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TIME IS ON THE SIDE OF NINE PLAYING FEWER GOLF HOLES IS BETTER THAN PLAYING NONE AT ALL.

Byline: Dave Shelburne Staff Writer

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.''

Davis agrees.

``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.''

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Griffith Park Observatory overlooks the tight but scenic eighth hole at the Roosevelt nine-hole course.

Dave Shelburne/Daily News
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 20, 2003
Words:699
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