The GolfSixes may have caught your attention this week.
In an attempt to spread golf to a new audience – a younger group – the European Tour have introduced a shorter format of the game with a number of innovative features.
In this competition, players represent their nation in a Greensomes Matchplay format over six holes. 16 teams in 4 groups play a round-robin schedule with the top two teams in each group qualifying for the last 8 which then becomes a straight knockout.
There are a number of extras which add to the different feeling:
- Women play directly against the men
- The dress code is more relaxed than usual, with the men permitted to wear shorts.
- There is a 30 second shot-clock on one hole with penalties for taking too long.
- A DJ features on the poolside final hole, where players take their shots with music blearing out in the background.
- The playoff in the event of a tied match involves a nearest the pin competition.
This year’s event was the third edition and perhaps the most successful yet, with the sunshine of Portugal replacing the cold of England and a great winning story of the Thailand team represented by 49 year old Thongchai Jaidee, who threw a hole-in-one into the mix on the first day.
Versions of GolfSixes for junior golfers are available and slowly growing in popularity. Overall however, this attempt to emulate the success of cricket’s Twenty20 is evolving but still has some way to go.
It is not the first attempt to pitch golf to a younger digital generation. A few years ago the celebrated former Walker Cup player and Captain Peter McEvoy threw his weight behind a concept called PowerPlay golf that involved two holes on each green and called for strategy in choosing the easy or difficult choice, which offered extra points. Ultimately, like every other attempt to make golf cooler, it fell short and disappeared as traditional clubs avoided the complicated set-up necessary and perhaps saw nothing wrong with the existing format choices.
Has GolfSixes finally found the answer as golf’s best shorter version? Let me introduce you to an alternative –
Super 8 Golf
The concept – Players compete over 8 holes with a maximum of 8 golf clubs.
I know. I know. You are thinking that the ultra-powerful manufacturers would never allow the maximum number of clubs to be reduced as it would potentially hit their sales.
Well – hear me out. What we are talking about here is not a replacement for the traditional golfing formats but a new and exciting addition – so players would maintain their 14 club sets for their regular games.
In fact Super 8 would encourage golfers to purchase specific clubs that would fulfill a number of different roles that would be needed to cover for the inevitable gaps in the set. For example, we could expect smaller headed 12 degree Drivers that can be used from the fairway to have a spike in sales. Likewise the medium bounced 52-54 degree wedges that can cover shots from the fairway, sand and around the greens.
What this would bring, of course, is a level of creativity back into the game as players are forced to manufacture different types of shot with limited club selection. Super 8 lends itself perfectly for hickories, the ultimate test of a golfers imagination and feel as every club is unique.
Whilst playing a match over 8 holes is perfect for the golfer with a spare 90 minutes, in truth Super 8 can be played over any number of holes that a group agrees upon. 3 hole matches are quick and fun, but likewise a 36-hole foursome contest with a liquid lunch is perfectly acceptable.
Scoring: Traditional match-play or stroke-play are ideal scoring formats for Super 8. For those that want something different and more forgiving, however, a points system is recommended:
- Eagle or better = 5 pts
- Birdie = 2pts
- Par = 0 pts
- Bogey = -1 pts
- Double Bogey or worse = -3pts
This system is used with the traditional handicap method and encourages positive play, with the benefit of a birdie worth double the penalty of a bogey as opposed to normal stroke-play when one would cancel out the other.
Speed of play – It is essential for any golfers enjoyment that the game is played at a good pace. The limited club selection and points system of Super 8 both encourage this. In addition, players should be given just 2 minutes to search for a lost ball. In the event of an unsuccessful search, a ball should be dropped in the rough near to where it was lost at the penalty of one stroke.
Extras – There are a number of extras that can be added to the Super 8 format, and indeed side bets are encouraged.
An interesting element to add when using the points scoring system is allowing each player or team to have one Joker use per round. The joker is played at the beginning of a hole and allows for double points on that hole. This adds an element of pressure given that a bogey or worse will also be doubled but a birdie or better can transform the course of the round.
There are loads of other extras that can be included – for example a bonus point for nearest the pin on the short holes – but a key element of Super 8 is the flexibility – golfers can alter the format slightly to their personal choice.