Can a bigger hole make golf cool again?

Can bigger golf holes bring bigger crowds out to play? At least one B.C. golf course hopes so.

Langley's Redwoods Golf Course is hoping 8-inch holes will draw a younger crowd

Doug Hawley of Redwoods Golf Course tries out the eight-inch golf hole that will be used every Tuesday. (Margaret Gallagher)

Can bigger golf holes bring bigger crowds out to play? At least one B.C. golf course hopes so.

With the the golfing population aging, many golf courses are looking for ways to bring in younger players, who seem reluctant to take up the game.

The game, which was invented by the Scots more than 500 years ago, has a reputation with the younger generation as expensive and time-consuming.

Younger folks just "don't think it's cool," says Doug Hawley, managing director of the The Redwoods Golf Course in Langley, B.C.

"Golf hasn't really grown," says Hawley. "It hasn't really declined. It's just staying stable."

An eight-inch golf hole is larger than the standard four and a quarter inches. (Margaret Gallagher)

Many like Hawley say the game can also be frustrating, trying to sink the ball in to the time-honoured 4¼ inch hole, particularly if you're a beginner.

That's why the Redwoods is experimenting with introducing eight-inch holes every Tuesday, starting April 29.

"If you can take out some of the frustration out the game ... the more relaxed they are, the more they'll enjoy their day, and the more they'll want to come back," says Hawley.

Vancouver adapts with an app

Golf courses around North America are experimenting with bigger holes — some up to 15 inches — in an attempt to bring more players to the game. It's just one of many strategies coming into play to widen golf's demographic.

Joan Probert oversees the three full-size golf courses run by the Vancouver Park Board, as well as their three pitch and putt courses.

"I think that every industry needs to look at what happens when the baby boomers age," she says.

Joan Probert says the Vancouver Park Board is hoping a new golf app will help draw more users to the civic golf courses. (Margaret Gallagher)

Vancouver's civic golf courses are among the region's busiest, but Probert says they're not taking anything for granted.

"We just need to be on top of looking at new and different opportunities to attract different demographics to the game."

These strategies include nine-hole play options, special evening and afternoon rates, pitch and putt workshops for women and youth, and a new golf app.

But Probert says purists need not worry because they have no plans to experiment with larger holes.

The standard four and a quarter inch golf hole can lead to frustration and long games, especially for beginners. (Margaret Gallagher)

The Redwoods is the only B.C. golf course testing the larger holes — so far.

Hawley says he expects the Redwoods course to be twice as busy as usual on what they're billing "8-inch Tuesdays."

As for criticisms that the game loses something with the bigger holes, Hawley disagrees, saying the essential pleasures of a round of golf remain the same. 

"It is the same. I'm out here. The birds are singing. It's a nice day. I got to hear that sound (of the ball landing in the hole), and I'm connected to the person next to me."

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