Gleneagles is coming! Cast your mind back nostalgically to 2012 when Bubba Watson stepped onto the tee on the final morning of the Ryder Cup at Medinah. Disregarding the traditional stuffy silence we are so accustomed to adhering to, he whipped the crowd up into a frenzy and proceeded to smash his ball down the middle to the tune of ‘USA’ ‘USA’! The golf purists of yesteryear would be turning in their graves.
Is franchise golf a fantasy?
There is no doubt The Ryder Cup is very special. It attracts not only massive media attention and the usual golf fans but importantly, it captures the wider public’s imagination. People who have never watched golf in their lives suddenly become experts on putting strokes and are completely caught up in the drama. Fans and television audiences don’t lie, The Masters this year saw the lowest TV viewing figures since the pre-Tiger era in his absence. Could more team golf be the answer?
The Global sports market has become ‘survival of the fittest’ with more choice and competition for our dollars than ever before. The strong correlation between golf’s team based format and popularity is no coincidence. Just look at the major global sports, the vast majority are team sports.
Drama, passion and, in the Ryder Cup’s case, national pride really resonates with sports fans who are looking for an adrenaline fix. Fans can get emotionally involved in a team, more so than an individual – where you question their persona as much as their skill. In short it’s easier for a fan to worship a team.
And for many players the team is also an important motivator. Just ask Ian Poulter, by his own admission it is within the team environment that he prospers most when it brings him closer to the feeling of playing for his beloved football team, Arsenal. He thrives on the competitive element, two teams – one winner, and the passion and intensity that the crowd brings to the contest. I am sure he’d agree that team golf could bring a lot to the game.
It would be a bold move and seismic shift but a global franchise style team structure could work. A qualifying league system with a grand final to be held in the in-between years of the Ryder Cup cycle. Transfers, drafts and politics – it would have it all! It is easy for us to postulate on how the game should be run from our armchairs but at the end of the day, what does the fan want to see more of?
Team sport for the amateur
The other way that golf could benefit is in grassroots participation. The team environment is vital to a lot of people’s enjoyment of sport with the changing room banter, camaraderie and a form of kinship that comes only from sharing the ups and downs of the ride with team mates. You perform not only for yourself but also to ensure you don’t let the side down, producing lasting memories.
When other schoolboy athletes, the so-called real athletes, were playing basketball and football and soccer, the golfers were on the range doing the lonely, methodical boring hours that leads to golfing excellence. Golf is a tough sport. More team golf at a junior and beginner level could really enhance the golfing experience, bringing more people into the sport. This is where the real time feedback of scores comes into its own.
We aren’t saying that golf should change from being a predominately individual sport, because the challenges and drive of someone’s lone battle against conditions and the course provides intrigue to millions. However, for golf to attract new audiences and provide a spectacle for fans, much can be learnt from team sports and the Ryder Cup effect.
Read about the pros who used VPAR at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Pro-Am - http://www.vpar.com/blog/2014/07/vpar-scoring-used-by-top-pros-at-the-aberdeen-asset-management-scottish-open-pro-am