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Do 12-hole golf courses have a chance

In this edition of Travel Punch Shots, travel editor Erik Peterson and senior writer Brandon Tucker debate the concept of 12-hole golf courses. Does this trend have staying power in the world of golf?


In September 2008 I had the opportunity to attend the grand opening of The Cliffs at Keowee Springs, a private Tom Fazio-designed golf course about 30 miles west of Greenville, S.C. It’s typical Fazio – wide fairways, dramatic shaping and intriguing par-5s – but is unique in that instead of two nines, it has three sixes.

At first I didn’t get it. What’s the difference? Might as well be six threes or nine twos – it’s still 18 holes.

Then I understood the method to Fazio’s madness.

To align with The Cliffs’ emphasis on family, Fazio was asked to design the course to be as flexible as possible. While his assignment wasn’t unique, his approach to “flexible” certainly was. In addition to incorporating the usual elements of flexibility – six tees on each hole, with greens that allow a blend of easy and tough pin positions – Fazio also routed the sixth, 12th and 18th holes back to the clubhouse.

As a result, Keowee Springs can host a six-hole father/son tournament at the same time a 12-hole ladies’ event is taking place. The next day the men can have their usual 18-hole scratch game. Everybody’s happy!

Will we see any 12-hole courses built in the near future? I doubt it. But don’t be surprised to see golf course architects getting more creative with their 18-hole designs. Playing six holes may not make a lot of sense if you’re a purist. But remember, a lot of purists also read paperback books and pay their bills with envelopes and stamps. Welcome to Golf 2K10.


Last week my buddy met me at Crystal Mountain Resort in northern Michigan after work for a twilight round. We teed off around 6 p.m. and finished nine on the Mountain Ridge course with a little daylight to spare.

Driving back to the clubhouse, we passed the 16th tee of the other course, Betsie Valley, and decided to sneak in and play three more.

It was the perfect amount of post-dinner golf – even if we found the extra three holes by accident.

Sometimes nine just isn't enough, but we rarely have time for a full 18, unless we're on vacation – or the kids are at Grandma's house for the weekend.

That's where 12-hole golf courses come in. In metropolitan areas, it could take up far less acres than 18 where land is a premium – but serve more golfers than just nine holes.

With 12 holes and a routing that has greens circling back toward the clubhouse every three or four holes, golfers can pick how many holes they want to play for the day. A golf course could even change the direction a course plays on a given day - like how the Old Course in St. Andrews is played in reverse every spring for a few days.

Why hasn't a designer built a course like that since?

I don't think 12 holes are going to replace 18 holes as the norm anytime soon, but every city could greatly benefit its citizens with a course in a prime location with 12 exciting holes.