Pinehurst, North Carolina, United States: The United States Golf Association (USGA), together with American Express, has launched the Play 9 programme to demonstrate how nine-hole rounds can help more golfers enjoy the game in less time.
A creative USGA public service announcement starring Rickie Fowler will debut during 2014 US Open television coverage, showing the 25-year-old PGA Tour pro finding time to play the game with family and friends while still fulfilling other daily commitments and interests.
“I don’t always have enough time to play a full round between practice and spending time with friends and family,” said Fowler. “I’m happy to join the USGA and American Express on Play 9 to encourage golfers to play a nine-hole round, especially if that’s what’s going to get them out onto the golf course to play more often.”
At the forefront of the USGA’s multi-year commitment to promote Play 9 is the first annual ‘Play 9 Day’ on July 23, when all golfers will be encouraged to play a nine-hole round. The programme builds on the organisation’s on-going efforts to make the game more accessible, sensitive to time considerations and sustainable.
“During our extensive conversations with golfers, we’ve learned that they feel challenged by the time it takes to play,” said Mike Davis, Executive Director of the USGA. “By creating awareness of the nine-hole round, and the many ways that one can enjoy the game in less time, we hope this creative programme featuring one of the game’s more dynamic and progressive players will energise and remind golfers how they can fit the game into their days.”
Deborah Curtis, Vice President of Sports and Entertainment Marketing at American Express, said: “American Express is excited to partner with the USGA and Rickie Fowler to support the game by encouraging more people to play nine-hole rounds. With their support, we want Play 9 to demonstrate how golf can fit into the everyday lives of players – giving golfers everywhere a chance to play more often.”
Industry research indicates there is growing interest in this format of play. According to the National Golf Foundation, 27 per cent – more than 4,000 – of America’s courses are nine-hole facilities. In addition, nine-hole rounds can be played at most 18-hole public facilities. However, just 24 per cent of total rounds played last year, among those surveyed, were nine-hole rounds.
A separate study conducted in 2013 by Sports & Leisure Research Group for the USGA found that 33 per cent of core golfers (those who play eight to 24 rounds annually) and 38 per cent of casual golfers (those who play seven rounds or fewer) would play more nine-hole rounds if the format were ‘more strongly encouraged’.
The Play 9 programme will provide golfers and golf courses with resources that will allow them to celebrate the nine-hole round and the game in a variety of ways, including finding time to enjoy a nine-hole match with friends and post an official score, or even take a lesson.