Golfers have spoken: We want rounds with fewer holes

Every other golfer would leap at the chance to play 6-, 9-, or 12-hole rounds if their club offered them. And if you ask them why, adding this extra flexible option will get some of them to play more often. So, let's dive into why managers should seriously think about embracing this demand.

Lucas Balleby
July 4, 2023

Golf. A game celebrated for its strategic challenges, stunning courses, and the pure joy of sinking a perfect putt. And when you think of golf, the traditional 18-hole round instantly comes to mind.

But a new trend is shaking things up on the fairways, putting the regular journey on the golf course up for discussion. It's a mantra we've all heard: "Less is more". And in this case, "less" means the exciting option to play 6-, 9-, or 12-hole rounds at golf clubs. And what about "more"? Well, it implies more rounds being played, more golfers with smiles on their faces, and more revenue.

Tap into a new market while keeping your loyal golfers swinging

If you offered the chance, over half of the golfers would jump at the opportunity to play shorter rounds either often or now and then. And what about the rest? A large part would be hesitant about the idea, while only 11% would remain die-hard fans of the traditional 18-hole round.

Golfers perception of rounds with fewer holes.
Figure 1: If you could book 6-, 9-, or 12-hole rounds at your club, would you take advantage of the opportunity?

In short, there is no sign that shorter rounds should be the new standard yet, as the traditional 18-hole round remains the go-to option for many golfers. But by giving people the choice of playing 6-, 9-, or 12-hole rounds, golf clubs like yours will start meeting the needs of a big group of players. And offering this flexibility would also motivate many golfers to hit the course more often.

Fewer holes, more play

We all know the truth. Those 18-hole marathons can eat up a chunk of your day. Plus, trying to fit them in between work, family stuff, and everything else on your plate can be a real challenge. That's where rounds with fewer holes offer the flexibility many golfers crave.

Also, being able to enjoy a quick 9-hole round after work or squeezing in a satisfying 6-hole game during a lunch break would encourage the golfers to play more often. After all, they believe so themselves.

Golfers expected behavior if possible to book less than 18 holes.
Figure 2: Expected behavior if possible to book less than 18 holes.

The graph above tells us that when golf clubs offer 6-, 9-, or 12-hole rounds, they actually motivate a third of golfers to play more often. And this is a great sign. Because one of our previous findings shows that the more rounds that golfers play, the more they feel like they're getting their money's worth from their membership.

Don't let the logistics hold you back

Now, let's address the alligator on the fairway. Because from the perspective of the managers, offering rounds with fewer holes may not seem like a walk in the park.

Some managers are unsure about the practicality of having, maintaining, and offering shorter rounds. But the experiences of golf clubs that do it show that the benefits are greater than the challenges they may face.

For the past 10 years, we've been offering both 9-hole and 18-hole rounds to our 1400 members. About 215 of our members, accounting for 15% of the total, actually prefer playing the shorter 9-hole option and hold our dedicated 9-hole membership. Interestingly, even our regular members occasionally take advantage of the flexibility and play the shorter rounds. I see this as a positive sign, indicating that we're successfully meeting the needs of both types of members and helping them play more frequently.
Mogens Andersen, Chairman of the Board at Viborg Golf Club.

Sure, some clubs are better equipped to offer the flexibility of rounds with fewer holes. Take Viborg Golf Club, for example. They have three separate 9-hole loops, giving them an advantage in this matter. And this is an advantage that your club might not have yet.

After you've invested your time in reading this far, it would be unfair of us to end this without providing any solutions. So, as a final spark of inspiration, here are some ways to make it easier for you to get started with meeting your members’ desire of rounds with fewer holes.

How to get started with shorter rounds at your golf club.
How to get started with shorter rounds at your golf club.

About the results

The results in this article are withdrawn from Players 1st's "Voice of Golfers" panel, which is recruited in connection with the conduct of our CX surveys in several countries.

The specific findings mentioned in this article are based on 864 responses from Danish golfers. All results are weighted in relation to gender, age, type of golfership, how often one plays golf, NPS, loyalty, and what type of golfer they are (very attached to the club or more independent of the club and its activities).

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