Ideas for growing the game of golf are endless—from addressing pace-of-play issues to targeted youth programming and beyond—so it can be difficult for golf courses to determine which new rules to implement, if any.
For Forewinds Hospitality’s Relaxed Rules Weekend, held September 19-21, the company’s Deerfield property in Newark, Del., and Garrisons Lake Golf Club in Smyrna, Del., incorporated seven amended rules to the game, as well as a relaxed dress code, eight-inch cups, discounted food and merchandise, and a gift-certificate drawing.
The relaxed rules included: no restrictions on equipment, conceded putts, unfortunate lie forgiveness, common sense, search time, penalties all one stroke, and maximum score. Though golfers who participated were not required to follow the rules, the intention of the event was to educate.
“Maybe the eight-inch cup isn’t going to be out there all the time, but it is a way to educate golfers as to how they can play the game in a different way, and ultimately save some time,” says Chris Boos, Director of Golf Operations at Forewinds.
The event saw about 450 in attendance over three days, and according to Jeff Robinson, Director of Sales & Marketing at Forewinds, the demographics of those in attendance skewed slightly younger than the properties’ typical golfers.
“The person who was attracted to this event was the person we wouldn’t have necessarily seen on the golf course on a weekend. They felt the golf course was more accessible to them,” Robinson says.
Attendees were free to pick and choose which rules to follow, and Robinson notes that some golfers played according to the traditional rules, but “were relieved to have the dress code relaxed, or used the eight-inch cups just because they wanted to try it.
“Another thing that resonated was no restrictions on equipment,” Robinson continues. “People don’t want to get hung up on 14 clubs to a bag or whether a belly putter is allowed. They didn’t have the same limitations as the guys on the Tour.”
Some golfers even brought their own wireless speakers and played music on the course, creating “more of a fun atmosphere; like a game rather than a serious round of golf,” Boos says.
Though ardent traditionalists will likely not deviate from the rules, Robinson says he believes the event opened some eyes.
“Before the weekend, one golfer told me he felt the rules were too far beyond the norm for his liking,” Robinson says. “But after experiencing it, he felt like he understood it a bit more. There’s a place for traditional golf and it always has its spot, but there’s room for a version of the game that’s quicker and more fun and with less anxiety.”