One of the better initiatives to improve pace of play the USGA adopted last year is "Play 9," a promotional campaign sponsored by American Express to encourage golfers to tee it up for fewer than 18 holes. The promos with Rickie Fowler were clever and well-done (unlike the "While We're Young" fiasco) and it seems to have actually had an effect, at least according to info released yesterday at the Pace of Play Symposium.
USGA spokesman Hunki Yun reported that 24% of the total rounds played in the last year were 9-hole affairs. That's more than I would have expected, even though I purposefully contributed to the number by playing more than a few myself. Another part of the effort was promotion of Play 9 Day on July 23. While exact data for that single day isn't reliable enough to quote, the GHIN system showed that golfers logged 1.5 million 9-hole rounds in the June-July period this year, an increase of 13.4% over the same period last year. That's pretty significant.
Also encouraging were the results of a USGA survey, which found that 38% of the rounds played by golfers under age 40 were 9-hole rounds. In the "casual" golfer category, it was 35%, and among women golfers, 35% played nine holes. It looks like promoting 9-hole play is a good way to grow the game.
One of the less effective efforts has apparently been the "Tee It Forward" campaign. While the USGA survey said that 88% of golfers said the idea has a positive impact on the game, only 47% have actually tried it. That's really too bad, since anecdotally I can attest that playing from the proper tees makes the game a heck of a lot more fun. It also substantially speeds up the pace of play, according to the USGA data.
Note how the length of the course directly corelates with the amount of time required for a round. Just eyeballing the above chart, it looks like 6,000 yards yields a round under four hours, while 6,500 pushes it closer to 4:30. That's a lot of time spent crushing the egos of those who think they can drive the ball 280 yards.
Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf