Golf gets a makeover with the inaugural GolfSixes
Walk-out music. Pyrotechnics. A long-drive competition. Shot clocks. Mic'd-up players.
Golf gets another makeover this weekend when the European Tour rolls out its latest attempt at innovation, the inaugural GolfSixes tournament.
Played over two days, GolfSixes is a six-hole match play event featuring two-man teams from 16 different countries competing for a prize fund of 1 million euros ($1.1 million).
"It's an innovative way to get young kids to play, bring it out of the old age a bit and into the new age," England player Andy Sullivan said. "It's based around being more fun, more relaxed, but still being competitive."
Keith Pelley, chief executive of the European Tour since 2015, is striving to broaden the appeal of golf and make it accessible and relevant in an increasingly crowded marketplace within sports.
Fun appears to be the name of the game this weekend, with the European Tour using it as a "proof of concept" to see whether it could become a regular event on the European Tour schedule.
Pelley, who was previously president of Rogers Media in Canada, regularly stresses that golf is in the "entertainment content business" and wants to liven up what is often perceived as a staid sport.
This is the second innovative tournament, following the debut of the World Super 6 in Perth, Australia, in February. The field was short on top players on that occasion and it will be the same this weekend, with no one from the top 60 in the world ranking in action.
The teams will be split into groups of four on Day 1, with the top two from each group progressing to the knockout stages. The quarterfinals, semifinals and final will take place on Day 2.
Each hole has a distinctive theme: Music and pyrotechnics on No. 1, charitable donations for birdies on No. 2, long-drive competition on the 525-yard No. 3, 40-second shot clock on No. 4, closest to the pin on No. 5 and on-course interviews on No. 6.
The teams will play in a Greensomes format, where the best tee shot is selected and alternate shot is played thereafter.
GROUP A: England (Chris Wood, Andy Sullivan), Denmark (Thorbjorn Olesen, Lucas Bjerregaard), Netherlands (Joost Luiten, Reinier Saxton), India (S.S.P. Chawrasia, Chikkarangappa S).
GROUP B: Thailand (Thongchai Jaidee, Kiradech Aphibarnrat), Spain (Pablo Larrazabal, Jorge Campillo), Belgium (Nicolas Colsaerts, Thomas Detry), Scotland (Richie Ramsay, Marc Warren).
GROUP C: Australia (Sam Brazel, Scott Hend), Wales (Bradley Dredge, Jamie Donaldson), United States (Paul Peterson, David Lipsky), Portugal (Ricardo Gouveia, Jose-Filipe Lima).
GROUP D: South Africa (Darren Fichardt, Brandon Stone), France (Alexander Levy, Gregory Bourdy), Sweden (Johan Carlsson, Joakim Lagergren), Italy (Matteo Manassero, Renato Paratore).
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80