of Cracker Jack takes me back to those beautiful spring days of my youth. Some say that baseball is too slow, that other sports have passed it by. But I still would rather attend a Yankees-Red Sox game in the Bronx over anything else. (Except maybe a final round Sunday at the Masters.) The Major League Baseball regular season begins each April with fans of all 30 teams – even the Cubs – believing that their squad, with just enough luck, could be playing deep into October.
And for the pigskin fans in the crowd, April also ends with the NFL Draft. I actually have a friend who prefers watching coverage of the draft over watching an actual regular season game. Although I don’t agree, I can understand his passion for a sport he loves. Sports is all about love. Loving memories from the past, and looking forward to making the new ones in the future.
Listen to Russ Evans every Sunday morning from 9-11am on Golf Exchange presented by The Honda Classic on ESPN Radio 106.3-FM/760-AM in West Palm Beach and WMEN 640 Sports in Fort Lauderdale. You can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RusEvans. You can email him at email@example.com.
By: Ken LaVicka
By: Ken LaVicka