Golf seems to be on an eternal search for its equivalent of cricket’s T20. The European Tour had its Super Sixes event earlier this season at The Centurion Club near St Albans and last week during the Turkish Airlines Open at Belek four English golfers beat teams from France and South Africa as they set a world record for the fastest hole ever completed by four players. (I know: that’s a pretty specific and not-much-use category.)
Playing under floodlights at the Regnum Carya course, the team of Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton, Ian Poulter and Matthew Southgate played the 503-yard 15th hole – the rules for this sort of thing stipulate that the hole must be over 500 yards long – in 32.9 seconds. Hatton drove, Fitzpatrick was ready and waiting to play the second shot, Poulter and Southgate completed the job on the green.
Anything to make people aware of the need to make golf a bit quicker game to play must surely be a good thing, and next season the European Tour will go one stage, or perhaps it’s several stages, further. The Shot Clock Masters, which will be held in Austria from June 7-10, will be the first tournament in professional golf to use a shot clock on every shot for all 72 holes. The first player in each group to play his shot will have 50 seconds to do so, with 40 seconds for subsequent players. Players will incur a one-shot penalty for each bad time incurred and these will be shown as a red card against their name on the leaderboard. (Thought: might the Tour add Mike Dean to its roster of referees?)
Each player will have the right to call two ‘time-outs’ during a round, which will permit them twice the usually allotted time to play the shot. (You knew there’d be some get-out, didn’t you?) The Tour hopes the initiative will cut round times by around 45 minutes. Keith Pelley, chief executive of the Tour, said: “The 2018 Shot Clock Masters will be a fascinating addition to our schedule. Not only will it help us combat slow play and reduce round times, it is further evidence of our desire to embrace innovation.”
It certainly has to be worth a try, and it will still look like what we think of as a golf tournament, which the Super Sixes did not always manage. Essentially, that is the reason why T20 is so inherently ‘proper’ cricket. Not only are there still batsmen and bowlers, fours and sixes, 20-over cricket is a close approximation of the game everyone who plays cricket grew up with. On the village green or at school, one team bats for a while and then agrees it’s time for the other lot to have a go. That’s the only way there could ever be a result.
In golf, tournament professionals have to play the test they are set. We don’t. Rather like those village-green cricketers, we can do our own thing. We choose which course we play. Shall we hit from the back tees or the front ones? Shall we allow mulligans? Any gimmes? At our level, golf is unusual in that we select the ‘pitch’ we play on. It may not help the pro game find its T20 equivalent, but it will do nicely for the rest of us.
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