Last weekend saw the PGA Tour present a new format for their players at the Zurich Classic. Instead of the run of the mill 4 rounds of golf the event was played as a two man team event with four ball betterball scoring. This was the first team event on the Tour for 36 years and received praise from all parties concerned. The players found it more fun than a normal tournament and it was evident from their behaviour that they enjoyed the different format and the scoring was fantastic. The sponsors were rewarded with a much stronger field than normal and the number of spectators also saw an increase on previous years and early indications are that the all important TV ratings were very good. Sunday nights finish couldn’t have been more dramatic with Kevin Kisner pitching in for an eagle 3 to tie Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt. His celebrations are well worth watching and clearly showed how seriously the golfers took this event. It was unfortunate that due to the weather the play off had to be postponed till the Monday and so much or the interest and momentum was lost but for Smith and Blixt who triumphed on the fourth play off hole and in particular for Smith whose maiden victory on Tour this was it was a season changing Monday.
This coming weekend the European Tour also tries a different format too with golfers competing over 6 holes instead of the usual 18. Advertised as “its golf but not as you know it “ its an attempt to attract more interest from non golfers. In an effort to modernise the sport players have been organised into 16 teams representing their countries and will walk onto the first tee to sound of music and with fireworks accompanying them. There is a time limit on the amount of time a golfer can take with a stroke penalty for offenders and the whole event is geared to reducing the amount of time a round takes hopefully then attracting more people to try the game. The field isn’t of the highest quality with Andy Sullivan being the top ranked player participating but that isn’t the point its all about trying to modernise the way the game is perceived by the general public and generating much needed interest especially amongst the younger age groups.
Both Tours are to be congratulated for trying something different to capture the imagination of the public and it will be interesting to see what the outcomes will be. The danger is that in an effort to modernise the sport, the traditions and values of the game may well be jeopardised. There are very few short golf courses in the UK where you can just play six holes certainly there aren’t many golf clubs where you can have a similar experience to what the professionals will have at St. Albans so whatever the interest generated it wont be easy to convert that into much needed new players for the game.