A couple of weeks ago, Iain Carter
, BBC’s main Golf correspondent, wrote an article
about the heroics of Tommy Fleetwood and Chris Paisley at the unique pairs tournament called the Zurich Classic held in New Orleans. In the article, he focused on yet another controversial topic arising in the Golf world: the tournament organiser’s decision to include walk-on music on the first tee.
Iain went on to say that “the music gets in the way and it must be remembered Coldplay is not cool golf. The sport should have the self-confidence to say it can be “cool” without musical accompaniment.”
Overall, his argument was that the golf itself is the coolest part of the game and it’s about focusing on new golfing formats rather than the razzmatazz surrounding it to reach new audiences.
This is by no means the first time that a new attempt to add something new and quirky into the elite golf tournaments has been met with controversy. Last month I wrote an article about Tony Finau wearing a hoody in a traditional, 72-hole tournament and the response it got. Trying to add in music on the tee is not so different, nor would slightly more radical initiatives to make the game “seem cooler” such as bigger holes, coloured balls, flat peak caps, mic’d up players, time clocks etc.
I think the crux of this matter is not the new initiatives themselves, but that Golf struggles to fit these new initiatives into the right CONTEXT for them to flourish.
Iain is absolutely right in saying that the walk on music at the Zurich Classic didn’t work, it felt forced and awkward and it looked fairly obvious that players felt they were having to do it. Similarly, Finau’s hoody looked horribly out of place in a very traditional golf tournament steeped in history where all other players are wearing smart trousers and polos.
However, where I disagree with Mr Carter is that there is no place at all for new, radical initiatives like the above.
In my opinion, golf is held back from reaching new audiences by the barriers that surround the game, and these include restrictions around music and phones on the course, what you can wear and even some of the traditional rules of the game.
A new environment must be created in which these new, modern initiatives can flourish.
As Iain also touched upon, a lot can be learned from how cricket has brilliantly separated 3 different environments in which different initiatives can flourish. On one hand, whites, quietness during play and snoozy afternoons are hallmarks of a great day’s test cricket. Then you look at Twenty20 cricket and both fans and players are fully expecting a totally different experience with music, dancers, fireworks, coloured kits, flat peak caps and mic’d up players – these are all unquestioned part of the T20 brand.
It is obvious that Golf is trying desperately to move the same way, but what it has failed to see that It needs to create a new context first in order to be able to start bringing these initiatives in and for them to seem normal and not forced.
Playing walk-on music on the tee at the Zurich Classic is the equivalent of the ECB saying that music will be played between overs at Test matches. I just don’t think it fits with the context.
Golf needs to go full in on a total new atmosphere and experience, or keep it really traditional and pure. No in between, no blurred lines. In future, I think we will see more tournament organisers willing to play all out rather than go 50:50, with the most exciting players, new look clothing, mic’d up players, music everywhere and whatever format that generates traction.
This would then make conversations around controversies redundant, and allow the new, shorter and more forward thinking environments to create innovation for traditional Golf, just like what Twenty20 has done for test cricket.
1PUTT could be that new category that golf is looking for. 1PUTT events create an entirely new environment and atmosphere, where new thinking and innovations can flourish. Past events have included and welcomed: bigger holes, on-course music, team formats such as ‘best ball’ scramble, mixed teams, a new scoring system that doesn’t include pars, shootout holes and much more. Check out 1PUTT in action this coming bank holiday with their next London Major Event at Farleigh Golf Club.
Written by Harry McInley