Abu Dhabi, Jan 14: Golf needs new and young fans. Or else it could lose out to other faster paced sports. It is widely believed that innovation and speeding up the game are what will bring in new fans and players to golf.
The European Tour in recent years had had events with formats different from the standard ’72-hole’ stroke play events we see each week on every Tour.
To improve pace of play the European Tour on Tuesday announced a landmark ruling with a stroke penalty for slow play.
‘Slow play’ has had golf worried for a while. Starting this week in Abu Dhabi, players will be penalised immediately for slow play. A ‘bad time’ means a player is deemed to be slow by the referee and two such ‘bad times’ in a tournament (not a round) will mean a penalty of one stroke. That hurts more than any monetary fine.
The time allotted to each shot too is being reduced, which spells ‘danger’ for the notoriously slow.
While many ‘different formats’ are tournaments by themselves, none features as many times as the Hero Challenge. Since 2016, there have been 10 – one in 2016 and three each from 2017 to 2019. In 2020 the number goes up to five.
The event has often been held at iconic venues like the Edinburgh Castle, the Canary Wharf, and the Jumeirah Beach and now for the first time it will be on a Formula 1 racetrack at Yas Links in Abu Dhabi.
The world loves a shoot-out. It is instant gratification. Golf by its nature does not offer that unless it is a play-off after 72 holes when the scores are tied.
Hero Challenge is a ‘shoot out’ from the start and takes all of one hour. Perfect for TV and perfect those golf fans, who cant wait for four days with almost 12 hours of golf on each of those days. This kind of ‘speed golf’ gets the fans, new and old, excited. Sure, it is not golf we have known, but there is no denying it is fast and fun.
The European Tour already has formats like Super Six (rounds of six holes), Golf Sixes (a team event) and the Mixed Masters, where men and play together.
Golf really has a lot to look forward in the coming weeks, but first it is Hero Challenge with a field including Brooks Koepka, Louis Oosthuizen, Danny Willett, Matt Fitzpatrick, Bernd Wiesberger and Viktor Hovland.
World No, 1, Koepka may not drive a race car here, but he will get to ‘drive’ golf ball on the same track.