In February 2017, Sports Shorts wrote about the European Tour’s new short form golf tournament, Golf Sixes. As a reminder, Golf Sixes was billed as a ‘revolutionary and novel short form of the game’ which is designed to ‘embrace innovation and originality in professional golf’. The inaugural Golf Sixes event took place at the Centurion Club near St Albans on 6-7 May 2017 and featured two-man teams from 16 nations. The teams were split into four groups of four following which the top two teams from each group progressed to the knockout stages: the quarter-finals, the semi-finals, a play-off match for third and fourth place and the final. Uniquely for golf, a sport that maintains a world record longest play-off of 5 days and 144 holes, each stage of the knockout took place on one day, Sunday 7 May.
The event at the Centurion Club boasted a EUR 1million prize fund and featured teams from nations such as England (Ryder Cup players Chris Wood and Andy Sullivan), Scotland, the USA and South Africa. With the promise of an ‘abundance of entertainment for spectators’, did Golf Sixes hit the mark?
Commentary of the inaugural event can be summarised as follows:
- The general concept ‘proved popular with players and fans and [has] established itself as the blueprint for the sport’s version of cricket’s Twenty20 format’ and ‘is just what golf needs with the current perception that it is increasingly losing out because it takes too long to play and watch’;
- But the level of the participants led some to question ‘what would this all be like if it was actually being played seriously, and by better players?’;
- The spectator entertainment on the one hand created an ‘engaging atmosphere’ but on the other hand led some to question whether Golf Sixes was ‘the future of golf or just another marketing gimmick’;
- Coming under particular fire was the celebrity-style presentation of the programme that ‘grated’ and commentary that ‘insulted’ the intelligence of viewers;
- The introduction of the shot clocks received the English players’ support: the players were given 40 seconds for each stroke in the first three rounds reducing down to 30 seconds for the fourth round which was described as a ‘great idea’; and
- Importantly, the players, officials and one celebrity spectator enjoyed the event with one official describing it as a type of ‘golf game [that] is not going away’.
That last comment will be music to the ears of the Chief Executive of the European Tour, Keith Pelley, and the pioneer of Golf Sixes. Reflecting after the conclusion of the event at the Centurion Club, Pelley stated ‘[t]here needs to be another way to attract the younger generation. Is this the answer? Maybe, and we will take what is good out of this and build on it… It will definitely be back next year’.
It appears that Golf Sixes may not have got the ratio of sport:entertainment quite right just yet. However, in this author’s opinion, a form of golf that is more attractive to millennials, inclusive, can be played at night or within a city, and introduces (or brings back depending on your point of view) an element of fun to the game can only be a positive thing. Roll on (sorry) the next edition and the next iteration of Golf Sixes.