Innovation is the key to the future of any sport and golf is no exception. The need to lure in more players, audiences and sponsors have led Tours and organisers to look for unique formats and modifying the traditional 72-hole 4-round set-up in pro golf. The European Tour has been the leader in this world of golfing innovations.
Golf at the Edinburgh Castle may sound seem unusual, but it does bring in more viewers. One of Scotland’s ‘must-visit’ Heritage site will see six top golfers led by Ian Poulter, often called ‘Mr. Ryder Cup’ in an unique event, which includes India’s latest wonderboy and Shubhankar Sharma, for the Hero Challenge on Tuesday-Wednesdaynight under the lights for live TV.
Keith Pelley, 53, who came to head the European Tour, after serving as President of Rogers Media, embraced ‘change’ and innovation like none before in golf, and brought in music, pyrotechnics and entertainment into the sport.
For the Hero Challenge series, he found a perfect ally in Hero group’s Chairman, Pawan Munjal, whose golfing interest have a global span including Tiger Woods’ tournament and sponsorship.
This series has been one of European Tour’s biggest innovations and has been a massive hit with TV audiences. It packages golf as an hour-long ‘entertainment package’ at sites like the Edinburgh Castle and Jumeirah Beach, Dubai and there is more to come.
In recent times, European Tour has had the ‘Super 6 Perth’, a mix of stroke play and knock out format for the pros; The ‘Golf Sixes’ with 16 two-player teams and mixed gender teams in the competition; and the 72-hole four-round ‘Shot Clock Masters’ in Austria, with two cuts, saw players being allowed only 50 and 40 seconds for various shots.
While the Super 6, Golf Sixes and Shot Clock Masters have had professionals playing for money, the Hero Challenge has so far been a ‘fun’ event. But, it may not be long before further changes could turn into a proper pro event.
Other ‘fun’ events, which don’t fetch pros money that counts towards their Order of Merit places, have however ‘fetched’ additional audiences on social media. The “Beat the Pro” built into a pro event like at the KLM Open last year, where amateurs hit a shot on a par-3 alongside the pros in the event, was a success as was the ‘Fastest Par-5 hole’ contest. That saw a group of players from Spain, France and Denmark compete against each. The French foursome won – they played the Par-5 in 34.8 seconds.
That’s right 34.8 seconds. It was golf’s version of ‘Fast and furious’. Stay tuned.
About the Author
V Krishnaswamy is India's most widely travelled journalist. He has covered more than 20 Majors, Presidents Cup, EurAsia Cup and more than 120 international golf tournaments around the world. He has also covered seven Olympic Games, 8 Asian Games and 6 Commonwealth Games besides numerous World Championships in various sports.