Golfweek recently reported the PGA Tour’s World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play won’t return to Austin, Texas, after this year because of sponsorship issues. While it’s a shame to watch the Tour’s one match-play event drop off the schedule, it presents a golden opportunity for the USGA, PGA of America, R&A or some other body to step in with a better product than the steady barrage of stroke-play events served up week after week.
Why match play? It’s the best format for golf at all levels. It reduces stress for beginners, increases the fun factor and lowers a barrier to entry for the game. For avid golfers, match play speeds up the game and elevates camaraderie. For pro golf, various match-play formats increase strategy and heighten personalities. For course setup, match play allows for more unique hole locations and tee placement. And for daily course maintenance, it eases the burden on unrealistic and unsustainable practices in the interest of fairness.
In Scotland – where the modern game was invented – and much of the rest of the world, match play rules the day. Many club golfers typically play hole-by-hole matches, be they various two-player formats or other team events, instead of individual stroke-play events with aggregate scoring totals deciding a winner. In the Home of Golf, stroke play is frequently the oddity, not the default.
The ruling bodies that conduct top-tier professional tournaments would be well-served to look to Scotland for what could make our game better.
Unfortunately, we often take our cues from pro golf on TV. Whether it be scoring format, equipment, clothing, pre-shot routine or most importantly course conditioning, pro golf on TV has a trickle-down effect, especially in the United States. TV producers prefer stroke play events because they are, barring bad weather, typically guaranteed to end at a predetermined time to complete a broadcast window. Stroke play usually makes for a tidy product without the risk of a lopsided match ending early, leaving an hour or more of dead air on a Sunday afternoon. But this reliance on stroke play has an unhealthy impact on the game. The loss of the Dell Technologies Match Play after this year offers up a perfect opportunity for event organizers to embrace professional match play events on an even grander scale.
Match play already presents some of the most compelling golf on TV, just not at most pro events. The U.S. Amateur, U.S. Women’s Amateur plus the…
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