Not just for tonight. Twelve or nine are just fine

Bernie McGuire
Not just for tonight. Twelve or nine are just fine

Playing nine (or twelve) holes opened my eyes to the joys of not playing 18 and I may just make a habit of it now!

I have a confession to make. Last week I stole something. It wasn’t premeditated, but I’m not sure that makes any difference. The fact remains that opportunity presented itself and I obliged. I’m not proud of it, but I’m not exactly offering myself up for crucifixion either. Here’s how it went down…

An unusually productive Monday provided the rare opportunity to clock-out early and chance nine holes. For fear of upsetting the three-time major winner who honed his special talents on this Dublin hillside, the course I played shall not be named.

To prove that larceny was far from my mind, I stopped for diesel and didn’t even take a few cent’s worth more than I was paying. I know it’s almost obligatory in Ireland to rob the fuel stations of two or three cents, but not on this occasion – the evenings are drawing in and time was not to be wasted.

I got to the course, paid for nine holes and set off. By the time I was walking off the seventh green I was thoroughly enjoying myself. The welcome return of some decent iron shots, combined with the relatively quiet fairways and an unusually mild October evening, meant that I had both the time and the will to play a few holes more.

And here is where opportunity presented itself. Fortunately, the fifth and eighth holes share a tee-box, and it was here that 33 years of moral upbringing went out the window. I teed it up on the fifth and then played six, seven, eight and nine. So there you have it, I stole three holes. I didn’t exactly stuff them into the boot of the car and burn off, but the principal is the same.

I paid for nine and I took twelve. That’s much worse than paying for €20 diesel and taking €20.03 – in fact, it’s the equivalent of taking €26.66 – but I don’t feel guilty and here’s why; I discovered that 12 holes may be the perfect number for 21st Century golf.

Think about it. With real-world obligations increasingly claiming our attention, time is the biggest challenge facing golfers nowadays. Generations of TV-inspired golfers thinking it’s acceptable to study a two-foot putt from ten different angles and to agonise over whether it’s 195 or 196 to the front, have seen rounds regularly stretch to the five-hour mark and beyond.

Even with a couple of Jason Days in your group, 12 holes shouldn’t take more than three hours. You could be showered, fed and several pints deep by the time the same four-ball would be trudging up 18. Not that I’m encouraging binge drinking, but having the option is always nice.

Now, I’m not expecting the pro-ranks to embrace my ideas any time soon. Imagine Johnny Miller on commentary trying to compare his final round 63 at Oakmont to [insert un-inspirational pro golfer’s name here]’s 40 at Shinnecock or somewhere else. Even the thought makes me shiver. Worse still, imagine the Masters without the closing six holes. No, 12-hole golf is not for the Rory McIlroy’s of this world.

It’s for the 40 hour a week, father of three. It’s for the 18 handicapper. It’s for the aging retirees for whom 18 holes is a very long walk. It’s for the vast majority of the world’s players.

Why don’t you try it for yourself?

I’d advise though that once you pick a course be sure and pay for twelve, ‘cos I think they may be on to us….

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