Is a bigger cup size better? BanBury experiments with larger golf holes

BanBury is using regular and 8-inch holes, which you can play until July 12.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comJuly 4, 2013 

A ball falls into an eight-inch hole at BanBury Golf Club in Eagle during a tournament called “The Surprise.” BanBury is conducting a two-week experiment that allows golfers to play to regular-sized holes or eight-inch holes, which cover nearly four times the normal space.

KYLE GREEN — kgreen@idahostatesman.com

EAGLE - Golf would be easier if the holes weren't so small, right?

Maybe not.

BanBury Golf Club in Eagle is in the middle of a two-week experiment with supersized holes. Each green includes a regulation, 4.25-inch hole with a traditional flag and an 8-inch hole with a short flagstick usually seen on putting greens.

It started with a men's and women's club tournament Saturday. Players learned as they arrived at the first tee that they would play to the big holes.

"On some putts, it was relaxing," Scott Swenddal of Eagle said. "On some putts, it was, 'Man, I better not miss this. I'll look like an idiot.' But it was fun. I'm glad I did it once. I've got to erase them from my mind and start thinking about that smaller hole."

A few scores were impressively low - like Ty Travis' 10-under 61 to win by eight shots - but overall they weren't much different from the norm. Among the players in the black-tee flight with handicaps of 7 to 9, six shot in the 70s and five shot in the 80s.

"It was a mixed reaction," said Ben Bryson, the head pro at BanBury, "mostly all good, but people were more kind of shocked how their scores were pretty much right around what they normally shoot."

BanBury plans to keep the two-hole layout for public play through July 12. Golfers will be informed of the big-hole option and allowed to play to either set - or mix it up.

"We're trying something new," Bryson said, "a creative way to make golf either more fun or easier. … We're not gaining any new golfers right now (nationwide). The whole market is kind of stale."

Bryson's idea stems from a PGA of America meeting he attended two years ago, when club pros discussed the need for a spark in the industry - something like the snowboard for alpine sports - and a visit to Headwaters Golf Club in eastern Idaho last year with five other pros.

Headwaters has a nine-hole, par-3 course that was using the two-cup system.

The sixsome of club pros played nine holes traditionally and nine to the tantalizing big holes.

"We were getting kind of cocky going through the (first) nine, saying, 'Somebody's going to shoot 9-under,' " Bryson said. "… Turns out, it's a lot harder than we thought. It changed our mindset. We started hitting putts harder and ramming it by 10, 15 feet. We had six pros struggling on those 8-inch cups."

BanBury purchased a set of cups from Standard Golf, which began offering them last year, Bryson said. The company also sells 6-inch cups.

BanBury has used a big cup on its putting green all season.

Travis, whose dad is part of the BanBury management team, had seen the cup on the putting green but didn't know about the tournament until Saturday.

"It was pretty cool; it was fun," he said. "We don't really get to experience that very often, ever, so it was fun. It lets you go out there and shoot a little better score. … It'd be fun to do it once a year."

The big cups come with a catch that beguiled some of the tournament golfers.

To keep them out of the way for traditional play, they are tucked into corners of the greens - as close as 4.5 feet to the fringe. It's difficult to get close, and nearly impossible to escape some short-side misses.

"They were in spots a lot of guys had never seen before," Bryson said. "If you got on the wrong side, it didn't matter if it was a 4-foot cup, you weren't going to make it."

The strategy, which becomes clear after you've played: Hit the ball to the middle of the green and count on draining several 20- to 30-foot putts.

"There's no sense in firing at those little flags," Bryson said.

Not everyone putted well, though.

One foursome with handicaps around 10 and plenty of experience on BanBury's greens told Bryson they didn't make a putt longer than 10 feet as a group.

That's hard to believe considering the size of the holes. An 8-inch cup is nearly quadruple the size of a standard cup - a small dinner plate vs. a large drinking glass.

But while the big cup is an inviting target, it also is a bizarre look that makes putting feel different.

"It definitely messed with your mind quite a bit," Justin Rutledge of Eagle said. "It was challenging. It was a lot of fun. I think it would be really good for little kids, to help them with their putting. … Hopefully I can go back to a regular-sized hole."

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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