Twenty20 Golf: Long games need short versions
Herald Sun golf reporter, Mark Hayes, opened his Monday piece on Scott Laycock’s win in the inaugural Surf Coast Knockout, with the statement that it occurred “on a day that stands to change the face of Australian Golf”.
He was referring to the world first knockout golf format. The championship was decided by three rounds of stroke play. On the fourth and final day the top 32 players competed in a series of six hole matches in a knockout draw to determine the winner.
For a sport which is Australia’s biggest sporting industry and largest organised participatory sport, if Hayes is right, this represents one of the biggest moments of the sporting summer.
In a world that has become increasingly time poor and information rich, sports like cricket and golf, which take days to complete have been thrown into stark relief.
To be sure their days are far from over.
There is nothing like the ebb and flow of a test match: the ever-present sense of a drama unfolding in the background of one’s life which can be tuned into - or not, as work permits.
Similarly the idea that four days of booming drives and pinpoint irons come down to the making of a single eight foot putt for victory is the essence of the drama of that moment.
Like a gripping novel, long sporting contests will always be my preference to reading a glossy mag. Yet gripping novels are not everyone’s cup of tea and lots of people buy glossy mags. Long games need short versions.
T20 has taken cricket by storm to become test cricket’s short-form companion. Golf has been a bit slower off the mark.
Promoters have dabbled with Skins. But it lacks drama or meaning.
Which brings us back to why Mark Hayes’ observation about the Surf Coast Knockout is right on the money. Because on Sunday in Torquay Twenty-20 golf was born.
The idea of ending a stroke play event with match play may be new in the world of professional golf but is well understood by club golfers. Many clubs use precisely this method to determine their own club champions.
What is revolutionary, anywhere in the world of golf, is to conduct this match play in a series of short form matches over six holes. It is the idea which allows 32 to become one in a single day of golf. It is the idea which allows the time-poor, fast-paced sports fan to tune in as late as the final (as many do in the tennis) and witness a contest which lasts for less than 90 minutes.
And it is the idea of Andrew Langford-Jones and the Australian PGA.
Sunday at Torquay Sands was a sight to behold. African drummers playing next to the fifth green giving good shots the appropriate applause. Kids’ clinics being given on unused fairways. DJs and beer gardens adding to the festival atmosphere. And pro golfers wearing shorts like the rest of us do in summer.
As a local, it was wonderful to see professional golf come to Geelong, the Surfcoast and the Bellarine Peninsula. Torquay has been long associated with summer, surf and Bells Beach. But in the last ten years our region has become a quality golfing destination in its own right. Until now it has been our secret, but with this event the region is being placed on the golfing map and the rest of Australia can come and taste its golfing delights.
At the Surf Coast Knockout, golf quickened its pace and let its hair down all at once. In the process it has opened its door to an entirely new clientele. Whether that clientele comes in, only time will tell. But the PGA is to be commended for having a crack.
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