Let’s jump right in, because I can’t think of a perfect way to set this up. I hate skiing, I hate winter - the snow, the shoveling, the space savers, the cold, and lack of golf. This loathing probably stems from spending my formative skiing year in Northern California with parents that didn’t ski. When we moved back to Massachusetts I tried skiing and didn’t enjoy it. I wasn’t a fan of heights, so the ski-lift was immediately an issue. I remember conquering the small slopes during a ski lesson; the instructor picked me and a couple other kids that were ready to move higher up the mountain. When he told us we could go and join the other group that has just whooshed down the mountain and headed back for the, gulp, ski lift, I looked at the instructor and said, “No, thanks.”
As a Rule-Following, Do-What-You’re-Told kind of fifth grader, this signaled to me I was probably destined for winters of seasonal depression and spending weekends on the couch watching golf in far off warm places with the reassuring feeling that my knees will last beyond my 45th birthday.
However, there is a romantic allure that comes from a day on the slopes if you know what you’re doing. Unlike golf, when you arrive at the mountain you have options. You could go down the same run all day, just relaxing and hoping your ACL doesn’t explode. You could mix it up and hop on different lifts, testing out all the trails and terrains that are available to you. You could go on a few runs and then hop inside for a warm mug of hot cocoa (or something stronger).
So what if a golf course tried the ski mountain set-up once or twice a year?
What do I mean by “The Ski Mountain Set-up?”
Well, first off, any paying patron for that day would purchase a “day-pass” that would allow you to be on the course all day. You’d have the course, range, putting green, and clubhouse at your disposal (we could probably come up with some cool badge or bag-tag that each player could wear.).
That doesn’t sound any different than any other day, right?
Yeah… you’re right, but here’s the difference - on a day of skiing, you can go down the same run multiple times. So during this once or twice a year experience on a golf course, you don’t have to play the holes in order. You don’t have to play every hole once. You can play the first hole and then pop over to the fourth hole. You might have to wait your turn, but you’ll get to play it. Just like skiers wait in the ski-lift line, golfers could wait on the tee boxes for their group’s turn to play the hole.
To continue with the ski mountain theme, golfers could also leave the course and hang out in the clubhouse for as long as they wanted, after all, they paid for their day pass. You could play seven holes and then pop into the clubhouse for some drinks or a bite to eat. You could play your face off all day and never step inside the clubhouse.
Now, there would have to be some rules and restrictions because, unlike skiing, there are flying projectiles involved. There would only be 106 day passes sold. That’s 1.5 foursomes on each hole, assuming every group is out there. Also, every group must be a foursome. If you want to go with 8 buddies, you can swap players between holes, but we can’t have singles, twosomes, and threesomes wandering the course like lost souls.
I can imagine golf superintendents eyes are starting to twitch because there will be popular holes, getting a ton of play and others getting no play. Make the less popular holes more popular with a few things: drink tables, grills/food, and gambling games like closest to the hole and long drive. That would entice players to visit those holes. Wanna make a little extra cash? Allow every player to participate in a long drive once for free, and then it’s 5 bucks for every other attempt.
Obviously, some courses are not really built for this if their holes are very separate from one another. In my mind, it would be more fun to walk off a green, look around, and have a few tee boxes just a short walk away.
Are we walking or riding carts?
I think walking would be swell, but it can also make it very hard to get around for the entire day. The course could have staff driving groups around, or just let players drive if they’d like. This would depend on the course and the walkability.
I also like this idea because it would separate a lot of golfers from score and the results. Like skiing, it would become more about being outside doing something fun. There will be some people interested in playing as many holes as possible, and they’ll jump to any tee box that’s free. Others might stick to a small loop or set of holes, and some might decide they want to chase a hole-in-one and play the par 3s all day (would an ace count? I don’t know…actually I do know. It wouldn’t count. Fun story. But not a hole-in-one. sorry).
How much fun would it be to grab a scorecard the night before heading out to the course and creating your own routing. You could show up with just a few clubs instead of hoofing your bag. You could leave your bag by the clubhouse and bring a couple clubs for a quick loop of three or four holes.
Would it potentially be dangerous? Sure! It’s a half-baked idea. After all, golfballs zipping around isn’t the greatest situation. But the thought of having access to a course in a different way would be enjoyable for a couple times a golf season. There are plenty of private clubs who have members that get to experience their course like this in the waning hours of a summer evening - hopping from hole to hole and making their own course.
Is it a perfect idea? Nope. Could a golf course architect build something that might fit this model of golf in the near future? Sure. Three and six holes loops would be perfect for this experience. These are the things I think about when I’m cooped up inside not playing golf.
What are some of your half-baked golf ideas? Stick them in the comments section!