That’s Just Fancy Mini-Golf

Via the NYTIn a Hole, Golf Considers Digging a Wider

Among the unconventional types of golf is an entry-level version in which the holes are 15 inches wide, about four times the width of a standard hole.


Another alternative is foot golf, in which players kick a soccer ball from the tee to an oversize hole, counting their kicks. Other changes relax the rules and allow do-over shots, or mulligans, once a hole; teeing up the ball for each shot; and throwing a ball out of a sand bunker once or twice a round.

These are all supposed to help attract youngster to golf.  It strikes me, however, that if one has to radically alter (if not replace in the case of “foot golf”) your game to attract new players, you have already lost the battle.  (Although I suspect the pending death of golf is rather exaggerated).

One thing thing not mentioned I the piece is that the decline in popularity of the game noted in the piece corresponds, it seems to me, with the fading of Tiger Woods.  There are currently no compelling golfers out their to attract the interest of casual fans. 

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    One of my clients is in a business peripheral to golf, a business that’s been around for about 60 years. They’ve never seen anything like the decline in business that’s going on now. Most of the players are old. Money is tight. Younger people have different expectations of entertainment. It’s going to be a difficult adjustment for the golf business.

  2. @Dave Schuler: I suspect that there are at least two major factors going on here (apart from the Tiger factor I noted): there was a boom in golf not that long ago that led to over-building of golf courses and the recent economic downturn. Indeed, I would guess that there was a commensurate over-building of golf courses to go along the over-building of housing during the real estate boom.

  3. For me the problem was never the putting part of the game, so a bigger hole wouldn’t really help, but rather getting up to the green in the first place.

    The change I’d recommend is let people use a tee on ever shot.

  4. That’s Just Fancy Mini-Golf

    Yeah, because most people like Mini-golf a lot better than regular golf.

  5. ernieyeball says:

    (ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: from Scots dowfart ‘stupid person’)
    When the time comes to excavate for Keystone XL, mark the route with Titleists and call all the Divot Dandies to bring their spoons. Charge them a green fee and they will have it trenched out in no time for nothing!

  6. David in KC says:

    I used to golf quite a bit and was pretty decent at it, but golf does require a significant investment in time and money. Most younger people either don’t have the time or the money to play it anymore. Those making enough to play regularly are working so many hours that taking an afternoon to hit the ball around is an inefficient use of their free time, and those that have the time to play, can’t afford to do so. Couple that with the overbuild of courses and you have a recipe for disaster to that segment of the economy. If families could live a comfortable life on one income working 40-50 hours a week, golf might have a chance for a resurgence, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

    As to why I stopped playing, health issues pretty much put a stop to it. It’s tough to go out on the links and never come close to par anymore.

  7. B and B says:

    Heh..Heh..Heh… He said fart Butthead Heh..Heh..Heh…

  8. EddieInCA says:

    Golf has no one to blame but itself.

    First some backstory. I’m currently a 6 handicap (down from a 3 about two years ago). I’ve been fortunate enough to play some of the great golf courses of the world (TPC Sawgrass, the Blue Monster, Pebble Beach, Kapalua, Bay Hill, Pinehurst #3, St. Andrews, among others). I love the game of golf, and play at least once a week. My clubs travel with me everywhere I do. I would cut off a finger or two to play Augusta just once. Seriously, I’d give up a finger (pinky probably) to play Augusta.

    But over the last 15 years, coinciding with Tiger Wood’s popularity, golf has overbuilt itself. In South Florida you can’t go five miles (literally) without hitting a golf course. Look it up. In parts of North and South Carolina, they have more golf courses than high schools. You have private clubs that jacked up prices so high to play that they drove away the very people they need to keep the course open. In 2006, when I was working there, Shreveport/Bossier City, Louisiana had something like 15 golf courses. There ain’t enough people in Shreveport to support that many courses, especially when the Air Forces base has another two golf courses for the military personnel.

    In the early 2000’s, Tiger bought alot of people into the game. Unfortunately, many of those people learned that GOLF IS A REALLY HARD F**KING GAME. So they left, never to return again.

    Unless golf figures out a way to make golf more affordable, it will go back to being a niche sport for the business and wealthy class. Sad but true.

    I love my little Muni course in the San Fernando Valley. I can play a round for $35. But I know that for alot of people $35 is alot of money. I’m not making light of that fact. However, $35 is a whole lot better than the $85 to play Malibu or the $117 to play Robinson Ranch.

    THAT’S what keeps most people away from golf. It’s the cost vs. the entertainment value.

    One last point. If you are in any sort of business where you need to network, learn to golf. I play golf and get to know people on the golf course who would never take my calls otherwise. At the end of five hours on a golf course, we’re exchanging email addresses and phone numbers, and we’re in business down the road together. True.

  9. @EddieInCA: Agreed all around.

  10. sam says:

    I just finished 18 holes. The way I was playing, a 15″ hole would have been of no help. I hope to do better tomorrow…

    “However, $35 is a whole lot better than the $85 to play Malibu or the $117 to play Robinson Ranch.”

