So, Keith Pelley believes GolfSixes, a new short format that will be trialed on the European Tour in May, is a way that the game can appeal to the “millennial demographic” and, of course, it is no surprise that his new plan involves music and pyrotechnics.
You’ve certainly got to give the circuit’s chief executive credit for trying to come up with innovations and this one, which will be played over a weekend at the Centurion Club in St Albans, looks as though it could be a winner.
It’s a team event, for starters, and that always adds a bit of spice, while the matches being played over six holes and under a greensomes format, where both players hit tee shots and then select the best one, is another welcome change from the staple diet of 72-hole stroke-play events.
That’s one of the reasons why we should also be prepared to give this week’s “Super 6” event in Australia a chance to see if it can generate some excitement through a format that involves 54 holes of stroke-play being followed by match-play shoot-outs on the last day involving 24 players.
It might not work – and a lot will surely depend on whether or not players like Louis Oosthuizen and Alex Noren are involved at the business end – but these things are definitely worth trying at a time when the sport needs innovations.
What I can’t get my head around, though, is why people think there is a need for music and fireworks to be part of the sport’s future because those two elements simply don’t work in golf and, moreover, aren’t going to be the reason people are attracted to the game, at least not as competitors anyway.
Pelley had music blasting out on the range during the recent Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and apparently has plans for players to arrive on the first tee at events to their own “walk-on tune”, yet the problems this creates became apparent during the Omega Dubai Desert Classic a week past Saturday. As the third round was raging on, an awful racket broke out across the Emirates Golf Club, the screaming and shouting of someone on a microphone being followed the sound of thunderous music that continued for some time. Pelley, in fairness, had nothing to do with this particular golf disco. The noise, apparently, was coming from a music festival close by, but it wasn’t a background that did anything to make you think that golf can benefit in any way from it being introduced at events.
Even if, say, the last half a dozen groups in the final round had hand-picked songs as they stepped on to the first tee, would that be fair to an earlier starter as he was in the middle of his backswing or about to pull the trigger on a crucial putt? The answer surely has to be “no”. The one thing golf doesn’t need is to become gimmicky, and there’s a danger of that happening if someone truly thinks that music, fireworks and mic’ing up players, as will be the case for all those involved in the inaugural GolfSixes event, is the sport’s bright new future.
Yes, of course, Pelley is correct when he talks about the European Tour being in the “entertainment content business”, and he is only doing exactly what he was brought in to do, but does it always have to have that crash, bang, wallop feeling? That, of course, probably appeals to the aforementioned “millennial demographic”, yet I have still to hear a single individual say it is down to golf’s profile being raised through channels such as social media that has actually enticed them to take up the sport.
Will music, fireworks and being able to interact with players at events have an impact in that respect? I doubt it, but let’s give Pelley his chance to see if he can, in fact, play a part in revolutionising the game. One thing certainly in his favour is that the European Tour membership, headed by the likes of Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia, is laden with proud brand ambassadors, many of whom wasted no time embracing his bold new format.
Like anything new, it will attract attention and rightly so. Somehow, though, I don’t think I’d be alone in reaching for the mute button if it turns into a mix between Top of the Pops and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay fireworks display.