GolfSixes tournament returns to St Albans
PUBLISHED: 13:42 03 April 2018 | UPDATED: 13:42 03 April 2018
2017 Getty Images
Attracting a new crowd to the sport, the innovative GolfSixes tournament returns to St Albans next month, bringing with it some of the best players on the planet
Golf fans new and old in the county are in for a treat next month when the short form of the game – the equivalent of Twenty20 cricket – returns to Centurion Club in St Albans, where the inaugural tournament took place last year.
Top stars from the men’s and women’s game will be competing for a pot of €1m (nearly £900,000) over the weekend of May 5-6 in the exciting, quicker version of the game, known as GolfSixes, as part of the European Tour. These include Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn – who will partner his Solheim Cup counterpart Catriona Matthew as the tour includes women in a team golf event for the first time.
The traditional format of golf makes for a wonderful sport, whether you are a Sunday morning hacker or watching the world’s best performing at the Open or the Masters. However, at four hours or more to play, or view, an average 18-hole round, some find this simply too long. Enter GolfSixes, where matches are played over six holes and where the use of a ‘shot clock’ on one of the holes has been introduced to speed up play. All of which means a tournament can be completed in a jaunty weekend instead of four intense days, with a game completed in not much more than an hour.
The Danish Bjorn and the Scottish Matthew will be the first male and female professionals to play together in a competitive match play format when they form the Captains’ Team on the course to the west of the city. Their team is one of four wild card selections at this year’s event which will also include an England Women’s Team made up of Georgia Hall and Charley Hull and a European Women’s Team featuring England’s Mel Reid and Suzann Pettersen of Norway – all of whom will join defending champions Denmark, represented by last year’s winners Lucas Bjerregaard and Thorbjørn Olesen.
‘When the opportunity arose to play as Ryder Cup captain, I thought if we are going to move forward then it was only right to speak to Catriona as the Solheim Cup captain,’ Bjorn said of the team decision, adding, ‘It’s important to break down barriers that have existed in golf. We’re both really looking forward to it.
‘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. 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.’
Keith Pelley, European Tour chief executive, is equally excited by the new format. The Canadian told the BBC: ‘I think the potential of GolfSixes, the brand, the format, is terrific. We saw that last year and this is the next step of that evolution. Going forward, yes, there’s no doubt it could grow into a full women’s and men’s event.
‘Everyone is trying to improve their product and if in fact we have a couple of events – or maybe as many as four events a year, who knows – that involve women and men playing together in different formats, then that’s something we need to explore. This is a good test ground for that.’
In a centuries-old sport, often seen as old fashioned and rigid by a younger audience, Pelley said he hopes GolfSixes will strike a chord with a new audience.
‘We need to be credible yet entertaining and those are the two descriptions that we use in everything that we are trying to do. This will be a very credible event. It’ll be very competitive, It’ll be very entertaining, and that’s the formula for success.’
As part of the festival feel, Cenurion Club will again feature entertainment for spectators in a Fan Zone, amphitheatre stands around tees and greens, music and pyrotechnics, plus player engagement to bring fans closer to the action. Last year’s event saw a 42 per cent increase in new golf fans compared to regular European Tour events, who were 14 per cent younger than those seen during the rest of the golfing calendar.
‘GolfSixes is all about attracting families and a younger generation who might be inspired to take up the game,’ said Michael Duffy, Centurion Club sales and marketing manager. ‘With a format and atmosphere that is very different to a regular European Tour event, we were pleased to learn that six golf clubs in Hertfordshire and 32 nationally adopted the GolfSixes format last year to encourage young people to play golf. This will grow to over 200 clubs throughout Europe in 2018.
‘The addition of mixed and ladies’ teams as well as a junior tournament will make this year’s GolfSixes even more exciting. I encourage everyone to come along and join in the fun.’
- On Saturday May 5, the 16 teams will be split into four groups of four teams, with the top two teams from each group progressing to the knockout stages.
- The quarter-finals, semis, runners-up playoff and final will all be played on Sunday May 6.
- Matches are played over six holes with a point awarded for each hole won.
- In the group stages, three points will be given for a win, one for a draw.
- Both day’s play will be shown on Sky Sports in the UK and globally on the European Tour network and Facebook Live.
WIN GOLFSIXES TICKETS & HOSPITALITY
Hertfordshire Life has teamed up with Centurion Club and the European Tour to offer readers free tickets to the GolfSixes tournament in St Albans. The first 66 people to log on to the Eventbrite website using the promotional code HertsLifeGolfSixes can obtain free tickets. Thereafter, a limited number of discounted tickets at £6 for adults and £3 for 10-17-year-olds (under 10s go free), until May 3.
Normal priced tickets on European Tour’s Eventbrite website from March 22 are £16 for adults and £6 for children.
We are delighted to also offer hospitality places in the Golf Sixes Club marquee for one of the two days of the competition to two lucky readers. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘GolfSixes hospitality’ in the subject field and include your name, address and phone number, by April 12, for your chance to win.