The article cites putting courses at Bandon Dunes and Pinehurst as leading the charge in changing the public’s mindset toward the game, providing another opportunity for golfers to compete, but at a lower cost with less pressure and time commitment.
In an article in The Wall Street Journal, Daniel Riley explores the popularity of putting-only courses.
The Punchbowl, a challenging,“grown-up” putting-only course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, debuted in 2014, featuring holes that are reconfigured each day, bringing to mind miniature golf. But a natural putting course like this one preserves some of the dignity you lose with artificial turf and windmills, the Journal reported.
The point of the 100,000-sq. ft. Punchbowl, according to Michael Chupka, Director of Communications, is to provide another opportunity to compete, but at a lower register. After looping around one or two of the championship courses, golfers will often move over to the Punchbowl for happy hour. While a championship course can run $300 a round, the Punchbowl is free to resort guests—or anyone who makes the four-hour drive from Portland, the Journal reported.
Bandon Dunes isn’t the first resort to roll out a “serious” putting-only course. But based on the attention surrounding its unveiling last year and the number of developers who visit to take stock, it’s the Punchbowl that seems poised to lead a surge of courses like it in America, the Journal reported.
Brad Klein, from Indianapolis, and Mike Wines, from Brownsville, Ind., were in Portland for a trade show, but drove four hours out of their way to spend the afternoon at Bandon—not to play one of the championship courses (“too damned expensive,” Wines said), but to see Bandon Dunes with their own eyes and get in a gratis 18 on the buzzy putting course, the Journal reported.
“We’re playing for a beer, and it’s a tight match,” Wines said. “Otherwise we would’ve asked you to play along.” They seemed to have enjoyed themselves enough to justify the trip—the whole round took just 40 minutes—and they hiked up to the restaurant for another beer.
“I didn’t expect a putting course to alter my thinking about the future of the game. By the time the sun fell over the edge (lights come up for night putting for special events), I was beginning to think of the Punchbowl approach as a novel—and eminently actionable—way out of the well-documented crisis in golf,” Riley wrote, adding that a “real solution, though, is going to require not just a tourniquet, but creative regeneration.
“What’s missing is attention to the expansive middle ground between no golf and regulation-length golf,” Riley continued. “There are par-3 courses and executive courses—but there could be more. Options like Topgolf appeal more to nongolfers than golfers who just want a smaller-scale version of what they already love.
“A serious putting course is golf distilled to its fundamental joy spots, like a trailer for a movie. The Punchbowl offers everything that committed players love about the game—the beauty of the course, the challenge, the competition—but simultaneously appeals to novice golfers. It’s the sort of thing every golf course and club should take a hard look at—not just for members but for the beginners and along-for-the-riders, who might transform a spark into a love affair. At an hour a pop, a putting course reminds you how good golf can be—the Punchbowl as regenerator of faith in the good stuff of the game.”
In a sidebar, The Wall Street Journal listed additional putting-course options:
- The Himalayas (St Andrews, Scotland) | The Himalayas was the inspiration for a Punchbowl designer. Established in 1867, the putting course set the standard for affordability.
- Thistle Dhu (Pinehurst, N.C.) | Thistle Dhu rolls out in the shadows of the stately Pinehurst clubhouse. It takes its name from the course owner, who looked over his finished work and exclaimed, “This’ll do!”
- Golf Academy Putting Course (Lahaina, Hawaii) | The 18-hole putting course at Maui’s Kapalua Resort—home to a highly anticipated PGA Tour tournament each January—is justly famous for its ocean views.