Where Jack’s 12-Hole Idea Falls Short

Recently, Geoff Shackelford spotted an interview with Jack Nicklaus in the Tennessean, in which he wipes the dust off his recommendations, made several years ago, that the golf industry starts offering twelve-hole rounds. Jack offers this as a remedy to halt the decreasing participation in golf, and to spark growth in the game that has suffered, seemingly due to slow play and cost.

In the Tennessean, Joe Biddle writes:

Nicklaus talked to PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem about the problem, telling Finchem that every sport you play can be played in two, maybe three hours. Except a round of golf.

“The kids are all playing soccer or lacrosse or basketball.’’

Looking forward, Nicklaus believes cutting a round of golf to 12 holes would be more palatable for golfers who don’t want to make it a day-long process.

He tossed the idea past Finchem, who pooh-poohed it six or seven months ago. Finchem talked to Nicklaus at the Masters this year, and Nicklaus said Finchem is starting to consider the idea.

At two of Nicklaus’ courses — Muirfield and the Bear’s Club — he had them make up 12-hole scorecards.

“My seniors are loving it,” he said. “The game is so difficult to start with. You take kids. They start basketball at a 6-foot hoop, 7-foot hoop, small ball, big ball…. All the sports work their selves up. In golf, you start with a set of clubs and a hard golf ball and it’s not easy.

“It’s the health of the game, the growth of the game, keeping people in the game, that I’m interested in.”

I agree 90% with Jack here. To explain the 10% where I don’t, allow me to refer to a chapter I have included on why18holes.com, outlining my understanding of the concept and where the 12-hole idea, presented by Jack Nicklaus and others, falls short:

It is important to note that the idea of 12 holes becoming the new standard has been voiced several times. While this would of course help solve the time issue, I still consider this solution incomplete. For example, adapting to a new fixed standard will be both costly and complicated for most existing courses. There is a very good chance that they would not be able to find a chain of 12 holes that both has a start and finish at the clubhouse without going through possibly expensive alterations. They may also get in a situation where some of the most cherished holes would need to be abandoned for a twelve hole layout to function properly. Also, the other six holes may also end up totally detached and ill suited as an alternative facility of some sort.

I would consider it an opportunity lost if we were to go through this seemingly insurmountable mental hurdle of abandoning the eighteen hole principle by jumping straight to a new standard – a new fixed number – instead of simply opening our minds to the fact that a golf course is of no lesser status if it has some other number of holes, based entirely on local conditions.

‘Allowing’ golf courses to have a non-regulation number of holes will allow golf clubs that are currently struggling to make quick and easy changes and still co-exist with those that prefer to stick to their current model.

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