David Howell: HAS a new dawn begun in the world of professional golf with the Inaugural ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth taking place last month down in sunny Western Australia. If you didn’t catch the tournament on television then the basics are 54 holes of stroke play to take the field down to 24 players who then play a match play competion on the final day over 6 holes.
The feedback was that as a concept it certainly has legs. The players seemed to like it in general, and with a few tweaks and the right venue it could be a real winner. With crowds spread over 6 holes, the chances of creating a fun-filled atmosphere are much increased. With all the action being over a shorter time frame everything is more intense. It has the possibility of being a great new concept, Twenty20 cricket being the obvious parallel, which has been a huge success worldwide.
Next up at the Centurian Club, St Albans, in the UK on March 5-6 is the European Tour’s next version of this type of format with the GolfSixes event taking place. This time it’s more of a stand-alone fun concept, again over 6 holes but this time in a pairs format, country versus country. Hopefully, it will have more of a party atmosphere where they will try and jazz things up a little.
So expect music, lights and all things bright and breezy in an attempt to aid the fun element. It’s a laudable initiative from the Tour to try and bring something different to the world of golf. If it turns out to be more fun for people to watch live, and more family orientated, too, then it has the potential to start to grow participation numbers once again. There are drawbacks, however, to these short formats. With many more stroke play matches being halved it means that many more matches will need to go to a play-off. This causes delays, and, in some way, goes against the concept of short, sharp matches.
World Super 6
From a purely golfing standpoint it could become a little unfair. In the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth, local boy Brett Rumford won the stroke play element by five shots. Thankfully, he went onto win the whole tournament in fine style. Had he lost his first round match he would have finished in 9th. place. Trust me, he would have felt hard done by had that happened. When it does there will be some negativity. We, as players, have learned to play the game as marathon runners.
Four rounds is a lot of golf
I guess, four rounds is a lot of golf, every shot counts and to win you have to take all that pressure that builds up into a crescendo over the final holes. The better players have the best chance of winning a longer race. Shortening the distance levels the playing field dramatically. But with the stroke play element still present in terms of qualifying, it seems to tick quite a few boxes. Whether the world’s top players would like it is questionable but maybe they wouldn’t mind a pop at a shortened event from time to time. Yet I guess that only if they were to see an incredible atmosphere at the event would they throw their hat in the Sixes ring.
For the most part, this first-ever running of the concept has been positive so don’t be surprised if you see a few more events pop up in a similar vein. From my perspective, I think there is room for a few and when the time is right I look forward to taking part. I can imagine the buzz of starting a match all square with 6 to play. It must get the juices flowing for sure. But I would also like to see the introduction of some new ideas at 72 hole events, such as more crowd interaction in some way, maybe not expecting silence all the time, could change things for the better.
72 hole stroke play is still fun
It’s odd that we never get put off on a Tuesday by noise but then we do on a tournament day. Constant noise has never been a problem, finding ways to get people to an event and into a situation where they make plenty of noise is more the problem we face. Whilst novel new formats could pull in the crowds let’s not shy away from trying to make the 72 hole stroke play event an enjoyable experience that golf fans and families consider a good day out.
So there you have it: 2017 was the year the European Tour came up with a few new ideas; the Rolex Series begins, with the aim of bringing the highest calibre of players together again at some of our most well respected events; and some of the smaller events have begun to try something a little different to bring a little pizzazz to the proceedings.
6 hole concept is a winner
All in all, it could be an excellent year. Only time will tell but by the end of the season we will know a whole lot more about the future of golf on this side of the Atlantic. I guess the ultimate test will be to see if the US PGA Tour follows suit in some way. They have a pairs event planned for later on this season. Watch this space to find out if they, too, think the 6-hole concept is a winner.