Fancy playing the Old Course on the eve of the Open Championship? This could be the chance you’ve been waiting for.
The R&A has announced the return of its popular nine-hole challenge, with qualifying open to golfers in Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand who have a registered handicap index.
Qualifying will take place during the coming months, with 20 pairings making it through to the final at the Home of Golf on July 8.
At the showpiece, the 40 golfers will battle it out over holes 1-4 and 14-18.
“This year’s R&A 9 Hole Challenge offers golfers an incredible opportunity to reach the final in St Andrews, particularly given the excitement for The 150th Open,” said Phil Anderton, the R&A’s chief development officer.
“We encourage golfers to take part in qualifying at their home clubs and enjoy a form of the sport that is fast, fun and flexible. Alternative formats such as nine-hole golf are helping to attract new audiences to the sport and we look forward to seeing the finalists at the Old Course in July.”
As well as getting play at the Home of Golf, all 20 pairs will also get a two-night stay in the Rusacks St Andrews Hotel, a welcome dinner, prizegiving in The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and a tour of The R&A World Golf Museum.
The competition is part of the governing body’s drive to promote the shorter form of the game as a way to enjoy golf in less time, and to encourage more people to get involved in golf.
In recent years there has been a huge increase in the number of people taking up nine-hole golf, helped by the ability to record scores which count towards an official handicap.
In Scotland, the number of nine-hole rounds played for handicap purposes more than doubled in three years, increasing from 44,834 in 2018 to 113,592 in 2021.
The rise was even greater in England, with 407,000 rounds played in 2021 compared to 175,000 in 2019.
Australia, New Zealand and Ireland also saw big increases, while in Wales nine-hole rounds accounted for 8% of all scoring rounds played.
Further details on how to enter the nine-hole challenge can be found on the R&A website or the site of each national federation.
Photography: The R&A / David Cannon