The R&A - Working for Golf

9-Hole Golf Boost in New Zealand

More flexible work patterns as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and an increasing demand for shorter formats of golf have led to record participation levels for nine-hole golf in New Zealand.

Having previously enjoyed nine-hole success – aided by running initiatives in support of The R&A 9 Hole Challenge – Golf New Zealand is reflecting on more impressive numbers.

It was a record year for participation in New Zealand with 341,534 nine-hole rounds played between 1 October 2020 and 31 March 2021, an increase of 24% from the previous 12 months and an increase of 35% over two years.

Outstanding growth

“It’s fantastic to see the ongoing growth of nine-hole golf in New Zealand,” said Dean Murphy, Chief Executive at Golf New Zealand. “The playing of nine-hole golf has been around for decades but we are really seeing outstanding growth in recent times.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact society, a focus on shorter formats of golf could help countries encourage new players into the sport and meet the demand of those eager to return to the fairways.

Participation initiatives such as ‘Make Time, Play 9’ have also helped drive a rise in nine-hole golf in New Zealand, as they promote shorter formats to entice new players give more opportunities for existing golfers short on time or experiencing new work patterns.

Make Time Play 9 stats2

Flexible working patterns

Murphy continued, “There is no question the Covid-19 environment is helping drive growth in nine-hole golf. We are seeing greatly increased general participation levels in golf as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown period and nine-hole golf is certainly benefiting from this. 

“The move to more flexible working arrangements is also helping as we see many playing patterns move away from traditional weekend spots to flexible play at different times through the week. In general, we are seeing increased demand for shorter formats of the game and the nine-hole option is certainly a beneficiary of this societal change.”

New Zealand’s work has been aided by running activity to support The R&A 9 Hole Challenge Final, an event that takes place on the eve of The Open, and last held at Royal St George’s in July. 

Ease of WHS

The R&A 9 Hole Challenge, which has been running annually since an initial pilot in 2016, is central to the organisation’s wider drive to promote shorter forms of golf as an ideal way to enjoy playing the sport in less time, either recreationally or competitively for handicap purposes.

The new World Handicap System allows for the easy input of nine-hole rounds for handicapping purposes, either in a competition or a General Play score.

“We’ve always submitted all scores and all rounds for handicapping,” added Murphy. “So, it’s cool to see that this current rise in nine-hole golf is genuine and not just a result of more nine-hole rounds being recorded. We see a big future for nine-hole golf in New Zealand.

“For Golf New Zealand, being part of The R&A 9 Hole Challenge has helped us inspire more nine-hole golfers. We are convinced the nine-hole format will be a significant part of the future of golf and are delighted to be a part of the initiative.”