Compact golf course scores hole in one

A revolutionary 18-hole design for town centres could break down social barriers
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The Independent Online
A quick 18 holes around a course with bunkers, streams, trees, lakes and 300-yard drives - all in the centre of town - could soon become a reality.

The golf court, the brainchild of non-golfing design engineer Farel Bradbury, is being launched by a London-based consortium as the way of pulling down the game's last social barriers, and of making it available to everyone in a busy, overcrowded world.

By using only one main fairway, four greens and eight tee areas, a court can provide international- standard 18-hole golf - including genuine par-five holes - on 13 acres of land, less than one-tenth of the area covered by a conventional course.

Golfers crisscross the course playing all greens at least twice and some three times, but only three matches can be played at any one time.

If golfers do not mind playing only par-three holes, an 18-hole court can be built on as little as four acres.

Mr Bradbury, 64, built the world's first court on a six-and-a-half acre field behind his home in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, after being advised by his physiotherapist to take up the game to cure paralysis caused by a stroke.

He used a computer to work out how to create a full-sizecourse by driving the golf ball in different directions across the same fairway.

"I have not changed the game at all, but have just folded the playing lines of a standard 180-acre course back on themselves," said Mr Bradbury.

"It all started when I asked my local golf club professional about the feasibility of putting a golf hole in my paddock.

"He told me there was room for four, so I thought I would see if I could fit in a few more."

The concept has excited golfers all over the world. Golf Courts Incorporated, a consortium marketing the idea, has received inquiries from local authorities, hotels and an American architect who wants to build a golf court on an apartment roof. A French builder is planning to site one in the middle of a new housing complex, to be shared by the 30 residents, while several South African millionaires see them as private status symbols.

And the American basketball star, Michael Jordan, believes the courts could make golf available to black, inner-city youngsters.

Because courts require only 5 per cent of the water used to irrigate a normal course, they are also attracting attention in places like the Middle East and Cyprus, where there is a serious water shortage.

The consortium believes the courts will be especially popular in crowded countries like Japan, where many golfers never get closer to the sport than a driving range.

They also ideal for the business person in a hurry, because an 18-hole game can be completed in three hours.

The venture has the support of the former Ryder Cup champion Christy O'Connor, who believes it will encourage a greater number of junior players to start at a younger age, and of Laura Davies, the world's leading woman player, who feels the reduced playing time will appeal to more women.

"Courts are cheap to maintain, cost pounds 100,000 to pounds 150,000 to design and construct compared with several million for a course, and [can] even be floodlit for night-time golf," added Mr Bradbury, the consortium's design consultant.

"The possibilities are almost endless.

"Because they are so small, they could be attached to retirement homes for the elderly, and they are ideal for the disabled who at present have to reserve a course for the day when they want to play.

"Golf is much more cosmopolitan than it used to be, and the golf court will make it even more so.

"I can see the day when it will be played on land at a motorway interchange by young people wearing revolutionary Lurex sportswear."

But what most appeals to him is the thought that, in 150 years from now, people will be greatly amused by the quaint way 20th-century sports people used to go on a six-mile rural hike just for a game of golf.

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