The 'Chicken Run' in Golf: What It Means

"Chicken run" is a term for a type of golf tournament. And while you might not have heard of a chicken run tournament before, you probably do know what it is — synonyms include "twilight tournament" and "sundowner."

A "chicken run" is any golf tournament that is played in the late afternoon and over nine holes. Typically, a chicken run tees off after the workday ends, on one of the long weekday afternoons of summer when the sun stays up just long enough for all those playing to complete the 9-hole round.

Note that in many places that use the term "chicken run" for such an event (it is used in South Africa, the U.K. and Australia, among others), the tournament is typically played using Stableford scoring. But the specific format is up to organizers.

In a chicken run tournament, all the golfers are trying to beat the sunset, as well as each other. Such tournaments are popular with golf associations, particularly those based at municipal courses or small-town-area, nine-hole golf courses.

Where does the term come from? We can't say exactly. But one theory we've heard is that in South Africa (where the term is more common than in other golf hotbeds), small clubs out in the country used to offer as a prize for such tournaments a freshly slaughtered chicken for the winner to take home for dinner. Winner winner, chicken dinner.

Is that truly the phrase origin? Who knows. But it's a good story. And some clubs today hew to that tradition by offering not a freshly slaughered chicken as the prize, but gift cards to a KFC or other chicken fast food restaurant.

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