Two hours is ideal duration - Charles

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 20/02/2013

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Sir Bob Charles, New Zealand's first major winner and first Hall of Fame golfer, says more needs to be done to attract new players to golf.

The sport needs to be shorter, faster and more accessible if it is to survive, he said.

"It's too long and too hard to appeal to everyone nowadays."

His comments come after Canterbury Golf announced its third successive drop in memberships, a 4 per cent fall from June 30 to December 31 last year.

"Time is one of the biggest turnoffs of the game and this is one of the main reasons golf has suffered. Nine-hole golf is the way to get more people into the game. People don't have five hours anymore.

"Golf needs to move with the times. You go to the movies and it's two hours, cricket's now only a couple of hours, rugby games take about two hours, golf needs to do the same and nine-hole golf is the best way to do it."

The length of courses had got out of hand, too.

"There's a 'Tee it Forward' campaign in the States about shorter courses, which is a great idea. Par 3 courses, there should be more of those, too. In fact, I've been thinking about pitching an idea where we have an afternoon or evening here at Clearwater just playing par 3s."

Charles' idea would be to play from different tee blocks to greens to make a course of par 3s out of the existing features because, again, that would be quicker.

"You have to walk 50 to 100 yards from the green to the next tee now, that all adds to the time. In the original game, you had to tee off within a couple of club lengths from the hole you'd just played. It would have been much quicker."

Bringing golf to the masses is a topic Charles is passionate about.

The sport needed to be aimed more at families, too, especially women, he said.

"Ladies aren't an untapped resource, but they haven't been tapped properly."

He also spoke of the SNAG golf and The First Tee programmes - he is the patron and ambassador of those programmes respectively.

SNAG is an introduction programme using oversized equipment and targets to encourage young players into the game, while The First Tee is aimed at disadvantaged children using golf to help teach life skills and core values.

"Anything that gets more children, more people into golf, I'm all for it."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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