No time for golf? Play nine
The game of golf is losing more players than it's gaining, and one of the primary complaints is that in today's fast-paced world, it simply takes too long to play.
One way to get your fix is to just play nine holes. It's an idea the Milwaukee County courses, and golf's governing bodies, are promoting.
The United States Golf Association christened July 23 as "Play 9 Day," a continuation of the "Time for Nine" initiative it launched, along with the PGA of America, in the spring of 2013.
I'll admit, it has taken me a long time to come around to the idea of just playing nine holes – and I never quite feel complete after putting out on the ninth and heading to the car – but as my schedule has tightened the last few years due to my responsibilities covering all of Milwaukee sports (and a certain football team in Green Bay), it's harder to find over six hours of free time.
Yes, six hours. Maybe you can get your round in under five, but unless you live minutes from an 18-hole public facility – and if you're in downtown Milwaukee, you don't – you need to factor in traffic (to and from), checking in and just general prep for teeing off.
Overall pace of play and course etiquette is a huge problem, but you can't control others. What you can control is how many holes you play, and rather than get frustrated with the time you don't have, maximize the time you do.
Finally heeding my own advice, I finally got over to Lincoln Park Golf Course, the sporty, executive nine-hole Milwaukee County Parks facility off Hampton Road.
Now, the course is currently undergoing some bunker and irrigation renovations – which is actually pretty great because those hazards are grounds under repair – but I couldn't have had more fun in playing nine holes in 90 minutes.
Yes, 90 minutes. And that was after I caught up with another single on the second tee box and waiting behind two other walkers a hole ahead.
Lincoln Park isn't the most difficult layout, but it's great to work on your game (if you don't want to pair up with a stranger, and you have no one behind you, drop a few balls around the green and work on your chipping) and build some confidence. I'm not in a great place with my swing, but even with all my faults I still had birdie putts and plenty of pars on the card.
But let's say you live closer to an 18-hole facility, or you just prefer one. That doesn't mean you should totally ignore your sticks just because you can't complete the routing.
In fact, courses are more likely to entice you to come out to do just that.
Chet Hendrickson, PGA professional and Milwaukee County golf services manager, says the county continually promotes nine-hole rounds with specials across all of its properties – including Brown Deer Golf Course.
"One of the largest obstacles in golf is the length of time in which it takes to play," he said. "People are busy. There are endless options for events and limited disposable incomes. Not only does nine holes take half the time, it is a much cheaper option for an individual or family."
I also shot out to Edgewood Golf Course in Big Bend to play the front nine of its Pines Course on a late afternoon. I played with two others, and we followed a foursome on a stacked tee sheet before league play began.
Even with some ball searching and nearly a full group, it took under two hours to finish nine holes on a regulation course. And even with the trek out to the 'burbs, I was back in the city in time for dinner.
I've never seen a sport whose players can't seem to get over themselves as much a golfers – and this goes from the scratch players to the weekenders. We think we hit it further than we do, that we're better than we are, and that everything costs too much.
But the common thread is that golfers love to golf – so why be so picky about how many holes you might fit in?
The more golf the better, and finding time for nine is better than whining about the hours needed for 18.
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