• Winds of change

    Golf

    Golf needs more innovation to follow up the examples set by the Zurich Classic and GolfSixes.

    There was a breath of fresh air swirling around the Broadbeach rinks when Aaron Wilson won the men’s bowls gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Australia’s Gold Coast.

    Firstly, one doesn’t generally use the words ‘bowls champion’ and ‘26-year-old’ in the same sentence. Old man’s marbles? Not any more – and you’d be amazed at the increasing interest in bowls from a younger sect.

    At the Commonwealth Games, South Africa’s Women’s Fours picked up the silver medal behind Australia. In the team was Johanna Snyman, who turned 24 in May. Skip of Australia was Natasha Scott, a gold medallist at 27. The oldest player in the Australian Fours was 30.

    When Wilson won the men’s singles gold he immediately ripped off his shirt and did a jig on the bowls rink. The Friday night crowd loved it. And why not celebrate like that – you see it all the time with Cristiano Ronaldo and recently Mark Williams appeared in front of the media with only a towel draped around him after he won the men’s snooker world championship.

    Said Wilson of his own celebration: ‘It was just in the moment. Kelvin Kerkow ripped his shirt off a few years ago, back in 2006, and it was just a copy of that.’

    Sport is changing. It needs to do so and remain current and attractive to a world that is throwing tradition in the trash can.

    Which is why it was refreshing to see golf dragging itself into 2018 at the Zurich Classic, when golfers were given ‘walk-on songs’ to the tee box. Three pairings chose Metallica as their artists for the tee box, while two pairs went for Canadian rapper Drake. Tyrone van Aswegen and Retief Goosen, paired together, plumped for ‘Africa’ by Toto, although Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera-Bello didn’t exactly push out the creativity boat when they arrived to Tina Turner’s ‘Simply the Best’.

    I think golf needs more innovation like that.

    The European Tour has introduced its GolfSixes tournament and this is the way to go. Players get 30 seconds to play a shot – and there’s a general feel of energy in the crowd. It’s something different and taking a maximum of 30 seconds to play a shot hasn’t seen the world cave in.

    Other sports have tried to capture the Millennial market and golf is also looking to do the same thing. In a world where many ‘fans’ have the attention span of a gnat, innovation is required. Cricket is an example where T20 has taken over the sport, like it or not. It’s where sport and entertainment meet – although WWE remains the benchmark in that, even if one can’t really take the ‘sport’ part too seriously.

    The European Tour has done wonders with its social media campaigns and timelines, but golf itself needs to break with a couple of traditions. Walk-on music is a good thing – although there is a limit to how many times you can belt out ‘Sweet Caroline’ – while GolfSixes should be more than just a fund-raising novelty.

    Then again, golf’s decision-makers and those in power at some clubs – think Augusta National – haven’t shuffled into the 21st century yet, although given their stances on women’s membership, it could be argued that many haven’t even entered the 20th century.

    But, pump up the volume and let’s get the energy going in the crowd.

    – This column first appeared in the June issue of Compleat Golfer, now on sale!

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