Feb 12th, 2017
European Tour launch GolfSixes
In attempt to bring in a new audience
Words: John Dean
The European Tour is creating a unique six–hole team event in England in May, in an attempt to bring a new audience into the game.
GolfSixes will be held at the Centurion Golf Club near St Albans on the weekend of 6 and 7 May, and will carry a prize fund of €1m (£852,000).
In a greensomes match–play format, with the better tee shots selected at each hole, teams of two from 16 nations will play matches in a shortened version, first in four groups before knockout stages are staged on the Sunday.
“It is a trial, that’s what this is,” said CEO Keith Pelley. “It is another opportunity to try something different then follow that up with significant consumer research with the people who attend or those who view it across multiple platforms. It is very much an entertainment product. Depending how things go at Centurion, eventually you might want to build something [a venue] custom made for this.
“I think this is just an incredibly different way of showcasing our game. We will have music on the 1st tee, fireworks on the 1st tee, it will be an entertaining golf product.
“The future of it? Who knows. We wanted to experiment with a completely new format then go into the market and test that. It really has been a fun exercise to sit in a room and think about where this could go; having different countries generates incredible passion. This is created for a younger audience, for people who haven’t necessarily experienced our game as much. We want to get them engaged.
“We are all part of this evolution of the game as we look at making some modern changes to adapt to the changing habits of consumers. Some things we will get right, some things we will get wrong, but we are totally comfortable with that.”
Sky Sports has committed to live broadcast, but there is an element of financial risk for the Tour.
“This is a stand–alone event that we are absorbing and funding,” said Pelley. “If someone wants to come in this year, great, but it is very much proof of concept. Build it and they will come.”
Competitors will wear microphones during play, and will receive a minimum of €15,000 for playing, with the winning team walking off with €100,000 each.
The strength of the field of course remains to be seen, and the Players Championship, which is held on 11–14 May, will inevitably limit the appearance of the European Tour’s leading names.
“If you move ahead five years from now, I can’t see that players won’t all be wearing microphones,” Pelley insisted. “Sport is moving that way; people want to hear from the stars.”
Pelley described Thursday and Friday of existing events as “a challenge”, before adding: “We will address that in 2018.” On the wider point of golf’s need for change, the Canadian clearly has strong thoughts.
“We have to continually look to modernise,” he said. “There will always be a 72–hole tournament. There will always be 18–hole strokeplay, that is the pinnacle of our game. There will always be integrity and tradition.
“But I do believe with the future of our game it is going to be difficult to sustain 72–hole tournaments with more than 120 players on a weekly basis. The majors will continue to grow, the World Golf Championships will grow, the Rolex Series will grow, and then there will be new formats that can be adapted by different promoters and countries to generate excitement.”
Music, lights, action (oh, and fireworks): they’ve got to give it a go. And we will support any innovation that tries to bring the game to a new audience.
It has been our agenda forever, so it is good to see people catching up and paying attention. But KP still hasn’t given us a bell yet….