Ever had a tough time getting that little white ball into the 4-inch-wide hole on a golf green? Tempted to nudge your ball out of the rough?
If so, Brookland Golf Park wants you. The nine-hole novelty in Brooklyn Park offers relaxed rules, fewer sand traps, shorter holes and greens with two cups — one an inviting eight inches wide.
“Brookland makes golf less rules and more fun,” said course manager John Lindman. He said it’s a response to an effort led by the U.S. Professional Golf Association (PGA) to reverse the declining number of golfers. They call it Golf 2.0: making the sport simpler, faster and easier to entice more diverse, younger and time-conscious people of any ability level to try the game.
At Brookland, changes include cutting grass in the rough half an inch shorter, sodding over four of the eight sand traps, round fees of $13 (less for kids) and free loaner clubs and balls. The idea is to give kids and novices a better shot at succeeding.
“There’s nothing like hearing the ball drop into the cup,” veteran golfer Steve Burger said at Brookland one morning last week. “If you can get it in the hole more often, you play more.”
Burger and a handful of other golfers on the course said they’ve had no problems playing the regulation tees and holes alongside players using the closer tees and wider holes.
Lindman said the course, formerly Brookland Executive Nine, was renamed Brookland Golf Park to be less intimidating. It had a well-attended grand opening on May 2.
“Brooklyn Park is ahead of the game. We are applauding them,” said Ron Stepanek, player development director for the PGA of America in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Many courses have added forward tees and family rates or free golf clinics, but Stepanek said he has heard of only one other club, in a southern state, with full time greens that have both wider and standard-size holes.
Tom Ryan, executive director of the Minnesota Golf Association, said he is aware of no courses like Brookland’s, although some add wide holes for special events or selected days.
Stopping a downswing
Golf has good reason to try something different. Brooklyn Park’s two courses, like most across the country, have seen a downward trend in revenues and rounds played for most of the past decade. The number of U.S. golfers peaked in 2003 at 30.6 million and dropped to 25.7 million in 2011, according to the National Golf Foundation.
Rounds played have declined from 518 million to 475 million in the past decade, and dropped five consecutive years through 2011.
Rounds played at Brookland dropped from 20,000 in 2003 to nearly 12,000 in 2012.
“Brooklyn Park is trying to introduce people to the game,” said Jon Oyanagi, city parks and recreation director. “In our … diverse community, we want to make sure everybody has opportunities and access to the fun game of golf.”
Most of the golf park promotion and changes were covered by TaylorMade Golf, a California golf products company, Lindman said. To speed up the game, TaylorMade tee-off areas are set forward more than halfway down the fairways. If you get stuck in a sand trap, just toss your ball onto the green, no penalty, Lindman said.
He noted that playing a round from TaylorMade tees takes about an hour, compared with nearly two hours when playing standard course and rules. Costs range from pay-your-age for kids up to 11, $11 for ages 11 to 17 and $13 for adults.
The back of Brookland’s score card cites few rules — no club tossing or swearing — and offers mostly encouraging comments, such as:
“We play the forward tees without fear of ridicule … If the forward tees are like eating ice cream, the back tees are like doing your taxes. Do you like doing your taxes?”
One Brookland newcomer is Breanna Williams, 28, of Coon Rapids. She began playing last year on Tuesday nights with fellow teachers from nearby Palmer Lake Elementary School.
“This is my third round and I already have improved my score,” said Williams. “I use the bigger cups. It is especially helpful as a beginner. If I can get on the green and get my shots in, it makes me feel competitive with my co-workers who have played for years. It’s less frustrating and gives me another target [hole] to go for.”