TIME IS ON THE SIDE OF NINE PLAYING FEWER GOLF HOLES IS BETTER THAN PLAYING NONE AT ALL.
Nine is just fine.
That might come as an interesting discovery to golfers who think they are short-changing their enjoyment if they play anything less than 18 holes. But factor in the savings in cost and time, and a round at a nine-hole course works out better for many reasons, according to some area amateurs and professionals who have had experience with nine-hole courses.
John Mascarenas, a PGA professional who used to teach at the Eaton Canyon nine-hole course in Pasadena and now instructs at Verdugo Hills GC in Tujunga, called the mid-day routine at Eaton Canyon a good example of the time benefits of a nine-hole course.
``We'd have guys who would show up on their lunch hour, and instead of hitting a large bucket of balls, they'd pay a few dollars more and play as many holes as they could before they had to get back to work.
``They'd spend the hour playing while they practiced instead of just practicing. Or, we had a lot of golfers who would show up early and get in nine holes before they went to work, or get in nine holes on a weekend and be back home before the wife wakes up. I think time and cost have got a lot to do with the appeal, but my impression was time was the biggest thing.''
Contractor Chad Davis of Glendale, who has played for years in a league at Altadena GC, said nine-hole golf can result in faster play not just because it's half as many holes but because so many golfers won't even try it.
``Usually, it's not slow,'' he said, ``because everybody likes to go play 18 - you know, play a real course or nothing. But a lot of nine-hole courses, that's why they stick around. It takes less time.''
The cost of playing nine-hole golf also is a benefit, considering the price of an 18-hole round has increased to the point where green fees at even the most reasonably priced courses average nearly $20.
At the Roosevelt nine-hole course in Griffith Park, a round costs $11 during the week and $14 on the weekend. At nine-hole Lake Lindero in Westlake Village, the weekday/weekend rate is $14/$16. Altadena and Eaton Canyon are $13/$16.
Usually, you can be finished in around two hours, which former Lake Lindero instructor Roger Gunn - the 2001 Southern California PGA Teacher of the Year - said is a factor that is becoming more important.
``The time it takes to play a round of golf has been the real killer for the game,'' said Gunn, who now instructs at Tierra Rejada GC in Moorpark. ``There should be a lot more nine-hole courses.''
There are 4,673 of them nationwide, according to Jennifer Amos of the National Golf Foundation in Jupiter, Fla. - 3,064 daily-fee nine-holes, 755 municipal and 845 private courses.
Joe Buttitta, an instructor at Westlake Village GC, would like to take the time-saving, cost-saving concept of nine-hole golf even further.
``I've long promoted the idea of three-hole courses, whereby people can play/practice golf without spending so much time at the game,'' he said. ``If I had the wherewithal, I would build a series of three-hole courses - a par-3, par-4 and par-5 hole - on which golfers, from beginning juniors to seasoned seniors, can play to satisfy their hunger for the game. This way, the game would be more affordable and time wouldn't be such a concern.''
In the meantime, Buttitta remains a fan of nine-hole courses.
``I think playing just nine holes offers what the game promises: respite, challenge and the beauty of a bit of solitude when needed. To think you ``need'' 18 holes to somehow qualify as a ``real'' golfer is silly in this day and age. Time is definitely a factor for many of us.''
``Say you're working all week and you don't have time on the weekend to play a six- or seven-hour round, which happens sometimes. At least you know you're getting your nine holes in.''
Griffith Park Observatory overlooks the tight but scenic eighth hole at the Roosevelt nine-hole course.
Dave Shelburne/Daily News