Blitz Golf – Is it golf’s version of T20?

In this busy world of time-poor people, it seems that every sport is looking for their new, faster version to attract new fans and players. The standout example is Cricket, which has had amazing success with the Twenty-20 format, drawing new audiences to the game in many countries, and creating a new industry in India with the behemoth that is the IPL.  Rugby League Nines, Fast 5 Netball and AFLX have all tried to copy the Rugby 7’s “tournament in a weekend” model with mixed responses.  Tennis has unsuccessfully experimented with “Fast four”, which appears to have fallen off the radar.  Even athletics tried the “Nitro Athletics” team competition, which was enjoyable but after an initial taste, hasn’t been seen since.

 

Golf is another sport looking for its T20.  Golf shares a lot of the negatives that Test Cricket faces.  It takes a long time to play, with most tournaments stretching over a number of days.  It is reliant on good weather in order to have a game.  It has mostly been a sport played by older men, and needs to attract fans from new age and gender demographics to continue to thrive.  While it’s been my favourite sport for decades, it’s a hard sell to others for many of these very reasons.  So, when my home club, Curlewis, was advertising that it was running a tournament that was “the T20 of golf”, I had to have a look.

 

“Blitz Golf” is a one-day tournament where a field of 40 players, consisting of both men and women is progressively reduced until a knockout finale.  Players are split into 2 fields of 20 players for a shotgun start; and scores reset after each round.

 

Round 1: 9 holes, 12 players advance from each field
Round 2: 6 holes, 6 players advance from each field
Round 3: 3 holes, 2 players advance from each field
The Final: 1 hole, 4 players overall – 1 winner!

 

I was suitably impressed by the field, with players such as Nick O’Hern (famous for knocking off Tiger Woods in his prime at the World Matchplay), past Order of Merit winner Matt Griffin, and NZ Open winner Zach Murray.  Well known amongst golf aficionados if not regular household names.

 

 

I was also impressed by the quality of the play. It was cool seeing the pros play my home course in a way I was simply incapable of, bombing drives to places well past where I could dream of getting to, and knocking second shots into very close range.  I also watched Whitney Hillier play a shot from a bunker on the 13th that I despise, from a downhill lie with very little space to stop the ball before the flag. She knocked it to a few centimetres, spinning and stopping the ball next to the cup.

 

Initially there wasn’t really anything that made me think this was any more action-packed or fast-paced when compared to a normal golf tournament.  The usual scourge of golf, slow play, was evident on occasions, as some pros waited until it was their turn to putt before even thinking about lining up their shot.  While some scores were updated on the app, there wasn’t the real-time updates you needed to follow the scores closely.

 

But there were a lot of positives.  Men and women were competing in the same field, so it was diverse.  It’s definitely something you can bring the kids to, which is one of the key appeals of T20.  There were driving nets and shortened clubs available for the kids to have a go. The thing that really stood out to me was on the practice green, where the pros who has been knocked out of the event in Round 1 were giving lessons to young kids and families!  It’s the equivalent of Aaron Finch being dismissed and then giving your son or daughter tips on their front foot defence!

 

The way the course was set up meant you could see lots of the action without walking too far.  No ropes meant we could walk on the fairways with the players.   With the abridged rounds, the action was brought closer to the clubhouse, including the 3 hole round played on holes 10, 11 and 18, near all these activities.  I could move between the three holes and take in shot after shot without having to hike too far.

 

Of course, the big kids could have a Sunday session!  A bar stocked with local beers, ciders and wines was set up between the 18th green and 10th tee meaning you could pick up a refreshment easily.

 

As for the action, the cutthroat nature of the event was exciting for the spectators as we got closer to the end.  When there was a tie after the 6 and 3 hole rounds, a nearest the pin knockout competition on a special hole set up hitting to the 18th green over the water would determine who goes through. Whether your day would continue came down to one shot!

