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Jack Nicklaus says golf needs to think outside the box if it hopes to connect with a new generation of players.

Speaking at a luncheon in Houston entitled, " A Conversation with a A Living Legend", Nicklaus says slow play has become a detriment to the growth of the game and that changing the number of holes which make up a round of golf may be the solution.

"To go out and spend six or seven hours on a golf course... (kids) aren't doing that," Nicklaus said.

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"If you legitimize twelve holes and have a twelve hole handicap... maybe instead of having two nines, have three sixes at a golf course.

"All our sports, three hours is max. In golf, it doesn't happen in three hours."

The downturn in the economy has forced a number of golf courses to close or go into bankruptcy while development of new properties has stalled. Nicklaus warned that trend needs to change or the United States risks being left behind when it comes to developing new players.

"Nobody's building any golf courses," says the man who heads up Nicklaus Design, one of world's leading golf course design firms. "I mean we've got a couple of golf courses (in development)...one here in Texas and one in New York. But that's all that's in the United States. The game is growing oversees."

"I think I've got 14 golf courses under construction in China right now," he added. "China has about a million golfers today and they say by 2020 they'll have 17 million golfers. We have about 29 million golfers in the United States and in their country golf is just starting."

Nicklaus, who owns the record of 18 major championships, believes Tiger Woods will return to continue the assault on his record. However, he admits it won't be easy.

"It's not like a foregone conclusion. It used to be a foregone conclusion. Mickelson has four majors now, right? (Tiger) has to have better than anyone else's career for the rest of his career to break that."

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"His work ethic is too good. He's too talented not to be (dominant again)."

Have Your Say:

Do you agree with Nicklaus on the changes he suggests in order to increase the game's popularity and participation at the pedestrian level? Or is he just out of touch and the game should be left as it is. Email us your thoughts and we'll post your responses.

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"Golf today is played just like it is on the televised coverage of the PGA tours excruciatingly slow. The comments on slow play by one of golf's most accomplished players who was in his prime one of the worst offenders is laughable to say the least. Golf does not need to get outside the box it needs to get back in the box; the historic ways of learning the game as taught by PGA club pros who determined when you were proficient enough in the techniques of the game as well as the etiquette of the same to be allowed on the course. The other thing that Mr. Nicklaus should consider is the building of those super expensive golf resorts were one must be a single orthodontist to cover the green fees. In order to grow the game what is needed is affordable golf at 27 hole full length maintainable municipal courses in every town or city in North America. Why 27 holes? Maximize tee times during prime times i.e.. 3 tee starts with a cross over on 3 nines. 27 holes are maintainable at only slightly more in maintenance costs. Pace of play on the tours needs to be enforced. The majority of the mortals I play with and who emulate those tour players need to be encouraged to miss the ten footers for 8 on a par 3 much quicker. Walking and carrying used to take 3 hrs. to play 18 holes. Carts GPS plumb bobbing yardage scopes etc. etc. slow the game down and the average golfer scores haven't gone down that much even with the technology. Learn the game not how to manipulate the technology." - Stan T.

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"When I play tennis, ski, play soccer, football or baseball, I am playing on exactly the same size field/faciltiy as the pros. We cannot have one type of course for the pros and another for the rest of us. If the change were to be occur, it would have to start with the pros and I really cannot see that in the cards." - Rob S

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"I think one major reason that younger players don't play golf is the expense of a round in Canada. Green fees are way to high as compared to the U.S. In southern Ontario fees range from $30 to $80 to walk 18. One round of golf for a family of 4 is a weekend away for some families. In Michigan 18 holes average $ 20. With a power cart. These are very nice course's also.How many courses offer a junior program ,help them find equipment to use and teach them how to play ready golf. Teach them the values of the game but remember it is supposed to be fun. The biggest reason for slow play is not playing ready golf ,don't worry about honour ,if you can play your shot without reaching the group in front of you then go. Read your putt while you are walking on the green to mark your ball. Read your putt and putt it's not your livelihood it only breaks so many ways no matter what angle you're looking at. If your tee shot was 200 yards why are people waiting to hit a 250 yard shot into a green? We are not Pros earning our living, so there is no reason that 18 holes cannot be played in 4 hours. A friend chat by the starter and marshals would help a great deal." - Ron V

