Twelve-hole golf courses are becoming a hot topic, especially after Jack Nicklaus told Golf Digest in 2007: "We should consider the possibility of making 12 holes the standard round. ... Eventually it would be accepted because it makes sense in people's lives."
There are already some fantastic 12-hole golf courses in the world. On Scotland's Isle of Arran, Shiskine Golf and Tennis Club is a 19th century links gem that had 18 holes for a short time until World War II and has kept its current 12-hole route since. Just a few miles north from Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon, the mysterious course Sheep Ranch, designed by Doak, boasts 12 holes that can be played in a variety of different routings.
Shiskine and Sheep Ranch are two of the world's best 12-hole designs, but they're also in the middle of nowhere. The 12-hole concept may work most effectively around larger cities, where land is at a higher premium but golf demand is high, too.
"A nine-hole course works great until you have about 100 golfers per day," noted Doak, who recently redesigned historic nine-hole Aetna Springs Golf Course in Napa Valley, Calif. "In a big city, you can hit that number pretty quickly."
A 12-hole routing offers more flexibility than nine-hole courses and can get more golfers around with the possibility of two or three starting tees, not just one. Get creative with the tee boxes, such as at Sheep Ranch, and you could easily create 18 different holes out of 12 holes worth of acreage and maintenance -- and keep golfers satisfied knowing the shot values will be as good as any 18-hole course.
"We've never assumed that because a course has fewer holes, it's not as good," said Zimmerman. "That doesn't matter in our minds. You could make some extremely good holes and almost dial the design up a bit."