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The Links at Northfork Golf and Banquet Facility

The Loop - Twin Cities Golf Courses are Considering Shorter Options

Shots with Steve

By Steve Pease

For years the idea that playing anything less than 18 holes has carried a stigma with it. However, it's becoming increasingly en vogue to forego 18 holes in favor of 3.

The number of rounds played on Minnesota courses went down almost 10 percent in 2011. It seems the cost and time it takes to play golf is becoming increasingly tougher to justify, and a number of Twin Cities 18-hole "championship" courses are responding by considering smaller "loops."

A loop is usually a 6- or 3-hole makeshift course-within-a-course that allows golfers to get out there without "wasting" their day. For example: Golfers can start on the 10th tee, play up the 12th, and hop over to 18 for a nice little hour round at a discounted price. The idea, no doubt, is aimed at the family man/woman looking to fit a little golf into their schedule.

While the concept of a shorter course may be news in the Twin Cities, it isn't new. In fact, the first golf courses in America were only 12 holes. In Minnesota, where playable days are precious, a few courses are offering loops, with many more in discussions.

The question seems to be: How do you fit these golfers in with regularly-scheduled tee times?

The Links at Northfork in Ramsey has a separate 3-hole course for those with a need for a speed round. For $12 ($18 w/a cart) you can have unlimited play on the short course. In addition, Northfork has begun allowing golfers to choose from 3,6,9,12,18 or 21-hole loops. The 3-hole option is "included" in your round of golf and "gives additional options" to the time-strapped person, according to an email offer.

In Minneapolis, the city's Parks Board has begun discussing loop options in 2012 at its five public courses. It already has a par-3 "executive" course at Theodore Wirth, but even that has been opened up to disc golfers to attract more play.

Even Hazeltine National, a major championship venue, allows time-strapped members to get out for short loops. Lately membership is finding it increasingly difficult to balance their kids' soccer games, their business pursuits and their free time with time spent on the golf course.

The way I see it, a greens fee is a greens fee. But an ancillary bonus is what happens after players pay for their round: they eat and drink. And any restaurant will tell you beverages produce their highest profit margins. So, I'll lift a glass to the "loop" concept-here's hoping local courses do the same.

Revised: 01/09/2013 - Article Viewed 31,691 Times - View Course Profile

About: Steve Pease

Steve Pease Steve Pease, resides in Wisconsin and carries the burden of a 13 handicap. He enjoys microbrews, the Pack and Twitter. Often at the same time. He plays TaylorMade R9 irons, an old-school R7 driver and whatever putter is "working."

He has worked for four golf courses in his life (pro shop attendant, then later, the more prestigious title of course ranger. Ha!) In 2008, he took a part-time job at Golfsmith, custom-fitting clubs when he wasn't running his own freelance writing business. He also experimented with a golf blog.

His favorite interview was ex-USGA executive director David Fay.

Golf writers he reads: John Feinstein, Herbert Warren Wind, Nicklaus (the guy is a little too "feel-oriented" to really provide tangible advice), Jason Sobel and Alan Shipnuck (latter two on Twitter). Although, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel beat writer Gary D'Amato is his "favorite."

Interested in: golf travel writing; course reviews; freelance golf writing; club reviews; Wisconsin golf culture reports; the art of golf gambling; the rules of playing music at low volumes while on the course (read: no Rodney Dangerfield impersonations); learning how pros never, ever accidentally knock the ball off the tee at address, and other stuff.

Greatest moment on a golf course: Uhhhh ... yeah.

Most embarrassing moment on a golf course: Trying to high five Steve Stricker only to have him give me the "knuckle-knock," only it was too late. It ended in more of a "knuckle-hug" and my "best friend" doubling over in laughter.

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