Jun. 10—TRAVERSE CITY — When Adam Lorton had kids, he could no longer justify being out of the house for 4.5 hours at a time to play an 18-hole round of golf.
So he found out about speedgolf, where golfers play nine holes in 30 minutes.
That allowed him to maintain his fitness goal and still play the game.
Recently Lorton founded a speedgolf league at Elmbrook Golf Course in Traverse City.
They tee off at 7 a.m. Fridays to give golfers a workout with enough time to get to work later in the day.
"Speedgolf is exactly what it sounds like: it's golf plus running," Lorton said.
A golfer's score is the number of strokes they finish nine holes in, plus the time in minutes it took them to complete the holes. For example: 36 strokes in 30 minutes would yield a score of 76.
Lorton said competitive speedgolfers can finish the front nine at Elmbrook in about 20 minutes.
"30 minutes is not an unreasonable promise," Lorton said. "With three of us — two guys who had never played speedgolf before and me — we got around in 42 minutes."
Many golfers approach speedgolf expecting both their scores to tank and the relaxation element of the game to go away.
"I was skeptical that I would have any fun and skeptical that I would play any level of quality golf," Lorton said.
Lorton said to his surprise and delight, neither of those things turned out to be true.
"It turns out, my scores are about the same when I play speed golf, and because of playing sped up, I think my regular golf game has got better," Lorton said. "And there's still plenty of time to enjoy the enjoy the scenery, enjoy the outdoors, even when you're playing speedgolf."
He said why that may be is although speedgolfers lose shots with the pace of play, they also gain shots by thinking less about them.
Cameron Rondeau, 35, played with Lorton at the inaugural round of speedgolf at Elmbrook May 21.
Rondeau said he liked golfing and running, but wasn't great at either.
"It sounded like the best of both worlds," said Rondeau, who works as an accountant at Munson Medical Center. "By nine holes I'm usually ready to be done, and usually after a few miles I'm ready to be done running. So a quick 45 minute round of golf getting a few miles of running in sounded pretty fun to me."
Rondeau said he didn't even know what he shot or how long it took him to complete the course. Lorton kept score. By the time he reached the ninth hole, he didn't even realize the round was over.
"You hit and you don't have time to be upset about how bad it was," Rondeau said.
Competitive speedgolf has a small, but dedicated, following.
Last year Lorton played in weekend 36-hole tournaments in Kentucky and Minnesota. In those, tournament managers will typically set a par time for the course.
Worldwide the sport has been played in England, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, according to US Speedgolf.
Lorton partnered with Elmbrook to be the first course in northern Michigan to offer the variant. They were the obvious partner for a number of reasons.
"By offering speedgolf, we can fill more early morning tee times," said Cindy Johnson, general manager of Elmbrook Golf Course. "At Elmbrook, we are always working to keep the game fresh and fun. Whether it's speedgolf, foot golf, night golf, or disc golf, you can find it at Elmbrook."
Lorton said he had to check with the maintenance managers at Elmbrook just to make sure if they wouldn't mind golfers running on the fairways in golf spikes as they approach their balls.
"They said 'we think you guys are nuts, we can't imagine why anyone would really want to do this, but sure, go for it,'" Lorton recalled.
The league at Elmbrook tees off around 7 a.m. Fridays.
It costs $15 to play nine holes.
For those interested in playing visit tcspeedgolf.com
Follow Andrew Rosenthal on Twitter @ByAndrewR