Golf Sixes is here to stay


Whether you thought it was a success or felt it failed as a concept - Golf Sixes is here to stay.

The European Tour and their Chief Executive Keith Pelley have been at the forefront of bringing new concepts to the game of golf, and GolfSixes has been the most daring of them all.

A six-hole knock-out team event replaced the traditional 72-hole stroke-play format, complete with group stages, a football scoring system, and a theme on every hole.

Two-men teams from 16 different countries lined up for the two-day event, where Denmark were crowned the winners following their 3-1 victory over Australia in the final.  

While it certainly wasn't perfect and will have its doubters, the quick-style of golf aimed to be engaging, entertaining, and was championed by the players. And whether you liked it or loathed it, you will definitely be seeing it again - as Pelley confirmed the format will be returning next year. 

“It’s been terrific. It’s definitely something we can build on here,"  Pelley told Sky Sports.

"It will be a brand that we will definitely bring back. We’re going to do a lot of research now and listen to our stakeholders, our consumers and our sponsors."

"What has been absolutely spectacular is the players. They’ve embraced it, they are engaging with the fans, they are loving it, you can see it."

"At the end of the day, everybody in sport is in the entertainment business, and that's what you're seeing here as well as athletes playing at the highest level."

"We will always retain the integrity of the game which is why we’ve chosen a format like greensomes and a matchplay type format, and at the same time you've got to be entertaining and you've got to stretch beyond the norm and I think that's what we've done."

"Once we’ve got the balance right, then you've got something special and you can build on for the future. I look forward to hearing how we can improve the format but it will definitely be back next year."

What the players said about GolfSixes

Marc Warren secured Scotland's third place finish at GolfSixes with a close-range 7-iron on the closest to the pin play-off hole against Italy, and the three-time European Tour winner was full of praise for the tournament

“Every player that has been here is only going to be full of compliments with what the European Tour have done. I think overall its been a huge success," Warren told Sky Sports.

Denmark at GolfSixes

Scott Hend said he thought it was great as a one-off event, but there is a definite feeling that the players do prefer the traditional 72-hole set-up they are used to. 

He said: “Its great, every now and then to throw in something that mixes it up. It’s not something we’d play every week but its great to mix it up” 

Scotland's Richie Ramsay was another pre-tournament sceptic, but the players embraced the concept of appealing to a different audience and it is safe to say they were converted. 

Richie Ramsay and Thomas Bjorn comment on GolfSixes
Thorbjorn Olesen tweets about GolfSixes win

GolfSixes: What worked/ What didn't work

As levels of participation in the sport continue to worry the governing bodies, it should come as no surprise that golf is trying to find other ways to encourage people to take up golf - and if that be initially in a fun format like GolfSixes, so be it.

It won't be for everyone, and if you're already a convert who likes to play or watches a 72-hole format every weekend - then it might not be for you. And that's OK. But while some will criticise it for trying too hard, it should also be considered that GolfSixes was an incredibly accessible, entertaining, fast-paced event that was full of children watching some of the best talent on the European Tour. 

GolfSixes: What worked

GolfSixes brought many interesting ideas to life that haven't been considered before, and undoubtedly one of the most successful and most talked about parts of the tournament was the shot clock on the fourth hole. 

The European Tour put the players to the test with a 40 second countdown - giving a one shot penalty for any player that went over the allocated time.

Andy Sullivan at Golf Sixes

England's Andy Sullivan deliberately played around with it during the opening day, while Paul Peterson became the only player to fall foul of the penalty shot. He went over his alotted time during the second-round of the group stages in the USA's match against Wales - which cost them the hole, a win in the match and a spot in the quarter-finals.

With the exception of Peterson, most players proved to handle it so well that by the third round of matches they reduced the clock to 30s. For a game that is plagued by a slow-play problem, it was an excellent edition - and showed the audience watching that the players at the top of the game are still capable of producing quality golf shots under a time-pressure.

Marc Warren was a particular champion of the shot-clock, suggesting that it should be present at every tournament. 

Marc Warren tweets support for shot clock

Player interaction was a huge plus for the tournament, as players happily engaged with on course reporters to talk about the shots they'd just hit - or in Andy Sullivan's case, his collection of tropical fish. We say ramp it up with all players being mic-ed up for next year's edition.

We also enjoyed the idea of the play-off hole, which began from a different part of the existing 6th to create an entirely unique hole reserved solely for those matches that needed sudden-death. It was a new and exciting way to host a play-off, and we hope that it is one part of the tournament that they keep.

GolfSixes: What could be improved

The loud announcer and huge push for celebrity presenters and commentators didn't quite work for us at TG, and while that's no dig at the presenters themselves, it took away any normality for the golf fans that tune in every week. All credit to both the European Tour and Sky Sports for trying something different to ramp up engagment, but we'd prefer our regular commentators in the box for next year's event. 

And while each hole had a theme, the longest drive 3rd and closest to the pin fifth holes didn't quite gather as much excitement as anticipated before the event.

During the first day the crowds became much more sparse between the opening and closing holes, which certainly detracted from the theme of those holes. Either there needs to be a greater focus on those gimicks, or they need to be scrapped entirely - we say put the shot clock on every hole. 

All in all, GolfSixes was an incredibly positive step for golf in its quest to engage both a wider and younger audience. There are places it can unquestionably improve, but they were never aiming for perfection the first time around. 

And last but not least, dare we say night golf?