Someone who won’t be penalised for slow play is Ireland’s fastest golfer, Robert Hogan who hopes to raise the profile of Speedgolf in September’s Speedgolf Irish Open in Dundrum House Hotel Golf and Leisure Resort in Tipperary where he works as a PGA Professional.
Speedgolf combines strokes played and the time taken to complete the round with players using a maximum of six clubs. Each shot is 60 seconds and the total number of shots is added to the time it takes a player to complete his round. So, a 73 gross score plus 40 minutes of playing time gives an overall score of 113.
We have all been there, trying to run as fast as we can for the last hole or two on the golf course late in the evening trying to beat the darkness. Even the PGA Tour pros have been seen doing it. How about doing it as a competitive sport in Dundrum this September?
Hogan – Speedgolf’s only multiple world champion – ran the opening Speedgolf Irish Open in 2016 in Galway Bay which was won by local man Pat Brennan who is behind one of the main sponsors of this year’s event, Speedqueen Laundrettes. Reliefchefs.ie, O’Dwyer’s Steel and Robert Hurley Electrics have also given their backing with Hogan hoping to secure further sponsors before the event takes place on September 5th and 6th.
“People are excited about it in Dundrum, the members are very supportive of it,” says Hogan who has enticed a number of high-profile American players to make the journey over.
“It’s important for them and the Head Pro Marion Riordan is very supportive, as is the owner, Jeff Leo.”
The field will be capped at 30 with Scott Dawley, a world record holder on a course over 6000 yards in the field. The American shot a 65 in 42 minutes and 15 seconds, giving him a total of 107.15 in the US Speedgolf Open last September. World Number One Lauren Cupp and Wesley Cupp are also pencilled in to compete.
Galway-based Hogan hopes the event can grow the game in Ireland as he looks to take Speedgolf onto a global stage.
“We are looking for some Irish golfers who are reasonably fit and good at golf,” he says.
“The good golfer always has the advantage over the Olympic runner. We will let anyone in, if you want to have a serious run at it or just see what it’s like, we can give you a nine-hole trial at it.
“I would love to grow the Irish Open year by year and just use it to grow and support Speedgolf because it brings people to golf and to health and fitness while being great fun.
“The Speedgolf World Championships are on in Florida this November and there is a team element to that so it would be nice to find a partner for that.”
The 36-year-old has always dreamed of a career in golf and turned professional aged 19 after a healthy junior career that included securing a place on the Leinster Boys panel. It was in Bray Golf Club where he first experienced Speedgolf in 2008.
Having become a full-time speedgolfer, Hogan is currently ranked 11th in the Power Rankings.
“I was an idiot playing on his own in Ireland back as far as 2008,” he jokes. “I first did it as a fundraiser for a charity project and the first time I did it was at Bray Golf Club.
“I was assistant to Ciaran Carroll and he supported me to do the event so I did it as a charity event and it was great fun.
“That’s always been my dream to be a tournament player which is a lofty dream but Speedgolf has given me the opportunity to compete all over the world which has been fantastic.”
Hogan, who still competes on the PGA Region on occasion, has enjoyed an illustrious career in Speedgolf, winning two World Championship titles in 2013 and 2015 after travelling to the U.S. to play full time.
He also won the Speedgolf Sacramento Open at Bing Maloney Golf Club in California this year shooting 83 as he raced around in 35 minutes and 46 seconds. He was closely followed home by former Canadian tour player Steve Vancil, with 2016 World Champion Jamie Young in third place.
World record holder Scott Dawley was in the field and finished fourth.
Hogan was also runner-up in the recent New Zealand Speedgolf Championship, where he was sponsored by New Zealand-based company Iscar Plus.
“Around the time I was doing a little bit of Speedgolf on my own, I made contact with the Speedgolf organisation in the United States because it wasn’t really feasible for me to go over there then in 2012,” Hogan recalls.
“I was just getting back in shape and began to do more Speedgolf and I went online to check how it was going in the States and that’s when it all kicked off.
“A guy called Mike Keiser who owns the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, he sponsored Speedgolf for five years from 2012 to 2016 so my timing was lucky and I managed to get into some tournaments over there and it has been great.”
Hogan feels the pace of play has enabled him to make substantial improvements to his game.
“Before I started Speedgolf my driving was very erratic,” he explains.
“When I started, I was able to find a better rhythm and began hitting fairway after fairway and low and behold, when I went back to playing regular golf, I was a much straighter hitter.
“You get into a good state of mind in Speedgolf, you don’t beat yourself up when you have a bad hole and a lot of the time you aren’t aware of your score because you have a scorekeeper there at all times and you are able to get into a better mindset in general.”
To put Hogan’s achievements into context, he once scorched around Druids Heath in Co. Wicklow in a mere 38 minutes while shooting a 79 gross. Having picked up a club aged 12, dreams of world record rounds were far from his mind but in California he broke that duck while he also has a personal best of 106.
“My personal best was in New Zealand which was 106 so 73+33,” says Hogan who recently qualified for the PGA Fourball in England after playing in Headfort, Kells.
“I have the record for the fastest round of golf ever on a course over 6000 yards in Speedgolf which was 35 minutes and 46 seconds in California.”
Hogan moved to Galway after turning professional where he joined the Athletics Club in Craughwell. Now Speedgolf combines both of his passions, golf and long distance running with the added bonus of getting to do both for a living all over the world.
“I always fancied that I could run a bit,” he adds. “When I started Speedgolf, that’s when I really got into distance running. I joined the Craughwell Athletics Club and now I am a member of the Dundrum Athletics Club in Tipperary.
“I’d love to keep travelling and competing at Speedgolf. I have a ball doing it and I see a lot of the world.”
The SpeedGolf Irish Open takes place on Sept 5th / 6th in Dundrum House Hotel in Tipperary. To find out how you can get involved with the Speedgolf Irish Open or to find out how to introduce Speedgolf at your club, email Robert Hogan firstname.lastname@example.org