9-hole courses are seeing a resurgence in play

Updated: August 3, 2023

While 18-hole golf courses are the preferred course, 9-hole and Par-3 courses still have an important place in today’s golf landscape. There are over 300 9-hole courses in Washington, state and over 200 in Oregon.

As available land has always been the deterrent to golf course construction, often nine holes became the only option in many locations. But, a shortened course doesn’t mean they are less challenging or deliver an inferior golfing experience.

Courses like Highlands in Tacoma have summed up their short course experience perfectly: When we say “Half the Time, Twice the Fun”, we mean that a round of golf takes less than 75 minutes. Accomplished players can fine-tune their short game, beginners aren’t intimidated, and most people find the course “just-right” in length. The “wow” factor is nine legitimate hole-in-one opportunities in a nine-hole round.

Highlands Golf Course, Tacoma

Many 9-hole courses were built before the modern equipment changed the length that golfers hit their shots today and are generally shorter in overall length, often with a lower par rating compared to modern courses. Smaller greens were built to accommodate the shorter distances and lower ball flight of earlier eras.

However, from a skill perspective, smaller greens require greater accuracy in approach shots and demand precise ball placement. Let’s look at some of the other factors that make 9-hole courses have to offer. Generally, 9-hole courses have lower green fees compared to 18-hole courses. This can make golf more accessible and affordable for players, particularly for those who want to enjoy the game without incurring the cost or time commitment of an 18-hole round. For beginning golfers, the affordability factor allows them to get started without breaking the bank. Not all golfers want to play 18 holes, that’s why 18-hole courses offer a 9-hole rate.

The par-3 Highlands is an example of what the short course can be. With a long history of neglect, local attorney Jack Connelly stepped in and bought the course and invested heavily in the course. It is now one of the premier par-3 courses in the northwest and golfers have taken notice. As Highlands Golf Course stated, it takes less time to play nine holes and can be advantageous for golfers who have limited time available.  Playing a par-3 course is a perfect place to hone short game skills for all levels of players.

Nine-hole courses can be challenging and demanding even with a shorter yardage. Less competition for tee times is another benefit. Lake Limerick in Shelton is a good example of a course that is playable for everyone and is challenging. With tight tree-lined fairways, doglegs that require precise ball placement, and smallish greens, even with its short yardage (5,771 yards) it is no pushover. Their two-tee system from the front nine to the back nine gives it a completely different challenge to most holes.

Lake Limerick, Shelton,WA

Tapps Island Golf Course does things differently with two cups on each green and different sets of tees for its nine holes to give the golfers a feeling of playing 18 different holes.

Tapps Island Golf Course, Auburn, WA

Gamble Sands has one of the top-ranked 18-hole public courses in the country, but also has added a nine-hole course called Quick Sands, that is another way for people to visit the area and get in some golf that is not time consuming and still plenty of fun.

Quicksand GC at Gamble Sands

Bandon Dunes Resort might not have a 9-holer, but its Preserve Course is 13 holes and all par-3 holes and plays quickly with plenty of terrific views. Another short course is on the way at Bandon Dunes as well.

And there are several quality private clubs who offer only 9 holes. Places like Grays Harbor Country Club in Aberdeen, Washington, have nine holes, with a second set of tees to give a different look the second time around. Glen Acres in Seattle is another private 9-hole track.

Nine-hole golf courses add so much to the enjoyment of golf and should never be overlooked. For those who only want an 18-hole experience, it should be noted that most 9-hole courses have alternate tees that provide a completely different look and separate challenges from the first nine holes. After completing 9 holes, it’s always fun to attack the fairways a second time to try to improve on the first 9 scores.