As The R&A once again launch their 9 Hole Challenge, new data shows the shorter format is surging in popularity at golf clubs... The number of golfers playing nine-hole rounds has soared during the coronavirus pandemic. As The R&A gave players the chance to take on the famous Old Course on the eve of the 150th Open, the governing body revealed the popularity of the shorter format was clearly on the rise at clubs all over the UK. The body once again launched their 9 Hole Challenge, which will give golfers who hold a registered handicap index in GB&I, Australia, and New Zealand the chance to qualify and tee it up over the first four and final four holes of the historic St Andrews layout, and in front of the massive grandstands, in a grand final on Friday, July 8. 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”. Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer at The R&A said, “This year’s R&A 9 Hole Challenge offers golfers an incredible opportunity to reach the Final in St Andrews, particularly given the excitement for The 150thOpen. “We encourage golfers to take part in qualifying at their home clubs and enjoy a form of the sport that is fast, fun and flexible. Alternative formats such as nine-hole golf are helping to attract new audiences to the sport and we look forward to seeing the finalists at the Old Course in July.” New data from national federations is backing that up, with huge numbers recorded over the last few years – aided by the introduction of the World Handicap System and because golf could be played safely as Covid-19 shut down other sports. Those numbers reveal: In England, nine-hole rounds played for handicap purposes increased from 175,000 in 2019 to 407,000 in 2021. In Ireland, nine-hole rounds played for handicap purposes increased from 70,697 in 2018 to 130,751 in 2021. In Scotland, nine-hole rounds played increased from 44,834 in 2018 to 113,592 in 2021. In Wales, 8% of rounds submitted (to the Wales Golf Clubhouse) were for nine-hole play in 2021. Qualifying for The R&A 9 Hole Challenge – conducted over nine holes of Stableford format – will take place at golf clubs over the coming months, with 20 pairings aiming to reach the Final at St Andrews. To see how your club can get involved, visit the R&A’s 9 Hole Challenge website for more information or look at national federation websites for further details of qualifying competitions. Pictures: David Cannon/The R&A and The R&A Do you subscribe to the GCMA’s weekly E-newsletter? Make sure you’re not missing out on the latest in the world of golf club management. Click here to join in.
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