From Iceland to Bedminster

We are quickly moving through the summer season. In a few weeks, the third Major (The Open) will happen. Later in July, I’ll be heading to the Jersey Shore to play a few rounds there. Why does summer seem to pass so quickly?

In the meantime, a few items have come across the screen. They caught me eye and I thought they might interest you. From our cousins in Iceland comes an interesting idea.

In a pioneering move to inspire responsible resource use and in a response to changing lifestyles, The Golf Union of Iceland discontinued all reference to hole counts from its championship criteria. Now, 18 holes are no longer a requirement for a golf championships in Iceland. Iceland is a country where around 10% of the population of 330,000 play golf on almost seventy courses, most of which have nine holes.

The original plan was to hold  next year’s event on an existing 12-hole course. But the Golf Union decided to implement the idea this year. A few greens on the Westman Islands GC lagged behind in quality due to a seemingly excessive combination of winter salt spray and wind chill. These “bad” holes were simply omitted from the routing. The remaining holes were re-numbered to form a loop of 13 holes starting and finishing at the clubhouse.

The Iceland National Match Play Championships, the KPMG Cup, took place in the Westman Islands 23-25 June. There Gudrún Brá Björgvinsdóttir celebrated victory in the women’s class, defeating Helgi Kristín Einarsdóttir 3/2. Egill Ragnar Gunnarsson defeated Alfreð Brynjari Kristinsson in the final, 5-3. “There were more holes than usual in the final, 26 holes in total. Certainly, this was more stressful, but I found this tournament to be fun,” said Egill Ragnar after the win. “This tournament was different from other tournaments, strange in many ways, but it was a fun tournament,” said Guðrún Brá.

It could be the first time that an established golf nation staged a national championship on a course with fewer than 18 holes in the modern era.

Explaining this novel move, GUI president Haukur Birgisson said, “People’s needs have changed and will continue to do so. This includes people who already play golf and those interested in taking up a healthy form of outdoor life.”

Recent media coverage and industry discussion have revealed growing concerns that an 18-hole rounds of golf are at risk of becoming irrelevant to growing numbers of existing and potential golfers.

“People need more options. We should not stand in the way of innovation among our member golf clubs. Therefore we are introducing more flexibility. For us, this is appropriate on many levels, because the focused concept of golf’s return to flexible hole counts comes from Iceland,” Haukur added, referring to the Why-18-holes concept developed and advocated by Edwin Roald, an Icelandic golf architect.

I have talked about my friend Edwin Roald on these pages before.
Edwin is a golf course architect from Iceland. Edwin is also the founder of the “Why 18?” concept. In “Why 18?” the question of why does a golf course need 18 holes to be considered “real” or championship is considered. “Why 18?” also says that there should be no set number of holes. Read about the concept here.

 

In other news, they say that if you want to know the true nature of a man, play a round of golf with him. Last week we got a glimpse of the nature of one golfer.

Sure, we can say that because he owns the course, he can do what he wants. I think that if he has so little respect for the course, how much can he have for the game itself?

(This is updated from an earlier edition.)