Society & Success

Making golf a game that excites the viewer

Golfer Greg Snow  during  the  KCB Karen Masters at Karen Country club in March. file photo | nmg
Golfer Greg Snow during the KCB Karen Masters at Karen Country club in March. file photo | nmg 

The entry of TV revenues in sport globally and the advent of technology has changed not only the way sport is viewed but also how it is played.

Rugby Sevens quickly became the darling of TV at the expense of Rugby 15s – the TV fans were more interested in the fast-paced, agile and shorter version of the sport we are told.

In cricket, few and fewer fans wanted to follow one match for days, not good for TV and hence the birth of cricket Twenty20, a shorter version of the game and great for TV.

Event badminton and table tennis changed their scoring rules to improve the viewer experience, as did Netball.

But golf has remained in two basic versions, match play or stroke play over 18-holes and often over multiple days. And whilst the scoring system in golf is straightforward for those who understand the game, it can get complicated for non-golfers.

One of the biggest challenges to the growth of golf has been TIME; golf as a sport demands a lot of time with a typical 18-hole round requiring up to five hours to complete.

Add to this the travel time to and from the golf course and one round of golf will consume seven or more hours of your day!

And whilst technology, especially in ball tracking, swing analysis and statistics has greatly improved the viewer experience, watching golf all night or all day is frankly boring!

What then can be done to improve the appeal of golf both on the golf course and on TV? Can the game create its own Twenty20?

In February 2017, the PGA Tour Australasia, the European Tour and Asian Tour got together and hosted the World Super 6 Perth in Australia.

This event combine 54-holes of stroke play on three days followed by a six-hole knockout match play format for the fourth and final round (http://www.worldsuper6perth.com).

In this format and in the final round, matches not decided after the six-hole knock out would be decided in a shoot-out.

In the case at the Lake Karrinyup Country Club in Perth, the shoot-out was on a purpose-built 90-metre hole to the 18th hole.

With golf being traditional in nature, reactions to the new format were wide and varied.

For example, Brett Rumford had a five shot lead after 54-holes, but that was deleted and replaced with the number one seed and a round one bye in Round Four.

In a traditional Tour event, a five shot lead going into round four would be a huge advantage.

South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen lost to Adam Bland in the quarters after playing the shoot-out hole three times. Speaking after the event, Oosthuizen said that he enjoyed the concept.

“I think they’ve got a good concept. I think a few tweaks here and there would make it really good, but, yeah, I mean it’s nerve racking standing on that little 66 metre hole and, you know, every time I was there I was second off and my playing partner would hit it stiff so it’s nice pressure and good fun,” he said.

“So I think there’s potential where they can move a few things around on this golf course and do it their way. But the format and the way it sets up, the idea is brilliant.”

According to the PGA Tour of Australasia chief commercial officer, Stephen Ayles, the new format appeals to a wider audience.

“The whole event is based on making it easier to watch for a different demographic than traditional golf fans,” he said.

“The format acknowledges that fans and players have less time for the game. We have tried to make the final day far more cutthroat, far more punchy and very much time-bound.”

And with the knock-out matches taking no more than 45 mins as opposed to the 4 to 5 hours it takes players to complete 18 holes, this format is more appealing.

But can golf change? Can this traditional golf turn a leaf? Only time will tell.