Tour takes sazzy new golf tournament to London
It comes as no surprise that Joost Luiten is heading the Dutch team in the ‘GolfSixes’. But who is partnering Holland’s sole player on the European Tour in this sazzy new golf tournament being staged in London this weekend (6-7 May)? That honour goes to Reinier Saxton. The Challenge Tour player from Haarlem, who made his debut at the Masters in 2009 as a 21-year old amateur after winning the British Amateur Championship at Turnberry, could make an interesting partner for Luiten in the fresh, new greensomes event.
Today at the Centurion Club, 16 countries will compete against each other over six holes. Yes, you read correctly. And I agree with your thinking: A golf match over six holes sounds rather more like something for the Seniors Tour! Yet, believe it or not, ‘GolfSixes’ is one of the latest initiatives from the European Tour (ET) aimed at attracting a whole new generation of youngsters to the game.
“Fast and furious” would be one way of describing it. Grandstands packed with enthusiastic fans, fireworks, a DJ playing music and interaction between the players and the galleries during the round, the ‘GolfSixes’ concept is a far-cry from golf as we know it.
Golf as entertainment product
The man behind these new-style events is the European Tour’s boss, Keith Pelley. He talks of golf as an “entertainment product” and highlights the Phoenix Open in America as a good example of “fan engagement”. It’s all about giving golf a younger and more dynamic image.
The European Tour has gone one step further than the Ladies European Tour who supported a similar team event in Amsterdam last year in which a series of matches were played over nine holes. The Ladies Nations Invitational was a one-off, so it seems. The second edition of the ING Private Banking Golf Week takes place in July this year but with a different sports celebrity format. More about that later.
Holland also had a world first in 2016 when they hosted a ‘Beat The Pro’ event at the KLM Open. During one of the oldest events on the European Tour, everyday amateur golfers had the chance of a lifetime to outplay the professionals as they played the par-three, 14th hole. Tribunes at The Dutch were packed with excited fans who were entertained and encouraged to cheer loudly creating an atmosphere seldom experienced on a golf course other than during the Ryder Cup clashes.
In Australia earlier this year, they played the ‘World Super 6 Perth’ during which 24 players played a matchplay knock-out event over six holes on the last day.
England the favourites
With one million euros in prizemoney on offer, the ‘GolfSixes’ tournament in London has attracted 16 teams. Stars of the show are Ryder Cup players Chris Wood and Andy ‘Spaceman’ Sullivan (England). The two-day event begins today, Saturday, 6th May. Entry is a snip with tickets available from just six euros.
PICTURED: Fans being entertained at the 2016 KLM Dutch Open. Below: Joost Luiten (l) and Chris Wood make time for the golfers of the future during the KLM Open at The Dutch.