Golf gets a makeover with the inaugural GolfSixes Associated Press via USAToday.com
Walk-out music. Pyrotechnics. A long-drive competition. Shot clocks. Mic'd-up players.
Golf gets another makeover this weekend when the European Tour rolls out its latest attempt at innovation, the inaugural GolfSixes tournament at the Centurion Club in St Albans, southern England.
Played over two days, GolfSixes is a six-hole match play event featuring two-man teams from 16 different countries competing for a prize fund of 1 million euros ($1.1 million).
I completely understand where the idea of GolfSixes come from. Sports entertainment is a competitive business and golf is falling behind. Credit is due to the European Tour for coming up with an idea meant to fight back a bit.
The format of the matches themselves is interesting. The idea of relatively quick 6-hole matches is a good one. If it encourages a quicker format of the game to take hold on weekends on local courses it could be a revolution.
I am concerned that adding spice to golf may not be the answer. There is a core of fans out there that appreciate watching golf for precisely what it has always been. Golf's image relies on traditions as much as anything else. Golf has always fostered the appearance of ladies and gentlemen playing the game with respect for each other in a dignified and reserved atmosphere. We cringe when someone in the crowd shouts "MASHED POTATOES" because that sort of thing simply doesn't belong. We chastise a player who shows too much emotion with a thrown club or profanity. Absolute quiet from the crowds during every shot is not just requested but expected. I don't see where walk-out music and fireworks fit into that image at all.
There are the exceptions of course. The energy and excitement of a good Ryder Cup match is hard to beat. Last year's match between Reed and McIlroy was filled with energy, gamesmanship, and good humor. I'm not sure having the players march out to "Eye of the Tiger" in a shower of sparks would have improved that match very much.
I'll be watching the matches and I hope they succeed. Professional sports are entertainment after all. I'm just concerned that jazzing up golf like it's some sort of MMA title fight isn't the answer. These matches could very well be more of an embarrassment than an improvement.