Jack Nicklaus says golf needs to think outside the box if it hopes to connect with a new generation of players.
Speaking at a luncheon in Houston entitled, " A Conversation with a A Living Legend", Nicklaus says slow play has become a detriment to the growth of the game and that changing the number of holes which make up a round of golf may be the solution.
"To go out and spend six or seven hours on a golf course... (kids) aren't doing that," Nicklaus said.
"If you legitimize twelve holes and have a twelve hole handicap... maybe instead of having two nines, have three sixes at a golf course.
"All our sports, three hours is max. In golf, it doesn't happen in three hours."
The downturn in the economy has forced a number of golf courses to close or go into bankruptcy while development of new properties has stalled. Nicklaus warned that trend needs to change or the United States risks being left behind when it comes to developing new players.
"Nobody's building any golf courses," says the man who heads up Nicklaus Design, one of world's leading golf course design firms. "I mean we've got a couple of golf courses (in development)...one here in Texas and one in New York. But that's all that's in the United States. The game is growing oversees."
"I think I've got 14 golf courses under construction in China right now," he added. "China has about a million golfers today and they say by 2020 they'll have 17 million golfers. We have about 29 million golfers in the United States and in their country golf is just starting."
Nicklaus, who owns the record of 18 major championships, believes Tiger Woods will return to continue the assault on his record. However, he admits it won't be easy.
"It's not like a foregone conclusion. It used to be a foregone conclusion. Mickelson has four majors now, right? (Tiger) has to have better than anyone else's career for the rest of his career to break that."
"His work ethic is too good. He's too talented not to be (dominant again)."
Have Your Say:
Do you agree with Nicklaus on the changes he suggests in order to increase the game's popularity and participation at the pedestrian level? Or is he just out of touch and the game should be left as it is. Email us your thoughts and we'll post your responses.
"Golf today is played just like it is on the televised coverage of the PGA tours excruciatingly slow. The comments on slow play by one of golf's most accomplished players who was in his prime one of the worst offenders is laughable to say the least. Golf does not need to get outside the box it needs to get back in the box; the historic ways of learning the game as taught by PGA club pros who determined when you were proficient enough in the techniques of the game as well as the etiquette of the same to be allowed on the course. The other thing that Mr. Nicklaus should consider is the building of those super expensive golf resorts were one must be a single orthodontist to cover the green fees. In order to grow the game what is needed is affordable golf at 27 hole full length maintainable municipal courses in every town or city in North America. Why 27 holes? Maximize tee times during prime times i.e.. 3 tee starts with a cross over on 3 nines. 27 holes are maintainable at only slightly more in maintenance costs. Pace of play on the tours needs to be enforced. The majority of the mortals I play with and who emulate those tour players need to be encouraged to miss the ten footers for 8 on a par 3 much quicker. Walking and carrying used to take 3 hrs. to play 18 holes. Carts GPS plumb bobbing yardage scopes etc. etc. slow the game down and the average golfer scores haven't gone down that much even with the technology. Learn the game not how to manipulate the technology." - Stan T.
"When I play tennis, ski, play soccer, football or baseball, I am playing on exactly the same size field/faciltiy as the pros. We cannot have one type of course for the pros and another for the rest of us. If the change were to be occur, it would have to start with the pros and I really cannot see that in the cards." - Rob SReport Typo/Error