One of the biggest complaints you hear today in various golf communities is the amount of time a round can take to complete. In an ever-busier society, spending five-plus hours on the course, in addition to travel time, isn’t ideal. Enter Speedgolf. This fitness-oriented spin on the game we love combines running and golf. It will shorten your rounds and keep you in better shape. A huge proponent of this movement in Los Angeles is Speedgolf SoCal, which has already set the pace at courses such as Chester Washington and Lakewood Country Club. To give us a better understanding of where Speedgolf came from and how it has evolved, we sat down with SpeedGolf LA pioneer, Garlin Smith.
AGC: How would you describe Speedgolf ?
GS: Speedgolf is a fun, fast, and fitness-oriented alternative to traditional golf, in which players run, jog, or walk quickly between shots. A typical Speedgolf round generally takes 1.5 -2 hours for 18 holes, or 30 minutes-1 hour for 9 holes. Since speed golfers are often the first golfers on the course, players are able to complete their morning round before 8AM, which is attractive as it better fits into the lifestyles of those with traditional 9-5 work hours and/or young families.
AGC: What are the origins of the sport?
GS: Speedgolf has been played as an informal game for over 40 years with early pioneers from running backgrounds choosing to run between shots to get in an early morning or evening round. US running legend Steve Scott was an early pioneer of the game, shooting 95 in 29 minutes with only a 3 iron in 1979. The official competitive sport of Speedgolf was born in October 2012 at the inaugural Speedgolf World Championships held at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Oregon.
AGC: Who is the audience of Speedgolf?
GS: With an average round of golf in Southern California taking about five hours to play, Speedgolf is designed for anyone who simply wants to play more golf and may not have the time for a traditional round. Speedgolf is also attractive to golfers looking to increase their level of fitness. Runners and athletes find speedgolf provides the fitness they seek, while allowing them to play more golf. Whether for more golf, increased fitness, more fun, or a combination of all those factors, everyone who learns about speedgolf is excited about this new version of the game.
AGC: How did things migrate to Southern California? Who are the ‘Speedgolf-friendly’ courses in the Los Angeles area?
GS: After seeing highlights from the Speedgolf World Championships on CBS before The Masters coverage in 2014, I was interested in playing, so I spoke with Scott Morgan, GM of The Lakes in El Segundo, who allowed me to give it a try on the local 9-hole par 29 course. After shooting 2 over in 15 minutes, I was hooked. After playing for several weeks with friends at The Lakes, I got in contact with Mike Funaro of American Golf Corporation, who introduced me to the GMs at Lakewood and Chester Washington, where we began playing a few days each month.
AGC: What have been some of the highlight performances in LA so far?
GS: At this point, the entire focus is growing the sport in Southern California and encouraging players to come out and join us when we have designated Speedgolf start times reserved at each course. All abilities are welcome to play. The only requirements are you play golf (ideally <25 hdcp), are able to run/jog/walk briskly 9 or 18 holes without stopping, and you like to have fun!
AGC: What are the biggest challenges that Speedgolf faces going forward?
GS: There are several challenges to growing Speedgolf. One is getting golf course operators comfortable with the idea that faster play helps them is many ways, such as allowing more players to get in a round of golf, adding fitness the the game of golf, and potentially getting younger and new players to their courses.
Speedgolf directly answers their customers’ biggest hurdle: lack of time, by putting the power of pace of play into the hands of the customer. Another challenge is simply getting the word out to the public about Speedgolf and the fact that anyone can play a version of Speedgolf.
AGC: How has the press helped?
GS: We have had coverage on CBS Sports and the Golf Channel, and in GOLF Magazine, Runners Magazine, and many newspapers around the US and in other countries where Speedgolf is played. But the majority has been through social media and through word of mouth. Greater public awareness results in increased interest and participation.
AGC: How can Speedgolf evolve in 2015?
GS: Speedgolf has evolved from a select number of people playing in Oregon, Texas, and a few other areas, to where it is now being played in 40 US states and in 12 foreign countries. In 2015, we hope to start a series of local Speedgolf events in Southern California, which may consist of singles divisions, 2-person alternate shot divisions, and juniors’ events. At the same time, the elite side of the sport will continue to evolve as more professional tournaments are added and higher standards for rules, scoring, and world rankings takes shape.
AGC: Are there any potential partnerships that you believe can help build momentum?
GS: Since Speedgolf combines 2 very popular, but previously unrelated sports–golf and running–it presents marketers with a new opportunity for sponsorship and brand alignment. Additional groups that will benefit from the growth of Speedgolf are golf course management companies, race organizers, running & triathlon clubs. PGA of America, and youth golf associations such as The First Tee Foundation.
Now that we all have an education of Speedgolf 101 are you ready to play? All interested can contact Garlin Smith through the website www.SpeedgolfSoCal.com, or Speedgolf Los Angeles on Facebook, where he will be posting all upcoming events and tee times.