In a world of instantaneously accessible entertainment and ever-growing sporting options, Australian golf is crying out for something… but what?
As the smallest populated continent (besides Antarctica), it is unreasonable to think that we have enough traditionalist participants to sustain the longevity of the sport solely in its traditional form. To look at what is being done in golf in other parts of the world is simply not enough. We as an industry need to gain an understanding of the market that is the Australian population and build a product to engage viewers from the entertainment that currently captures them.
It doesn’t seem impractical to assume that the majority would agree golf requires a much higher level of entertainment to succeed in this country.
Look at some of our sporting industry competitors. Cricket at the domestic level has seen the implementation of the short form, Big Bash, 20-over model, capturing crowds that were lost from the sport and reigniting a fire in a new and old fan base. By limiting the time it takes to achieve a final result, increasing demand on the players to perform quicker has led to a heightened level of mistake probability and therefore amplified excitement. Entertainment!
Golf has the ability to do this too! Addressing the format in which it is played seems like a relevant place to start; 18 holes that take anywhere from four to six hours to complete, four days in a row before you achieve a result? Well that just isn’t going to cut it. I fell asleep explaining it.
The future of golf needs a shortened format but just as importantly one that provides more frequent results.
Done. Now for the entertainment.
Sure, good golf is entertaining to those who play the game but how do we engage the non-golfer? By heightening the probability for mistakes and increasing the reward for taking risks to encourage more courageous, edge-of-the-seat-type play, with the addition of common society gatherings, enforcing the amount of time a player is permitted to hit each shot and an accommodating venue to amplify the above aspects.
“Sure, good golf is entertaining to those who play the game but how do we engage the non-golfer?”
Adopting a field structure similar to that of a surfing event seems like a great place to begin: heats consisting of three players, playing a shortened number of holes of strokeplay where one player advances, one enters a knockout elimination round and one player is eliminated, with a sudden-death playoff to break ties.
This would serve to encourage aggressive, tactical and defensive play right from the outset, something that players are unsure when to employ in the traditional form as the significance of the leaderboard doesn’t truly come into play until the later stages of the final round.
This format would also provide spectators the ability to follow a group for the first round and see a mix of results as opposed to a lack of satisfaction from watching a single round that may or may not have a direct impact on the final result of the event.
A poll of players will tell you that constant noise is not a distraction, so music and party marquees are not out of the question; shortened courses that showcase risk/reward design will allow players to demonstrate their skill; and an interactive shot clock that sounds when you exceed your allocation will generate a sense of on-course excitement often lacking in professional golf.
As a current tournament professional and one confident in speaking on behalf of others, I am open to evolution and adaptation in order to continue to compete in this fantastic sport and call it my job. More than anything I want to share this great game with as many people as possible and showcase it in the most exciting and fun way that we can.
Winner of the 2013 WA PGA, Jack Wilson is synonymous for challenging the status quo. He is outspoken, progressive and disrupting golf one tournament at a time with his dreadlocks, beard and famous caddie, ‘Rizz’.