While not perfect, GolfSixes proves self as worthy alternative to golf's norm

GolfSixes Getty Images

While not perfect, GolfSixes proves self as worthy alternative to golf's norm

Euro Tour

While not perfect, GolfSixes proves self as worthy alternative to golf's norm

ST ALBANS, England – European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley promised a golf competition with a difference. He duly delivered on the opening day of the $1.1 million GolfSixes tournament.

Not many golf tournaments start with players greeted with dry ice on the first tee. Nor do we often get announcers whipping up the crowd.

Local radio DJ Andy Collins beseeched the crowd to make noise when the opening tee shots were in the air, calling on them to cheer when the ball landed on the par-3 first hole, and groan when a ball missed the green.

The crowd of several hundred had no problem following instructions. The European Tour hasn’t heard this much noise to start a tournament since Colin Montgomerie barked at a fan for rustling a candy wrapper back in the 1990s.

Over 4,000 fans turned up to watch Pelley’s innovative format of six-hole greensome matches complete with longest drive and closest to the pin competitions. Children had flags painted on their faces, some fans wrapped themselves in national flags as they followed the action. Players took time to interact with fans. Throw in a shot clock on the fourth hole and announcers on each of the six holes and we had a golf tournament, but not just as we know it.

Despite a few minor flaws, the players welcomed the tournament with open arms.

“I’ve enjoyed the whole format,” England’s Andy Sullivan said. “I think they’ve done it really, really well. I think it’s a big success and I’d like to see more of it.”

Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard was another convert.

“I really enjoyed that atmosphere,” Bjerregaard said. “I saw a lot of people out here. It seems like they were having fun, a lot of guys drinking beers and having a good time, and I think that’s awesome. I think that’s what this event is all about.”

Sullivan’s playing partner Chris Wood said there was no reason the tournament had to be confined to England or the European Tour.

“I’m definitely up for taking it around the world,” Wood said. “Imagine this in Manchester, or it could be in New York or in Paris.”

For the record, England, Denmark, Thailand, Scotland, Portugal, Australia, France and Italy made it through to Sunday’s knockout stages.

Pelley admitted on the eve of the event that there was an element of making up this tournament as it went along. That much was obvious on the opening morning.

Teams were announced on the first tee, but not individual players. It wouldn’t have been hard to announce individuals on the first tee, or subsequent tees. The third tee announcer said: “And now on the tee, our man from England.”

Identifying Chris Wood and Andy Sullivan isn’t hard. Wood is six foot six inches tall while Sullivan is about eight inches shorter.

The man on the third tee wasn’t the only guilty announcer. Identification of players was almost non-existent on every hole. If Pelley’s trying to take golf to new audiences, then he needs to help new fans get to know the players.

The much-hyped shot clock only applies to the fourth hole when the impression was given it would be used throughout the tournament. It should be used on every hole since one of the tournament’s raison d’etres is to promote quick golf.

GolfSixes will never replace traditional 72-hole stroke play golf, but there’s plenty of scope in a near 52-week schedule for something a little different. Let’s give Pelley and the European Tour full marks for trying to shake up golf’s staid image.

GolfSixes should be here to stay.

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