How to Really Grow the Game

By Tyler Olson

                Everyone’s always talking about the next best way to “grow the game.” Golf’s been in a tough economic spot for the past few years due to a dwindling base of players and we want to find a way to sustain the game we love by sharing it with others.

Some of the ideas have been, well, interesting.

HACK-Golfs-TaylorMade-15-Inch-Hole-Event-600x387Taylormade sponsored a series of tournaments across the country with 15-inch wide holes. The idea was that it would make the game quicker and more fun by making putting easier.

 

footgolfSome have advocated Footgolf as the saving grace for our courses. Footgolf is essentially the same idea as golf but with the golf ball replaced by a soccer ball and clubs replaced with feet. Theoretically, by bringing out the fan base of the most popular sport in the world to spend time (and money) at golf courses playing Footgolf, courses would be able to stay open despite the decline in traditional golf.

Others believe that the biggest problem golf faces in the 21st century is that it takes too long. They say making six-hole rounds the norm would bring more golfers into the fold by making the sport more convenient to play.

I don’t really believe that. People nowadays have time to binge watch entire series in one day or go and see movies in the theatre still, so why can’t people dedicate 90 minutes of their weekend to playing golf?

While all these ideas may have their place in growing golf for the future, they don’t address what I believe is at the base of golf’s issues; its image problem.

The biggest issue facing golf is the perception that it’s boring. It’s too slow a game, they say. It’s for old people and nerds, people jeer. None of those solutions will fix that fundamental problem.

The Australian and European tours, however, might have just figured it out. This past weekend they rolled out a first of its kind tournament, the World Super Six in Perth.

The Super Six combines stroke play with match play with the recreational games we all play in the member guest tournament in our own clubs.

The first two days are simple stroke play the way any tournament on the PGA Tour or the European Tour would be. There’s a cut after the second round that whittles the field down to the top 65 and ties.

The third day is also stroke play, but there’s a secondary cut that brings the total number of players in the field down to the top 24.

Here’s where it gets fun. According to the World Super Six website, “If after the third round there are any ties for the 24th position, the players to advance will be determined by a sudden death playoff….”

Heck. Yes. Playoffs after the third round? This already sounds amazing.

But it gets better.

“The leading 24 players,” the website says, “Will battle it out over six-hole matches [on the final day] until one man is left standing.”

Where do I buy a ticket? Where is this tournament streaming? Take my money now so I can watch this!

Yet still, it gets even better.

Any matches not decided after the six holes (which, let’s be honest, with these pros, will be a lot) will go to a final shootout hole. The shootout hole is a par-three of about 100 yards. If the players tie on the shootout hole, then they will walk back to the tee and have a closest to the pin contest to decide the winner of the match.

This rule also applies to the final match of the tournament, so there is a very legitimate change that the tournament could be decided by a closest to the pin contest.

Imagine this:

Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy walk back to the tee of the picturesque 18th hole on Congressional’s Gold Course. The two of them are going head to head in the final match of the first Super Six format tournament held by the PGA Tour.

After both draining ten-footers for birdie on the shootout hole, a closest to the pin contest will decide the winner after a grueling yet thrilling day of match play for both. One swing per man. The normally extroverted players walk side-by-side in uncomfortable silence down the cartpath.

At the tee, Spieth goes first. He sizes up the shot and deliberates with Greller, who eventually convinces him to go with the hard sand wedge instead of the soft gap wedge on this swing ­– the wind shifted in the previous couple minutes.

Spieth puts his typical sweet swing on the ball and it tracks right at the pin.

“Go ball… go ball… go!” he implores of his Titleist.

It lands just on the green, takes one big hop, and cozies up within five feet of the hole. The crowd goes insane.

Next, McIlroy steps up to the tee. He’s already talked with his caddie and knows exactly the shot he wants to hit, so he just stares down the green then squares up to his ball.

McIlroy’s shot balloons into the air and appears like it’s about to go over the green. The crowd lets out a worried gasp before the shot suddenly begins a steep descent at the putting surface.

The ball hits about ten feet past the pin and zips back towards the hole. It rolls by the pin and right at Spieth’s ball, then stops just a foot short of it. Four feet from the pin.

McIlroy unleashes a viscous fist pump while Spieth can do nothing but stand and applaud the beautiful shot while the gallery behind him jumps up and down, amazed by what they just saw.

Would you want to watch that on TV? Because I’d watch that. In fact, I think a lot of people would watch that and afterword change their preconceptions about golf being “boring” or “for nerds.”

If we want to really make golf a game everybody plays, then we need to make it a game the everyman will be interested in. Incorporating the “Super Six” format on the PGA Tour would be a great step towards doing that.

Listen to the newest episode of the Golf Swagger Podcast on SoundCloud for more on this and other hot topics in the golf world: https://soundcloud.com/user-14865852/golf-swagger-podcast-episode-3

Tyler Olson is a blogging and social media intern for the Game of Golf Institute. He is a freshman at Penn State University majoring in broadcast journalism and political science. Tyler enjoys telling stories about his glory days as a high school golf phenom (that is debatable) and sneaking on his local golf courses after dark and hitting range balls because #TheGrindNeverStops. Follow him on Twitter @TylerOlson1791 and the Game of Golf Institute’s official account @mygogi

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