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Jack Nicklaus Is on to Something: Shorter Rounds of Golf Are Needed

SUNNINGDALE, ENGLAND - MAY 24:  Padraig Harrington coaches children from Ascot Heath C of E Junior School and Harmanswater Primary School during an R&A Working for Golf Clinic at Sunningdale Golf Club on May 24, 2011 in Sunningdale, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
Ron FurlongAnalyst IIMay 27, 2011

It is no secret the popularity of the game of golf is waning.

Anyone working in the golf industry, as I am fortunate enough to do, knows the game is struggling.

I'm not talking about the sport we watch on television, but the sport that is played on a recreational level. Rounds have been spiraling down for a few years now. From exclusive private clubs, to high-end public courses, to resort clubs, to daily fees.

People are not playing the sport as much as they used to.

In 2010, golf lost 2.2 percent of its players from the previous year. These numbers are not unusual of late, but instead have become the norm.

Blame economics, blame the face of golf struggling to find his game and taking TV ratings down with him, blame whatever you want.

The fact is, it needs to be fixed.

I've been saying for years that it is too much to ask of people, especially kids, to have to golf 18 hole rounds when they play. Eighteen hole rounds can mean anywhere from four to five and half hours of one's day.

Consider kids play soccer, the most popular youth game in the United States, in about an hour and a half. Youth baseball games last about an hour and a half to two hours; the same with basketball.

Even the long drawn out sport of football, with all it's timeouts and huddles and lulls in action, takes less than a round of golf.

The game is expensive, difficult and takes too long to play, especially after school. Sounds like a problem to me.

Jack Nicklaus is one who has made this realization. The player many consider the greatest to ever play the game is worried about its future. Jack recently told The Tennessean that he is more than a little concerned.

"Since 2006, we've lost 20 percent of women in the game," Nicklaus said, "and we've lost 20 percent of juniors in the game.

At two of Jack's courses, Muirfield and the Bear's Club, he has had them make up 12-hole scorecards.

"It's the health of the game ," Jack told  The Tennessean, "the growth of the game, keeping people in the game that I'm interested in.

Why not take an 18 hole course and break it up into three sixes? You can play a quick an hour and half six, a three hour 12 or a four to five hour 18.

You make the call. I wonder how many people would love that choice? Especially the 12-hole choice.

Tough times require radical thinking.

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