Commentary: Changing the boring stroke-play diet

Luke Donald during the 2011 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

If golf was looking for an innovative tournament to break up the steady diet of moribund 72-hole stroke play events, then this week’s Sunningdale Foursomes could provide inspiration.

The Sunningdale Foursomes, which starts March 15, is legendary in the United Kingdom. Forget the Masters – as far as many in Great Britain are concerned, the Sunningdale Foursomes signals the start of the golf season.

This unique event was inaugurated in 1934, the same year the Masters started. Unlike that little get together at Augusta National, though, the Sunningdale soiree is much more low key. In fact, it’s the epitome of understatement.

The beauty of this tournament is that it brings professionals and amateurs, men and women together. Good amateurs and club professionals can find themselves playing against former Tour winners on both the European and Ladies European tours.

“It’s the highlight of my year,” is Paul Anderson’s take. Anderson is the club professional at The Berkshire Golf club. He plays every year with good friend Albert Mackenzie, professional at Saunton Golf Club.

“It’s a unique tournament. It’s as much a social event as it is competitive. It’s a chance for old friends to get together. And it really kick-starts the golf season,” Anderson said.

Not just old friends, but families, too. Sam Torrance and his son, Daniel, have teamed up together in the past. It’s not just fathers and sons who get together, but mothers and sons, and fathers and daughters, too. Jim Christine, long time professional at Worpelsdon Golf Club, will play this year with daughter Felicity. A few years ago, Sunningdale member Carole Caldwell won alongside son Richard.

Euro Tour winners Jamie Spence and Robert Lee team up this week. Curtis Cup players in the field include Carly Booth and Danielle Masters. Ladies European Tour members include Kirsty Taylor and Joanne Morley.

Past winners of this tournament read like a who’s who of British golf. Joyce Wethered, Dai Rees, Alf Padgham, Max Faulkner, Brian Hugget, Peter Alliss, Sir Michael Bonallack, Neil Coles, Peter Oosterhuis, Sam Torrance, Ronan Rafferty, Russell Claydon, Richard Boxall, Steve Webster, Anthony Wall, Luke Donald and Helen Wadsworth are just some of the names on the trophy.

Sunningdale is where Bobby Jones once put together what many thought was the perfect score, a 6-under-par 66 that consisted of 33 putts and 33 long shots. Many consider the two courses, the Old and the New, to be among the best inland tracts in the British Isles.

Needless to say, Sunningdale is on the must play list of true aficionados. More importantly, the Sunningdale Foursomes should be on the must copy list for any would be tournament host wanting to break free of 72-hole drudgery.

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