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" The idea that a golf game is reduced to 6 holes to speed up play is rather bizare especially coming from the world's best golfer. If slow play is a detriment to young golfers- and it may well be- the solution is as it always was: get the course marshalls on the job or get the pros on the course moving slow players on or off and, finally, provide effective penalties for consistently slow play like suspension of playing privileges, fines or at least a compulsory short instructional course in what constitutes slow play. All golfers will support this despite our capacity to endure long delays on the course. Every sport has "delay of game" penalties, they even time it in football; so do the same kind of thing for golf. One slow foresome can delay hundreds of others so toughen up the slow play penalties and leave behind the "gentleman's" game of self monitoring. It doesn't work- if it ever did. Golf has moved a considerable distance from the private domains of the 30's where one didn't want to tick somebody off (like a boss?). Today thousands of people golf on public and private courses. But they are a little intimidated by the idea of reporting slow play. Make it a rule with penalties and play will speed up." - Wlazarowich

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"Private courses seem to be able to keep 18 holes at about 4 hours. It is the public facilities that have the problem. It is just taking far to long to complete 18 holes. I do not remember foursomes of newcomers in the 60's or 70,s. A new golfer played with experienced players to learn the rules, etiquette and pace of play. Now you have weekend warriors who are out for a good time and don't care how long it takes to play, just keep the beer flowing. They hit it all over the place, it's like being in a shooting gallery. You must also look at the difficulty Jack and his sadist buddies build into their designs. I defy a golfer of any ability to get around some of the Pete Dye courses in 4 hours. They are building a lot of new courses just too tough for most golfers. Some can make a 2 handicapper look like an idiot. I again must say as a traveling competitive golfer for a lot of the last 45 years I do not remember the courses we played being as demanding as the new designs. Difficulty alone will slow play. If you spend all day reloading their is no way you can get around in anywhere near 4 hours. Then throw in some 35 handicap tourists and the fun has just begun." - Mike M

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"Back in 2001 I was playing golf in Portugal. We were walking. We were advised that if we didn't complete our first nine we forfeit our second nine. I think this was a good idea . Courtesy on the those who followed us should be respected. No one wants to be playing a five hour round of golf. To increase play promote nine whole rounds." - Leo

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" Yes, I agree Jack is on to something...there are a number of issues here: 1) The time to play a round (whether it is 9, 12 or 18) must be considered. Perhaps in some jurisdictions, that would be another way to design courses. 2) The cost to play must be reviewed...golf courses might want to set rates according to the number of holes played (if a person played 12 holes, then they pay for 12 holes). 3) The "proper etiquette" required by some courses regarding dress...perhaps if we are trying to paint golf as a sport, then perhaps more sporty attire might be promoted (instead of collars on shirts, perhaps sport tops with mock collars, etc.), 4) The method of scoring could be remedied as some tournaments have done, 5) Rule changes must be made that have been around for a long time...having to hit a ball from a divot on the fairway, being penalized strokes when the wind moves the ball after you have addressed it, etc...the game needs a logistical overhaul period. There are so many good things about golf that we need to improve the game to keep it that good!" - Mike

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" I agree with Nicklaus that many rounds take too long and one of the problems I see is too many golfers watching too much TV. The object of marking a ball on the green is to get it out of the way of another player putting. I see golfers marking every ball on every green regardless of where it is and this eats an enormous amount of time. I see players on the tee box watching each drive until it stops, talking about the hit, and then preparing to hit their ball (this also can and sometimes does occurs with every hit). I see the entire foursome searching for an obviously lost ball and then the hitter going back instead of hitting a provisional at the time. I see players standing on or in front of the green and recounting the number of shots to that point. I see players marking what should be a tap in, and getting it out of the way. I see players discussing and marking scores while still on the green. I see players leaving clubs and carts in front of the green and having to backtrack to the position of their chip shot, after putting, to retrieve their clubs. Some courses have marshals for a lot of these problems but much of it can be prevented by the clubhouse personnel outlining these conditions and other terms of play along with how "ready golf" works. These few minutes in the clubhouse will save huge amounts of time out on the course, which makes the marshals job much easier if he doesn't have to explain things while holding up play even more. And yes, I still marshal. Several years ago a friend of mine who is a low handicap and one who strongly believes in golf etiquette was at an upscale course and was being told of these types of conditions of play. When he said this was unnecessary because he understood them, he was politely told that (to paraphrase) he would listen or he would not be playing. He had no problem being told this." - Dave

