Why The R&A’s 9 Hole Challenge should only be the start for shorter formats

9 hole challenge
The tournament will soon reach an epic climax at the Home of Golf. But the governing body is keen that the inspiration from the conclusion at St Andrews can inspire clubs to offer more events... You feel the weight of history as you stand on the first tee, get a little quiver in the legs as your eyes glaze across that hallowed turf, and just hope you make solid contact with the ball and watch it sail down the sport’s most famous fairway. There is little more inspiring than playing a round at the Old Course, in St Andrews, but this year the hairs on the back of the neck will be standing ever taller for those who have qualified for the conclusion of The R&A’s 9 Hole Challenge. Qualifiers took place at golf clubs all over GB&I, Australia, and New Zealand, and a mesmerising prize was at stake – the chance to tee it up over the most famous holes in the game – the first four and the final five at the historic layout and in front of the massive grandstands in the grand final on Friday, July 8. The annual challenge has been running since a pilot event at Royal Troon, in 2016, but surely there can’t have been a bigger carrot at stake than to perform at golf’s most venerable location. But for those at the governing body behind the competition, there is more at stake than just a round on the Old Course for 20 lucky pairings. The R&A say their 9 Hole Challenge is “central to the organisation’s wider drive to promote this form of golf as an ideal way to enjoy playing the sport in less time, either recreationally or competitively for handicap purposes, and experience the physical and mental health benefits golf provides”. Recent data from national federations has shown that competitive nine-hole rounds are on the rise – trebling in England from 2019 to 2021 and seeing significant rises in the rest of the home unions.  And the St Andrews based organisation is particularly keen to see more shorter format rounds being played, and submitted for handicapping, as well as more 9 Hole competitions on club fixture lists. Kevin Barker, The R&A’s director of golf development, said: “The R&A’s role within golf is to develop and sustain the sport for current and future generations. One of The R&A’s strategic priorities is to increase the number of people playing all formats of golf and the frequency of play.   “The R&A 9 Hole Challenge is central to the organisation’s wider drive to promote shorter forms of golf as an ideal way to enjoy playing the sport in less time and a way to experience the physical and mental health benefits golf provides. “The success Australia and New Zealand have with their nine hole events demonstrates the increasing interest in shorter forms of play.  “Clubs can assist with continuing this trend by having nine hole green fees and regular nine hole competitions.  And it should...
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