Sport of golf in line for drastic changes

72-hole golf tournaments are not appealing to young people
72-hole golf tournaments are not appealing to young people

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley insists golf must embrace new formats and plans to have six-hole events on the professional circuit as early as next year.

The Canadian, who succeeded George O'Grady last year, has been keen to modernise the game and has already permitted players to wear shorts in pro-ams and introduced measures aimed at tackling slow play.

However, Pelley's announcement that six-hole sprint formats could be included on the European Tour schedule from 2017 is a significant leap.

"Golf and tennis has to be a little more open to letting the youth actually participate," Pelley said. "There's no question that is something we believe in as well.

"You look at some of the new formats that have been created - when you look at adventure golf, or the brand Top Golf, and there's one 15 minutes from where I live in Virginia Water. It's really geared towards millennials, so the way that people are participating in the game is completely different.

"Let's be honest - and scientific data proves this - attention spans are decreasing as opposed to increasing and it's completely different when the choice people have to consume content now is so different than it was 35-40 years ago.

"So you have to change, people's time is so precious that golf - I think every golf course being built needs to be six holes, six holes, six holes - so that people can go at the beginning before they go to work."

Pelley highlighted the success of Twenty20 cricket in boosting attendances as a reason for change.

"From our perspective, as the gatekeepers of the professional game, we are looking to create a format that would be six holes.

"That could be an hour, an hour-and-a-half content programme...which would be very entertaining," added Pelley, who said that if golf were invented today it would likely be a 12-hole rather than 18-hole sport.

"Yes there would be a shot clock, yes there would be music being played, and PA announcements, and players would be dressed a little differently, and maybe they would only play with five or seven clubs.

"Our leaderboard is always filled with a bunch of different flags and it would probably be a country competition, so you could probably see England playing Scotland in a six-hole matchplay with time clocks and music and so forth going on and it would be an aspirational goal to be even remotely as successful as Twenty20 cricket.

"If you're not prepared to change, if you're not prepared to be innovative, if you're not prepared to take chances, then I do believe that the sports that aren't will fall behind.

"We'd like to 2017 and maybe roll it out in 2018. It's still in the infancy stages of being developed.

"The tradition, the integrity of the game, the 72-hole tournament will always be there in some form but if you catapult ahead 10 or 15 years the game of golf will be consumed completely differently and there will be different formats that will be successful as content entertainment makers."

Pelley also refused to rule out changing the name of the European Tour to reflect its' global nature in the future.

A strategic partnership with the Asian Tour was announced earlier this week and with just 19 of the 50 European Tour events held in 2016 being staged on European soil, Pelley is open to rebranding in the future.

He continued: "You can't play 47 weeks in Europe, hence the reason that we started to move all around the world and since then we've expanded and as early as this week we've announced a strategic alliance with the Asian Tour, so our position in Asia is going to grow: we've opened an office recently in Korea.

"As the game expands, we're expanding, so you're correct assuming the brand might change going forward."