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" Jack Nicklaus's thoughts on 'out-of-the-box-thinking should absolutely endorse my application to the Golf Channel's Instructor Search Contest. If this isn't out of the box thinking, and exciting, I have no idea as to what is??? Of course I am a little bias. He is so right with the length of the game, they can though play only 9 holes if they wish? It's too bad the game didn't consist of the original number of holes.......that being 12, instead of 18. Executive length course should also be viewed as a positive in moving forward, especially with the lack of land and all. Who says all courses have to measure over 7000 yards??? This is a bit of a joke in many ways don't you think, Mr. Nicklaus?" - Scott

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"I agree with Mario! Charge golfers by the hour for public facilities, have professional staff teach Rules & Etiquette and how to play a round in under 4 hours and establish affordable golf for junior golfers of all ages. Follow the example of www.cjga.com , www.jrlinkster.com, that train juniors of all ages from 5-18 and how to play their shots within 30 seconds, with no or at the most one, practice swing and continuous putting - once a golfer starts putting, continue till holed out - no "re-marking" the ball. Golfers can easily enjoy the game more with good instruction, good planning(wanting to play 18 holes in less than 4 hours) and good programs for all ages." - Harry

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" Well I certainly would not suggest we throw Jack's thoughts in the dustbin. I play golf in Canada and can not comment on the rate of play in the US, however, I routinely play 9 holes in an hour and a half on weekdays and can play 18 in just over three hours. I am 62 and wonder why we have let courtesy become the exception rather than the rule. When I was learning the game 50 years ago we routinely marked our balls on par 3 hole and waived the next group on the tee to hit then we putted out while they walked to the green. We did not always follow the rules on looking for lost balls but it was expected that we would allow faster players to pay through and always waive players through while we looked for a ball. What especially irks me today about our quasi pros ( 2-6 handy capers) is the the constant dropping and reputing on the green. If they want to practice use the practice green. They should know better. By the way I never play on the weekend because of the very slow play. Courtesy would do a lot to alleviate this problem and maybe if we scrapped some of the archaic rules to simplify amateur play we could bring back some of the fun." - Rick

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" I agree. I loved the idea of 14 hole course - 12 will do. I don't think it would hurt to also require course etiquette course for players either. Alternatively, just have course for people to go too. Not all courses would require an "Etiquette Certificate" but I think people would learn that if you want to play a pubic course there are certain things you need to do, which would include fast play. The private course can do their own policing." - Lyle

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"Conquer the slow play and no round should ever take more than four hours. Amateurs emulate the pros and they are slow. Be ready to hit when it is your turn and the game could become a lot more enjoyable." - Bill

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" Jack knows all about slow play; he popularized it!! The viewing public saw how successful Nicklaus was with his tedious play and emulated it. They equated good play with slow play. Despite his many accomplishments, Jack's most significant contribution to the game of golf was the 4 plus hour round. However, Jack, with his current suggestions, can't change the slow play he helped create. Amateurs are always going to want to compare their scores to the pros. The pros play 18 holes and amateurs will want the same length test. Besides, if you need to reduce your stay at the course, then play 9 holes. By the way, is it now taking Jack six or seven hours to play these days?" - Brian

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" Have to agree with Jack. I'm a Canadian that lives in the country's smallest province. About 10 years ago we had a golf course boom thinking we'd become the next Myrtle Beach but great golf courses have since struggled through the summer months. Don't get me wrong, local memberships are certainly in line and affordable with the level of the economy within our region but the numbers of young people getting involved in the game are dwindling. Other sports such as soccer, are marketing participation successfully and golf has to find a way to compete at their level. Equipment and cost of play are two areas that have to be addressed. I agree with Jack that golf courses could be divided into 3 six hole sections which would prohibit 5-6 hour rounds through 18. I would hope we could hang on to the majority of great traditional courses throughout the world and especially within PEI, but thought has to be given to building novice/starter courses for the young to grow on." - Bob

