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Golf Reimagined Course Design: 12-Holes

Golf has always been an 18-hole expedition, with the ability to half that and play just 9. However, it is no secret that 18 holes are a taxing endeavor; physically, mentally, and on the wallet. Not to mention the amount of time it takes out of the day. Conversely, 9 holes aren’t usually enough to satiate the pallet. While golf purists have no problem with this setup, the majority of casual golfers say this format is too much. A few weeks ago, I got the opportunity to golf the picturesque Greywolf golf course in British Columbia with my family. Although we had to endure a slight drizzle, the round was fantastic, and the course lived up to the hype. That being said, when walking the fairway of the 13th hole, my sister turned to me and said, “I’m just not built for 18 holes”. Due to my sister being a professional volleyball player and top athlete, I was surprised to hear this. She is in great physical shape and has experienced a lot of adversity during her athletic career, giving her high mental fortitude. While volleyball and golf are almost nothing alike, this got me thinking – “if my sister isn’t built for 18 holes, what casual golfer is?” – to be frank, not many. If 18 holes seem daunting to the casual player, then what is the solution?


Enter the 12-hole course design. There is an expansion of golf courses either designing or redesigning their course to fit the 12-hole format to boost their viability as a business. Take Pineridge Golf Resort near Edmonton for instance. Pineridge claims to be Alberta’s first 12-hole course and includes a multitude of lots for their RV resort. They note the now famous Jack Nicklaus quote promoting the 12-hole format as something that will help younger players get into the game while keeping more senior players happy at the same time. Nicklaus said “Golf takes too long. That’s why kids don’t golf anymore or very little. Because they’re spending time on the weekend playing Little League, soccer, lacrosse, and basketball, or whatever it might be, they’re not playing golf.  Those soccer and lacrosse games, they take up the field for an hour or an hour and a half. We’ve got to have a game that takes that amount of time.” While this has been a pinnacle statement for Golf Reimagined, there are more similarities between Pineridge and our business. Pineridge has also recently added Golfboards to their course, a fun and unique substitute to the traditional golf cart that has you riding on a scooter-like machine with a wide platform and a holder for your bag. On top of this idea, they have added fat tire biking to their list of offerings for more draw during the colder months when business is typically slow or absent. Pineridge really seems to be ahead of the curve in terms of a modern golf offering.


While our partner Bob Schmal turned us onto Pineridge a while ago, a blog post from the Scottish Highlands Golf Course in Orillia, ON brought me back to look at the updates at Pineridge. They, too, reference Nicklaus’ comments on the 12-hole format as validation of their own course design. The Highlands promotes their 12-hole course as a destination that is fun for the whole family, having 4 sets of tees and a “friendly layout” to accommodate all types of golfers. This course puts the focus on taking some of the difficulty out of the game to boost the overall experience and accessibility for players. Looking further into the Scottish Highlands, it’s no surprise this type of design is part of their philosophy. There are multiple posts on their blog that mention the health benefits of the game, with a recent report from Roy Morgan Research showing that there are some differences in mental health between golfers and the average person: Anxiety among the average population is 18.3% compared to golfers at just 11.9%. Depression affects 15.1% of the population but only 8.7% of golfers. Stress is at 25.8% for the average, 22.5% for golfers. Finally, panic attacks hit 5.4% of the population while golfers are at 3%. These statistics show that golf is indeed a healthy sport to play in more ways than one and almost certainly has a play in the 12-hole design of the Scottish Highlands Golf Course.


Another course mentioned in the Highlands’ blog was Greenbryre Golf & Country Club in Saskatoon, SK. This destination formerly offered the traditional 18-hole experience, but when transitioning to a 12-hole course, they didn’t simply change or remove some holes to get there. In fact, Greenbryre stripped their entire course altogether to provide a brand-new golf experience. The introduction of this layout was met by rave reviews from their patrons. They have also been steadily booking corporate events at their course as the companies choosing Greenbryre recognize that a lot of their employees play little to no golf, but can complete their round before fatigue and frustration set in. This also helps them avoid potential further embarrassment the additional 6 holes might bring. There are a number of businesses that choose to do annual events at golf courses. The 12-hole format has proven to be a successful venture for Greenbryre when it comes to this revenue option, showing that other courses could also succeed in this area using just 12-holes.


While Greenbryre claims to be the first of its kind in Western Canada, it certainly isn’t the only of its kind. More 12-hole courses are popping up in Canada and the United States than ever before. The design choice is a great way to provide an interesting golf offering that is more accessible for the majority of golfers. It can help cut costs as managing 12 holes makes it much easier on the grounds crew. There is also an alternative method of making revenue by switching to this model, that being the land that golf clubs have is worth a lot of money. This means the 12-hole format can help courses that have been struggling for a few years to get some cushion financially. While this will always be a point of contention amongst purists, a front 6 and back 6 can bring a multitude of benefits to golf courses looking to spruce up their experience.