My TGA colleague Nate Wright had a couple of intriguing thoughts about this process that I’ve been chewing on since and wanted to pass along.
As I was finishing up my double bogey putt on the first green of our second course, Pasatiempo, he said – “Wouldn’t it be great if golf courses were built with 19 holes and the first was a warm-up?” I laughed it off but he persisted – “You could have a Marshal walk with each group and determine, based on the scores and what he or she saw, what tees the players needed to use for the rest of the round.”
I initially laughed it off again but the idea grew on me as I thought more about it.
There are obvious complications – incorporating a 19th hole into existing layouts, adding to the length of a round, disrupting the concept of an 18 hole course, adding another employee to payroll, potential subjectivity of the Marshal determining tees (and the corresponding displeasure/arguments), etc.
But there are also benefits – minimizing the need for practice time before the round, increasing enjoyment of the round by having a warm-up hole to minimize high first-hole scores, faster pace-of-play on the other 18 holes due to players playing from the appropriate tees, etc.
The first “practice” hole would need to be very easy, such as a wide open 350 yard par 4 with a flat green. Maybe there would be rules regulating the maximum number of shots to get on the green at four and the number of putts at three. Maybe players with handicaps below a certain number could bypass it altogether and play from any tees they wanted. Maybe the practice hole could be added to the side of the driving range, where space is often more abundant and easier to carve out, as opposed to including it in the course layout.
With the USGA considering new rules and some golf courses starting to develop innovative ways to make the game more attractive, all options seem (thankfully) to be on the table. I think this idea stands up with many of the others and merits a place in those conversations so I wanted to throw it out there.
What do you think?
And, hat tip to Nate Wright for the ideas.
|18th Hole at Pasatiempo - Me on the left, Nate Wright on the right|
|11th Hole at Monterey Peninsula Country Club's Shore Course|