Stress-Free Golf, With Holes The Size Of A Pizza

There's a new game in town called "big-hole" golf. NPR's Rachel Martin talks to golf columnist John Paul Newport about golf courses increasing the size of the hole from 4 to 15 inches.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

If you're a golfer not named Tiger Woods you have surely experienced days out on the course where it felt like the hole was the size of a penny. Rather than hurl your clubs, now you can try big-hole golf. It's a new twist on a very traditional sport where the hole is the size of an extra-large pizza. Intrigued?

To hear more, we are joined by John Paul Newport. He's the gold columnist at The Wall Street Journal and recently played a round of golf with the bigger bull's-eye. Hey, John Paul. Thanks for being with us.

JOHN PAUL NEWPORT: Glad to be here.

MARTIN: So what's the deal with this? You played a round of big-hole golf and called it liberating - how so?

NEWPORT: Well, normally when you play a round of golf, you step onto the green and that's when all the intense stress starts. You know, this tiny little hole, you have to look at putts from many ways, you hit it a few feet past and you add up strokes quickly around the green. With a 15-inch cup, you basically can't miss from 30 feet.

MARTIN: You say that, but you haven't seen me try to putt.

NEWPORT: Well, you do miss from 30 feet and that's like missing from 3 feet, you know, on a real hole. So it just - it sort of extends the circle of frustration further away and reduces a whole lot of stress.

MARTIN: Can any golf course be adapted to big-hole golf?

NEWPORT: Sure. You have to buy a 15-inch hole cutter, which didn't exist until a few weeks ago. TaylorMade, which is a big sponsor of this, has sent out 15-inch hole cutter kits to a hundred golf courses and they're expecting maybe 200 or 300 to 500 will buy the kits and experiment with it this year.

MARTIN: Who is this meant to appeal to?

NEWPORT: Well, it's primarily an initiative by people with skin in the golf game 'cause there's a lot of concern that young people aren't taking up golf in the numbers that they were. So they want to find ways to make the game for beginners easier and more fun. They point out that tennis has big rackets, skiing has bunny slopes, basketball for kids - they have a lower rim, T-ball and baseball. Golf has nothing like this.

MARTIN: But I can imagine all kinds of critics out there saying you have to suffer, you have to learn how to hit into the small hole, this is how we do it.

NEWPORT: No, it's true. The deep appeal of golf, once you get hooked, is that it's difficult. For beginner golfers, a 15-inch hole, like you said about your own putting, is hard.

MARTIN: So you think this is actually going to catch on? I mean, any chance we might see big-hole golf highlights on ESPN?

NEWPORT: Not on ESPN. Although I was a skeptic about it when I played, it was really fun, I have to say. I could see a lot of clubs doing this like on a Thursday night, play with adult beverages and just have some fun every once in a while.

MARTIN: (Laughing) There you go. John Paul Newport is the golf columnist at The Wall Street Journal. Thanks so much for talking with us, John Paul.

NEWPORT: Happy to do it. Thank you.

MARTIN: You're listening to NPR News.

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