March 15, 2011
How do you make golf fun for beginners, while also speeding up the pace of play on the course? Those were a couple of questions TaylorMade CEO Mark King tried to answer recently when asked about ways to make golf more enjoyable for the average player.
King's suggestion? Make the hole bigger. Not only would it make a round of golf more fun, it most likely would speed up the pace of play.
Sensing a potential story, Golf Digest Editor-and-chief Jerry Tarde decided to make King's dream a reality, hosting the first ever W I D E Open Championship last weekend at Pine Needles Lodge & GC. Instead of using the traditional 4 1/4-inch cup, the course replaced it wirth a gargantuan 15-inch version.
Of course, the hole made the game a lot more fun, with a number of golfers in the field shooting under par. With a hole almost the size of a baketball hoop, players would routinely have "gimmies" inside 25 feet. It also made chipping in a lot easier.
As Golf Digest's Pete Finch wrote, while the round was a complete success, it didn't leave golfers longing for courses where a 15-inch cup was the norm.
"The 15-inch cup was popular with most players. Many of the participants said they would enjoy doing it again, although they wouldn't want to play that way every time out," Finch said. "I felt the same way. It would be a great alternative to the usual scramble format at charity events. Or I could see dropping one round of "big-cup" golf midway into a buddies trip."
Therein lies the biggest issue of all. While golfers seemed to enjoy the gimmick round, there seemed to be a consensus at the event that the hole wasn't something they'd like to see all the time. But with groups routinely finishing in under 3 1/4 hours or less, it's hard to disagree with those that feel a bigger hole could speed up the pace of play.
But what about when novice golfers start to get the hang of the big hole? Maybe what you could do is have two or three different holes on the course for varying skill levels. As you progress from a 20 handicap to a 15, maybe you move from a 15-inch cup to a 10-inch version. It's just an idea.
While it was just round, it's nice to see that a bigger hole could potentially make the game more enjoyable for the average golfer.