Golfers can earn a dream opportunity to play the famous Old Course on the eve of The 150th Open at St Andrews by taking part in The R&A 9 Hole Challenge.
With the popularity of nine-hole golf still on the rise, qualifying for the popular championship this year is open to golfers in Great Britain and Ireland, Australia and New Zealand who hold a registered handicap index.
Forty finalists will then enjoy the experience of a lifetime by teeing up in the Final on Friday 8 July, competing over holes 1–4 and 14–18 of the Old Course and savouring the atmosphere in front of the grandstands just days before The 150th Open commences.
The unforgettable prize also includes two nights’ accommodation in the Rusacks St Andrews Hotel, a welcome dinner, prizegiving in The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and a tour of The R&A World Golf Museum.
Congratulations to Matthew Barnes and Chris Houghton of Whittlebury Park who are the 9 Hole Challenge Champions 🏆— The R&A (@RandA) July 10, 2021
Read more about the incredible experience of playing Royal St George's ahead of The Open 🏌️♂️🏌️♀️ https://t.co/PpNVzdkYM0 pic.twitter.com/LlbVkJLEbz
The R&A 9 Hole Challenge is central to the organisation’s wider drive to promote this form of golf as an ideal way to enjoy playing the sport in less time, either recreationally or competitively for handicap purposes, and experience the physical and mental health benefits golf provides.
Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer at The R&A said, “This year’s R&A 9 Hole Challenge offers golfers an incredible opportunity to reach the Final in St Andrews, particularly given the excitement for The 150th Open.
“We encourage golfers to take part in qualifying at their home clubs and enjoy a form of the sport that is fast, fun and flexible. Alternative formats such as nine-hole golf are helping to attract new audiences to the sport and we look forward to seeing the finalists at the Old Course in July.”
New data from national federations highlights the impressive growth of nine-hole golf in recent years, aided by the ease of the new World Handicap System to submit scores and the ability of golf to be played safely in a number of countries during the Covid-19 pandemic. Key data includes:
- In Australia, nine-hole round data has experienced 20% growth with more than 517,000 rounds played in 2020-21.
- In England, nine-hole rounds played for handicap purposes increased from 175,000 in 2019 to 407,000 in 2021.
- In Ireland, nine-hole rounds played for handicap purposes increased from 70,697 in 2018 to 130,751 in 2021.
- In Scotland, nine-hole rounds played increased from 44,834 in 2018 to 113,592 in 2021.
- In Wales, 8% of rounds submitted (to the Wales Golf Clubhouse) were for nine-hole play in 2021.
- In New Zealand, nine-hole rounds played increased from 252,412 in 2018-19 to 341, 534 in 2020-21 as part of the Make Time Play 9 initiative.
Qualifying for The R&A 9 Hole Challenge – conducted over nine holes of Stableford format – is taking place at golf clubs over the coming months, with 20 pairings aiming to reach the Final at St Andrews.
Last summer, Matthew Barnes and Chris Houghton of Whittlebury Park Golf Club in South Northamptonshire were crowned the 2021 winners at Royal St George’s.