For years now, golf industry analysts have been concerned about the barriers to entry that deter newcomers from taking up the game. In response to these issues, a nine-hole short course is taking shape in the Minneapolis suburb of Chaska that could redefine accessibility in golf.
Golf is hard enough to learn, and all too often expensive, but how courses are designed can also be a barrier to entry. The general culture of a conventional, full-blown golf facility is also problematic when it is assumed that folks know their way around a course and can keep pace. Things get even more difficult for those with physical limitations who are often confronted by extensive hazards and steep slopes. For them, the course can seem as if it’s surrounded by an impenetrable wall. For those seeking to grow the game, there is increasing recognition that standard golf course setups can be very intimidating.
When Susan Neuville started playing golf three years ago, she found obstacles in the way. They were not intended to keep her out, but they certainly did not make her feel welcome. It was her sense that many others who were not playing were similarly put off or felt left out. As Neuville said, “There are so many people who would like to play golf who don’t play for all sorts of reasons.”
Even at the short, par-30 municipal track where she was trying to learn the game, the Chaska Par-30’s four lakeside greens and 15 bunkers got in the way of simply trying to get around the course.
Neuville, a working wife and mother of five children, has now become a leading advocate of open-access golf. She chairs a volunteer committee called Barrier Free Golf that is not only lobbying for more accessibility in the game but has also raised funds to help turn that local nine-hole course in Chaska into a facility that might help transform the entire game.