Seeing the Game in a New Light October 20, 2016 By Greg Midland, USGA

PLAY9 makes it possible for more people to enjoy the game. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

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It’s a sunny, warm weekday, the kind that causes golfers to daydream while at work. I just want to shut down my computer, ditch my next meeting and head straight to the golf course.   

Across town, a golfer reviews her latest USGA Handicap Index update and is disappointed to see how little she’s played during the year. How can my friends and I play more often, with everything we have going on in our lives?

At the same time, a young, enthusiastic new golfer has a couple days off from work, and is looking for a good deal. I really want to get out on the course again, but I wish I could play for a little less money.

Until now, these golfers would have relatively little in common outside of their passion for the game. But that’s increasingly changing. Now in its third year, the USGA’s PLAY9 program is helping golfers and golf facilities discover the broad range of benefits associated with playing nine holes, including:

  • Playing nine holes more easily fits into people’s busy schedules.
  • Nine-hole scores are eligible for posting and handicap purposes.
  • The nine-hole format is welcoming to beginners and juniors.
  • Facilities are able to offer reduced, nine-hole rates to attract players during slower periods.

The USGA is leading the PLAY9 effort principally as a way to inspire people to play more golf. In 2016, the USGA organized six PLAY9 Days around the country – on the ninth day of each month – beginning on May 9 in Pittsburgh. Just a month before the 116th U.S. Open Championship was played at nearby Oakmont Country Club, golfers from the community, including participants from The First Tee of Pittsburgh, convened at Bob O’Connor Golf Course in Schenley Park for an afternoon of camaraderie, fun and cost-effective play.

In early August, the USGA organized another PLAY9 Day in Columbus, Ohio, during the week of the U.S. Senior Open at Scioto Country Club. While the greatest over-50 players in the world practiced a few miles away, dozens of golfers of all ages and ability levels enjoyed an afternoon at Blacklick Woods Golf Course in nearby Reynoldsburg. Members of The First Tee of Central Ohio were joined at the event by former players of MLS’ Columbus Crew and the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets.

“No matter how many times these PLAY9 events occur, it’s always a thrill to see the expressions on kids’ faces and see people enjoying the game,” said Beth Major, the USGA’s director of community outreach. “Those of us who work in golf have an opportunity and a responsibility to share it, and PLAY9 offers a great way to do that.”

Not surprisingly, the workplace is also a natural fit for PLAY9, as organizations large and small focus on ways to promote richer connections among employees. Deloitte, a USGA corporate partner, has embraced PLAY9 for its social attributes. On Sept. 9, more than 900 employees at 30 Deloitte offices from coast to coast participated in various PLAY9 Day events.

“Even if you’ve never picked up a club, or if you’ve been playing for a long time, there’s always something new to learn from playing golf,” said Cathy Engelbert, CEO of Deloitte LLP. “That’s the beauty of the game. You never stop learning.”

Easier to schedule, budget-friendly and more welcoming – no matter who you are, getting out to play nine holes has a little something for everyone. 

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