 

The format lends itself to a guaranteed interesting finale, as four players play a par 3 to determine the winner, with the day’s crowds congregating stadium style (ok, maybe suburban ground style!) around the green.  As I learned the game in my old home town of Wodonga, I was pretty thrilled to see another Wodonga product, Zach Murray, drain a long birdie putt on the one-hole final to win the title. Perhaps more importantly, before the event Zach had pledged 25% of his winnings to the Red Cross fire appeal, so the proceeds were going to an excellent cause.

 

 

 

 

Golf made a massive impact in December when the President’s Cup came to Melbourne.  While much of the appeal of the event was that the top players were coming to town, the fact it was a different style of event – a team competition – added to the appeal.  It would be great to see more variation of golf events to give fans various options, like cricket does with its varied formats.  It would reduce the monotony of 72 hole tournaments every week but leave the format for the big events to show off a ‘pure’ form of the game, like Test match cricket.  So is it the T20 of golf? No. Is it worth continuing with? Absolutely.  I think it might not be the T20, but it could be the one-day internationals of cricket – lots of fun, not over in three hours but definitely over in one day, with a guarantee of an interesting finish!

 

If you’re in Queensland (Links Hope Island, 10 January) or South Australia (Glenelg, 12 January), check it out for yourself and let me know what you think!

 

 

 

 

 

The Tigers Almanac 2019 is out NOW.
Order copies HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

Do you really enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.

Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE

 

About Joseph Ryan

Lawyer, amateur sportsman, and full-time sports-watcher. Follows Melbourne Demons and Melbourne Storm and is trying to be better at golf.

Comments

  1. An interesting concept, Joseph, it has a gender-integrated field, and I can see its appeal as a shortened form of the game. Will it run into opposition from the traditional pro-am which leads into many tournaments? It’s at the local club level that I can see real possibilities, adding a fresh format to the time-worn comps that have existed since forever, but especially as a way of trying to get the younger generation involved.

  2. John Butler says

    They need to add a drinking cart.

    Nice work, Joseph.

  3. Terrific report Joseph. Blitz Golf seems to have a lot of appeal as a “quick” compressed way of exposing people to the elite game. Lots of sudden drama rather than the excruciatingly slow build of traditional tournaments. I enjoy watching good golfers in the flesh (figuratively) at any time. Often go out to walk around the minor tournaments here in Perth. The sight and sound of a well hit shot is way beyond anything TV conveys. The Vic Open at 13th Beach near Barwon Heads (and Curlewis) in early February is Australia’s premier tournament in my view. The female players in the same field and the early season second string (but still amazing) European Tour men in a fun welcoming environment is golf at its best. The Australian Womens Open in Adelaide after that (also an LPGA event with many of the best women in the world) is also brilliant. Played on the testing Royal Adelaide links it is probably the hardest test players face all season. I could watch the best women golfers swing all day (Koreans and the Korda sisters particularly) because they have a graceful power compared to the muscle bound mens game.
    Doubt that Blitz Golf has any appeal at the amateur/club level because the game is about participating as much as winning. At least the garden would be in better shape if I was home earlier after being knocked out in the first round for the tenth consecutive week! Not for me – but great as as an exhibition game – particularly to showcase the elite game to new audiences.
    Will have a hit when we come to Melbourne following the Eagles in the footy season. I played Curlewis when we stayed on the Bellarine Peninsula a couple of years ago. Fun track with progressive owners who also own Jack Rabbit wines. Keep swinging.

  4. Joseph Ryan says

    Ian: I agree that it was interesting, and it could be a good pro-am option ahead of regular tournaments, as long as it was during school holidays so the kids can come watch like they did here.

    John: The bar was so close to the action, no cart was needed!!

    Peter: We are lucky here on the Bellarine to have the Vic Open held nearby – I’ll definitely be there for a look in February. Very cool to follow the players with no ropes!’

  5. Few of us here on The Bellarine now, need some functions down this way. I drove past and wondered what all the action was. Thanks for the update Joseph.

  6. Daryl Schramm says

    Hoping to get to Glenelg on Sunday to have a look
    Have been to all recent LGPA Australian Opens and looking forward to the one next month. I also enjoyed walking around The Vines last September following the Aus Amateur Championships. Walking with the players is great fun.

Leave a Comment

*