Hybrid Golf Continues To Evolve

By R.J. Smiley






As Mother Nature signaled the end of another golf season in the land of 10,000 (soon-to-be-frozen) lakes.  The Psychic’s golf group booked one more trip to the Gravel Pit before fish houses covered the lakes.  The final road trip occurred on the final Saturday in October to the most unique golf course in Minnesota.

As the post round adult beverages were eagerly consumed on the deck overlooking the bowel shape basin, the Psychic replayed each of the 13 totally unique par-3 holes.  Somehow the Psychic’s mind drew a parallel to the scene.  He sees a litter of puppies, each sired by a different breed of papa dog.

“All the holes are not fair.  But it’s really fun.  This old Gravel Pit tests your skills…. and imagination,” barked the golf group’s grouch.

“If the game is played with a club and a golf ball hit into a 4.25” hole in the ground, it is golf,” smiled the PHD.

Fast Forward to February 2023 – As his golf clubs rest in deep hibernation the Psychic has more time to read and dream about golf.  Several recent articles in various golf publications caught his interest and triggered thoughts of his trips to Gravel Pit.

The first article, written by the National Golf Foundation, about America’s growing interest in golf.  The NGF reported that there are two types of golfers: those who play traditional golf courses and those golfers who participate at hybrid golf venues like simulators, TopGolf type facilities and imaginative short courses, that are fun and quick to play.  The total number of golfers in the US are shown as the total of both types.  Another article discussed a recent survey of Gen Z and millennial golfers.  The majority choose to play golf on shorter, mostly par-3 courses or entertainment focused venues.  They list two reasons: time to play and expense of greens fees.  

As darkness ends Sunday’s TV coverage of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am with Rose leading, but the outcome still in doubt, the Psychic sucked the final drop of his Arnold Palmer, with just a taste of Ketel One.  He is headed to his study.  He was seeking visions of where the grand old game will go.

With the chamois cloth still in his left hand the Psychic feels a sense of excitement radiating from the crystal ball.  As the focus improves, he sees TRMW Sports Logo.  The scene fades to Tiger Woods, Jon Rahm and Rory and nine other PGA Tour Professionals standing in an arena similar to, a technology enhanced, Roman Coliseum covered with an inflatable dome.  Instead of Romans in togas, the seats are filled with elite athletes, movie stars, musicians, and corporate executives.  As Rahm swings his driver the golf ball flashes like a rocket into a golf simulator as large as the olden day’s drive-in theater screen.

The weekly super tar event is streamed live throughout the world with the most advanced video technology and graphic imagery like nothing that has ever been seen.  As the simulator is used for long shots shorter shots are played to an ultra-high-tech green positioned on a rotating platform that rotates and undulations are changed with each new hole. 

Next the repeated scenes of TopGolf or something similar, a combination of indoor/outdoor golf, food, and entertainment.  This hybrid venue is followed by a vast variety of outdoor green grass courses containing mostly short holes where music is blaring with chic food, unique drinks, craft brewed beers and a variety of entertainment.

As the Chrystal ball glows, he watches as golfers play a new type of simulated golf where the player never moves.  He is transported by augmented reality where no matter where his shot comes to rest the next shot is replicated to the exact physical conditions.  Shot after shot are played through this augmented reality for the entire round.  No golf cart.  No walking.  Exact yardages exact turf conditions and the round is complete in the length of time it takes to hit 72 shots or putts… or 84 shots and putts or….105 shots and putts.  Eighteen holes can be played in less than 30 minutes.  Or restarted and continued a day, a month or a year later.  Wind conditions and turf conditions would be the exact same as when the game started.  Golfers may play alone or against selected or random competitors.  

Next the Psychic observes golfers drifting across the landscape in a Jetson-like hover craft.  In the golfer’s mind’s eye he then envisions a golf hole carved into a distant cliffside.  Mentally communicating with the cloud, the hole is magically created in augmented reality; 17 other golf holes are created in perfect harmony with the original hole envisioned by the golfer.  The golfer opens the canopy of the hover craft and plays the entire course in augmented reality.  He then invites his regular foursome to join him on the instantly created course.

As the Psychic flinches away from the crystal ball his hands are moist, but his mouth is dry.  Could this be the same game played by shepherds on seaside pastures centuries ago.  Then he remembers the words of the PHD, member of his golf group, “Is it played with a club and a ball into a 4.25” hole in the ground?” 

“Yes!” The Psychic states.  “I have seen golf in the future.”