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"While Jack is much beloved in the game of golf he seems to be ignorant of his own past. When it comes to the era of slow play on the PGA Tour Jack was the reigning King of slow play. Even Arnie was a speedster compared to the plodding nature of Jack. And as far as his idea of 12 hole courses for young golfers is concerned, I think Jack is misguided. He is right about chaging the makeup of the golf ball to bring golf courses more into line. So please Jack, enough with the slow play talk. You are not the messenger. You were the problem." - Lawrie

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"Give Jack full credit for thinking out of the box. I tend to agree that the target of a 3-3.5 hour round. it makes excellent sense. That being said, I don't like cart golf(am a Sr golfer 62 years of age). Typically, if on my own, or with an equal partner, I have no trouble walking 18 in 3.5 hours if I am not impeded by folks ahead of me. At this time of year, I routinely play 18 in 3 hours. If I hit the ball better, my time would go down at least to 2.5hours. I agree with the commenter who spoke to the amount of time folks take in hitting the ball. A different approach to instruction that reinforced prompt and speedy decisionmaking as very important to playing well wouldn't be a bad idea either. There are a lot of folks who can readily play like Moe Norman or Lee Trevino in time over shot than you might imagine if they are given permission to do this.

In my opinion, much more has to be invested into getting most golfers to a higher level of proficiency at a relatively low cost. Better players equal faster players who are happier because they are playing better. More innovative approaches to golf instruction are required that emphasize much faster competency to a handicap of 18 or better. Current golf instruction approaches are based upon getting the most milk out of the cow with minimal accountability. If there are competent tools which dramatically reduce the amount of instruction time, then employ them as part of the instructional approach instead of worrying about how much money the instructor will not make off this client because he gets to the goal faster. The goal should be playing golf at a handicap of 18 or less not getting lessons every 2 weeks.

The innovative training approaches must also occupy far less "training time". Training time if you are serious about improving or maintaining your game represents more time than playing. It is a chicken and egg thing. Alternatively, you go with Jack's suggestion and trim the 18 hole game to 12 holes to achieve the 3 hour objective. I personally don't want to feel like a unit of production while playing golf. I enjoy the outdoor experience and exercise as much as I do scoring well. My preference would be far more effective and speedy training techniques which rapidly reduced handicaps for the serious golfers. For the recreational golfers, let's see the 12 hole round. For serious golfers, stick with 18 and go with the (3) x 6 hole format." - Frank

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"I agree that slow play is terrible for the game but I don't think fewer holes is the solution. There is no reason why you shouldn't be able to finish an 18 hole round in four hours - regardless of your skill level. When it comes to new golfers, I find that it is often their adherence to the rules of golf that slows them down - i.e. looking for lost balls, re-hitting tee shots, attempting to hit out of impossible situations. If new golfers were encouraged to pick up their ball and move it a position where they at least have a chance to progress down the fairway (and keep up to the group in front of them), everyone would benefit." - Jeff

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" I agree. When I play twilight after work ... 12 holes and go for a beer. Longer holes, longer waits, morons who think they hit it longer ... Golf over 3 hours is not fun." - Larry

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" It isn't the number of holes. Its all the pro emmulators (whether they are high handicapper or low handicappers). They think they are on tour. They stalk the greens, triangulating, "reading", looking from front, back, left and right. Then they stand over the putt for an eternity, and finally miss the putt, mark, clean their ball, and when it's their turn, start the process all over again. Oh, and I forgot to mention, that you see them teeing from the "tips" as they say, when they should be teeing from the forward or middle tees. If you can't reach in regulation, move up. Courses should charge by the hour or have rangers to move people along." - Mario

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" With driving time,after game refreshments and slow play,a round of golf takes to long.married people with children at home do not have this much time.jack may be on to something." - George

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" I agree with Jack, shorter rounds are the trend especially if courses continue to do nothing about slow play. I remember the days of playing a round in under 4 hours. Now, if you can get through nine holes in that time it's a miracle. Even on the higher priced public courses, it seems money is not a deterrent for golfers whose calibre of play is not up to the level of the course. I have also heard that some new courses (out West I believe) are incorporating 12 hole designs" - Michael

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