Not just for tonight. Twelve or nine are just fine

Bernie McGuire

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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