    The wife and I were in Santa Barbara last year. We decided to go and check out Sandpiper. We checked it out: $150 a round. F that. Beautiful course, on the ocean and all. But, Jesus, $150. We figured we could enjoy ourselves more looking at the ocean from our friend’s deck and drinking. We were right.

  11. David in KC says:

    @EddieInCA: I got invited to play pebble beach by a friend of a friend (was a lowly Captain, in the Army at the time, but he was paying, woo hoo). Shot the best game of my life (not total score, I’ve shot under par a number of times, but three over at pebble beach was huge).

  12. EddieInCA says:

    @David in KC:

    Sam, next time you’re up north near Pebble, check out a little muni course called Pacific Grove. The back nine is all on the water. Pebble type golf at 1/10th the price. It’s a great little course. And you get all the feeling of Pebble without the price. it’s the best deal in golf, as far as I’m concerned. $52 bucks walking, $65 riding, for ocean front golf. Check it out.

    BTW, I shot a 83 at Pebble, from the tips. Had four thee putt’s, or else it might have been a special round.

  13. Brainster says:

    Every sport experiences boom and bust cycles; I remember the tennis boom of the mid-1970s when my dad and I sometimes had to wait two hours to get a court. In response, the town built another tennis complex and within a few years we were often the only ones there.

    I agree with the comment about golf being really hard to play well; after probably a thousand rounds and every video and book around, I was okay for a hacker–could break 90 on my best rounds, rarely went over 100 anymore. But it’s a huge investment of time and money–the munis where I live run about $30 with a resident’s card and $40 without, not including the cart fee of $12 (no resident discount). And you’re talking about a 5-hour investment in time as well.

    I’m not sure the proposed changes will work; the 15-inch hole sounds interesting as a way to encourage beginners, but I would hope that they would quickly want to play real golf.

  14. David in KC says:

    @EddieInCA: no longer golf. Lost my balance, grip strength, and hand eye coordination. If I can’t see my hands, I lose track of where they are. I can still putt fairly well, but can’t drive for distance or accuracy any more.

  15. DrDaveT says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    The change I’d recommend is let people use a tee on ever shot.

    So why don’t you? My father-in-law does.

    There are no rules police going around the course kicking you off if you do not adhere to the Rules of Golf as published at The Royal and Ancient Club. As long as you’re neither damaging the course more than regular golfers, nor taking longer than regular golfers, nobody will care if you play from the ladies’ tees, tee up every shot, toss the ball out of sand traps, or leave the flag in while putting. I play with one 87-year-old who doesn’t even bother with the tee shot on the water hole; why waste a ball? He just walks it up to the drop zone and plays from there.

    Personally, I suspect that the problem is that golf is freakin’ expensive — both the equipment and the greens fees — and that the combination of a recession and a shift of wealth from the young to the old will OF COURSE hurt golf revenues.

  16. John H says:

    Golf is not expensive. Racing sailboats is expensive. Racing cars is expensive. Even our favorite sport up here is expensive. Ponying up to replace a shredded Kevlar mainsail, or replacing racing slicks every weekend or two, or paying for new skates, sticks, pads, uniform, league fees, ice time, and transportation costs every year for your kid, all put a $100 round of golf into perspective very quickly.

    If you avoid the luxury side of the game, you can have fun with less than $500 worth of gear – there’s plenty of really good used stuff for sale all the time – and that gear will last many years. And, surely, $30 for four hours of golf at a municipal course can’t be the measure of “expensive” today, can it? Even at private clubs there are usually deals available for younger adults and juniors. At our club they pay a fraction of the fees charged to the 35+ crowd. Sure, a minority of nuts will spend five figures for a private club membership every year, get suckered into the latest gear, and pay outrageous greens fees at trophy courses (I’ve heard), but that’s not because it’s necessary.

    What keeps the game in a niche is the game itself. The arcane rules and the difficulty add up to something that takes considerable effort before it becomes enjoyable at a level beyond the annual company course vandalism and drinking contest. That investment also involves more time than most people can afford and flies against the trend toward quick gratification. The “Tiger effect” had a limited life span because most of those attracted to the game by his media appeal quickly found out the nasty truth about how sharp the talent pyramid is, and how frustrating the game can be, even for athletes that are good at other sports. To reduce that entry barrier and significantly increase the initial appeal of golf would require it to become something other than what it is, as proposed above, and that faces a battle from traditionalists and offers a real risk of expensive failure. Reduced ball flight and other equipment changes, shorter tee to green distances, less punishing hazards and fewer holes in a round might all make it more appealing to the average dabbler, but the cost of restructuring courses would be a huge investment for an industry that has money problems. And many question a business plan that involves changing the core product to attract customers at the margins of interest.

    And, in the end, it might well turn out that the main appeal of golf is it’s difficulty. My psychologist niece believes that those of us hooked by the game are living proof of the efficacy of irregular schedules of reinforcement in operant conditioning. I don’t think there is any real chance that golf will die off. What’s happening now looks like a normal correction after a period of excessive optimism. But I don’t think golf, as it is, will ever have much wider appeal than it does now.