Why 15-inch Golf Holes Won’t Work

Earlier this week, as a result of their Hack Golf campaign and feedback from amateur golfers everywhere, TaylorMade Golf hosted a one-day golf event that featured 15-inch golf holes on each green. While this idea is cute and adds a novelty factor to the game for some, it will not solve anything.

When I’m not littering the interwebs with my horrible golf thoughts, I am a certified Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma methodology and change management. Just like Vanilla Ice, if you got a process problem, yo I’ll solve it. That’s what I do during the day.

A fundamental tool commonly used in process improvement projects is something called a value stream map (VSM). Long story short, a VSM shows you the current state of your process, how long each process step takes to complete, and identifies/eliminates areas of waste in the process. Hence, you end up with an improved process of higher value. Get it?

Back to the problem at hand: the game of golf is not growing as fast as it should/could be. Why?

According to some of the feedback TaylorMade’s Hack Golf website has received, it’s because golf rounds take to damn long. I agree; amateur golf rounds that take more than 4 hours make me want to punch a baby. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

If we look at a golf hole as a process, we can use a VSM to identify where this problem might reside. For this example, I’ll use the last par-4 hole I played during my round last week, on which I made a bogey 5.


Next, we add the time it takes to complete each individual major step. To keep things simple, let’s say each shot only takes about 15 seconds to complete.



So, in theory the “value-added” steps in the process of playing a golf hole — or the steps I am willing to pay for as a customer — should take about 75 seconds to complete. But we all know that there’s much more to a golf hole than just swinging the club. If we add all of the walking, finding the golf ball, waiting for the group in front of you, practice swings, reading the green, and other non-value-added steps to our map (purple triangles), it looks a bit…crowded.


Yes, I was extremely generous with suggesting those waiting (waste) steps only take 90 seconds each. Some people take longer, others not so much. My point is that if we look at this example, the process step of getting the ball in the hole — to which a 15-inch cup supposedly “improves” — doesn’t take that much time now anyway. It’s all the crap leading up to getting on the green.

However, whoever is in charge of handling that voice of the customer feedback from Hack Golf just made a big no-no in the Lean Six Sigma world: jumping to solutions. What data do we have — either empirical or otherwise — that a 15-inch golf hole will speed up pace of play?

We don’t.

Adam Fonseca

Adam Fonseca is the owner and Editor of GolfUnfiltered.com. He is also he host of the Golf Unfiltered Podcast. Adam spends most of his time making a fool out of himself on Twitter. (@GolfUnfiltered)

  • nikegolftwo3

    Well done. Not to mention, how many courses are actually gonna cut 15 in holes? Not sure that would go over to well with a majority of people who show up to play and theres a man hole lid cut out of the green. “Hey I got a hole in one!” “Oh wait, its not really a hole in one, is it?”

  • BJ

    Was the goal of this initiative just to improve time or was it to also increase the amount of fun people had in a round? I agree that it won’t help much with time (maybe 10 minutes), but would it bring more fun to golfers especially beginners?

    A lower score and fewer putts would lead to more fun and potentially more golf. I am not sure if they tried to measure this at all, but you could do some type of post round survey hoping to gather data on people’s feelings after a round with Big Cups vs the feelings post round with Normal Cups. I bet these cups could decrease scores by up to 10 strokes for beginners, maybe 5-6 strokes for avid golfers.

    • Anonymous

      Good point BJ. Post-round survey data would be helpful. I’d be interested to learn how the amateur players at the event fared overall.

  • Purists would scoff and play somewhere that hasn’t converted yet. Beginners would love it but not return often enough to support course revenue needs. Course records would fall overnight. It’s like playing high school basketball on a 7 foot rim, college on an 8 footer, and pro on 10. Does the PGA Tour convert too then? The whole concept is ridiculous.

    Wanna play fast? Watch a Scotsman play a round. Fun, all feel, no yardages, on the move. No marking balls on the green and lining up putts with lines drawn on your ball. Love the game, not the process. Eliminate the ‘path only’ cart rule. If the course is too wet, sell golfers on pull carts and 9 holes. Grill room discounts or a free beer if you play in under 4 hours. Build easier courses. Place a permanent forecaddy on the toughest holes to assist with ball searches. Let them double as beer cart folks. There are a million better ideas than changing a beautiful 400-year-old game because some guy named Eldrick lost his mojo.

  • Anonymous

    You nailed this, but your generalization of the timings are misleading … the real timings would make even a stronger case against 15″ holes. Golfers take a lot more time on other shots – figuring out yardages, walking longer distances, take practice swings – than they do on their final 3 foot putt. In fact, how many golfers even take that last putt as a gimme anyway? In the end, making a longer putt will save a little time, having an easier final putt will save almost no time at all.

    The “lean” opportunity in the process resides in assessing the length of the course/holes. Players scoring better by hitting 3-wood then 9-iron will play faster than a the guy hitting driver then 4-iron (then whatever else he needs because he miss the fairway/green).

    • chicagoduffer

      You are absolutely correct, and thank you for commenting. I agree; the hypothetical times I used for the VSM are a tab misleading, but the point still rings true. Over the next few weeks I plan on digging deeper into this topic with more tools and methods.

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