Photo: Ross Kinnaird
By John Huggan
In the wake of its debut and Team Denmark’s victory last May, the verdict wasn’t quite unanimous in its positivity. But the overall impression was pretty welcoming. Indeed, the inaugural GolfSixes showed a 42-percent increase in new golf fans at the event compared to regular European Tour events. Those attendees were also 14 percent younger than those seen during the rest of the golfing calendar. “GolfSixes will definitely be back,” said the European Tour’s chief executive, Keith Pelley.
And so it is, bigger and, hopefully, better. Or, at least, different. In addition to the 12 two-man national sides made up of European Tour players from various European countries, four wildcard pairs will complete the 16-team field at the Centurion Club north of London, May 5-6. Most intriguingly, Europe’s Ryder and Solheim Cup captains, Thomas Bjorn and Catriona Matthew, will combine, along with an England women’s team of Georgia Hall and Charley Hull and a European women’s team of Mel Reid and Suzann Pettersen. A fourth and final wildcard pairing will be added at a later date.
“There are so many 72-hole tournaments around the world that there has to be room for something else which puts a different spin on golf and brings more interest,” Bjorn said. “This is not your normal golf tournament where everyone is very serious and has their heads down. This is completely different, it’s more about having fun and portraying the game in a good way. I think it’s hugely important to also try and break down the barriers that have existed in golf between the men’s and women’s games.”
One thing that will not change is the “greensome foursomes” format. With the teams split into four groups of four—the top two in each progressing from the round-robin to knock-out stages—they will compete in a series of six-hole matches in which both players tee-off before choosing the better of the two drives and completing each hole with one ball, hitting alternately. The 40-second shot clock that claimed American Paul Petersen as its only “victim” last year will also return, as will putting mics on players for interview during matches.
“The fact it is something different for golf is great—in terms of the round robin match play format then head to head matches, in addition to the men and women playing together of course,” Matthew said. “All tours are trying to think of ways to make golf different and encourage a new and younger audience and so I think this whole concept is very exciting.”
That sense of anticipation was echoed by Lucas Bjerregaard, who alongside Thorbjorn Olesen, claimed the title for Denmark in last year’s inaugural event.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many kids at a golf tournament in my life, which is great for the game,” Bjerregaard said. “In addition to that, they were having a great time, running around and not being told to be quiet all the time, which is exactly what we need to get more young people involved in our sport.”
Let the fun and games begin. Again.