The par four sixteenth hole at the new Al Zorah
course in Ajman, UAE, was photographed by Kevin
Murray. The project was overseen by Dirk Bouts of
Nicklaus Design. Turn to page 9 to find out more.
what we’ve got
With the decline in golf participation that has been seen in the US in recent years
– mirrored, to a greater or lesser extent, in most other key golf markets – the golf
industry has developed a major interest in figuring out how to attract new players,
especially younger ones, to the game. New formats, new equipment, new tools – all
have been tried. Many commentators have pontificated on the need to speed up
golf, or to make it easier, or more welcoming.
The trouble is that most of these well-meaning initiatives have missed the point.
“Oh,” says one talking head, “we need more six, nine or twelve hole courses, so people
can play golf in an hour or two. That would fit more closely with today’s priorities.”
I am not opposed to quicker golf – in fact, in these pages, I have long advocated for
a return to speedier play, and the idea that a round of golf should be a half day, not a
full day activity. But in America, Britain and many other countries, we have hundreds,
thousands of existing golf courses already in play. There may well be opportunities
to build short courses, especially in urban environments, but any effective solution to
the golf business’s issues will not involve the construction of hundreds of new venues,
but instead, finding a better way to use the venues we already have.
The idea that, in countries where the supply of golf courses is already more than
sufficient, people are suddenly going to create lots of new, albeit smaller ones, is
crazy. It isn’t going to happen, and any grow-the-game schemes that are based on the
sudden emergence of new nine hole courses are really no more than pie in the sky.