Thirty-four club golfers enjoyed a once in a lifetime experience of playing Royal St George’s on the eve of The 149th Open when they competed in the final of The R&A 9 Hole Challenge on Saturday, July 10.
The final was contested over the 1st, 2nd, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 16th, 17th and 18th holes of the famous Kent links before the beginning of Open Week.
Matthew Barnes and Chris Houghton of Whittlebury Park Golf Club in South Northamptonshire won the Stableford competition with a nett aggregate score of 38 points to be crowned 2021 champions. Matthew Elks and Brad Rhodes of Chesterfield Golf Club finished runners-up.
Clive Edginton, Captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, presented the prizes to the leading teams.
Barnes commented: “To walk the fairways of Royal St George’s before the pros do next week is a special feeling. It does feel like it gives me more of a connection to The Open. It’s been a brilliant experience and it was really nice to top it off with a victory.”
Houghton added: “I am absolutely lost for words; having the chance to play where the true greats of the game are going to play and on the same course set-up, is just a money can’t buy experience. Nine-hole golf is such a helpful format as we all want to be able to play more golf. To be able to go out and play nine holes after work is just a great opportunity and long may it continue.”
Amanda Greaves and Jane Wilkinson from Hale Golf Club qualified through to the final of The R&A 9 Hole Challenge, just two years after they first started playing golf.
The R&A 9 Hole Challenge is central to the organisation’s wider drive to promote this form of golf as an ideal way to enjoy playing the sport in less time, either recreationally or competitively for handicap purposes.
Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer at The R&A said: “Across 2020 golf enjoyed a significant surge in popularity with the total number of adult golfers increasing by 2.1 million players. Across this period we also saw the use of driving ranges increase by 2 million people. The flexibility of alternative formats like 9 hole golf is helping to attract a new audience to the sport. The finalists today have enjoyed the opportunity of a lifetime at Royal St George’s, but perhaps more importantly they are enjoying playing regular 9-hole rounds at their home clubs.”