The Belgian Knockout once again proved its worth as an innovative new tournament on the European Tour. Whether it was able to genuinely attract new fans to the game is questionable and it’s GolfSixes that did more work going after a younger audience last year. After winning over fans with the first two editions at Centurion Club in St Albans, GolfSixes moves to Portugal for this year with a number of big names following it to Oitavos Dunes.
There are some strong teams with big wins to their names competing in this year’s GolfSixes but it’s the Australian team of Scott Hend and Wade Ormsby who may just represent the best value. Those two are genuinely global golfers and can utilise their experience and teamwork to outlast the competition.
Oitavos Dunes makes a welcome return to the European Tour schedule with the GolfSixes. As the tournament is only held over six holes of fast, entertaining golf, those watching on TV won’t be treated to the full splendour of this rugged, coastal course but they’ve chosen the holes well (three par threes, three par fours) to provide a real taste of what the course is all about.
In many ways, Oitavos Dunes looks and plays like a typical links course. The coastal wind is always a factor, there are plentiful sand dunes ready to punish errant shots and large, sloped greens. Scoring well over the short format of the GolfSixes matches will require some real imagination into the greens and a steady hand once aboard the putting surfaces.
|Oitavos Dunes||Cascais, Portugal||1,971 Yards||€1,000,000|
GolfSixes is obviously not everybody’s cup of tea. Fans of a more traditional bent and players who are focussed on winning tournaments at the very top level will stick to 72 hole stroke play events in the main but the European Tour have been able to coax some very good players from both the men’s and women’s game to compete. The Danish pairing of Lucas Bjerregaard & Thorbjørn Olesen have competed in some of golf’s biggest events and were able to show their class when winning the inaugural GolfSixes whilst Paul Dunne reminded everybody of his class alongside Gavin Moynihan when the Irish pair won last year.
|2018||Paul Dunne &
Gavin Moynihan (Ireland)
|Centurion Club||Beat Michael Lorenzo-Vera
& Romain Wattel (France)
|2017||Lucas Bjerregaard &
Thorbjørn Olesen (Denmark)
|Centurion Club||Scott Hend &
Sam Brazel (Australia)
Analysis: Confidence on Links Courses Important
GolfSixes is still seen by many golf fans as a novelty event but the format of the tournament has been replicated at many different levels of the sport. It certainly provides excitement as players have to very carefully straddle the line between attack and defence. You need birdies to win holes but cannot afford to make costly mistakes from which there is little time to recover.
Layering on the challenge of links golf on top of the GolfSixes format suggests that it will take some very good, very consistent golf over two days to win this tournament. Players who have previous links form should be favoured as should those who have had a taste of GolfSixes before.
Australia Duo Have the Tools for the Task
As Australian golfers plying their trade all over the world, Scott Hend and Wade Ormsby have played all sorts of different golf courses in many far flung places. The pair of them have certainly amassed a great deal of links golf experience over the years and will feel nice and comfortable early on at Oitavos Dunes.
In Hend, Australia have one of the very biggest hitters teeing it up this week and the format should allow them to make the most of his prodigious distance. From further down the fairway than most other teams, the Australian duo will need to capitalise on their experience and shot making to set up birdie chances. If they are able to get a handle on the greens, Australia will surely challenge for the title at 9/1 with bet365.
Resurgent Scottish Golf Could Get Another Boost
After struggling to pull its weight in the professional ranks for some years now, Scottish golf is going through something of a resurgence. David Law and Stephen Gallagher have played their part in this with European Tour wins already this season and they’re looking to combine for another in Portugal this week.
Law has plenty of links golf experience and has been competing as a professional since 2011 but you can be sure he’ll be turning to the experienced Gallagher for some advice and support during GolfSixes. If the Scottish pairing can utilise their links golf experience and dovetail well, they’ll be tough to beat in the group stage and can use the momentum topping their group brings to kick to become genuine contenders at 16/1 with Coral.
Final Verdict: Australia to Win
The Scottish pairing of Law and Gallagher are tempting options in the betting as are the defending Irish duo but preference goes to Australia. Scott Hend enjoys this tournament having made it to the final in 2017 and the multiple winner around the globe has a good friendship with Ormsby who has ample links experience to suggest Australia are good value at 9/1 with bet365.
The GolfSixes tournament is a team match play competition which takes place annually on the European Tour as an unofficial event. The first edition took place at the Centurion Club in St Albans in 2017, with Danish duo Lucas Bjerregaard and Thorbjorn Olesen coming out on top on English soil. The 2020 version, which was scheduled for May 2020, was cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
The tournament consists of 16 teams of two players from the same nationality. There are four groups of four teams in the group stage who play in a round-robin format over six holes. The tournament uses the greensome format whereby both players on a team tee off, then the best of the two tee shots is selected for the second shot (which is played by the player who hadn’t hit that shot). After that the players on a team take it in turns to play the remaining shots on a hole.
For example, if England’s Tom Lewis and Paul Waring were together in a team (as they were in 2019), they would both hit their tee shots on the opening hole of a six-hole round. Assuming Lewis’s tee shot was closer to the hole; in that case Waring would take the second shot, Lewis the third, Waring the fourth, and so on for as many shots as were required.
The teams earn three points for a win and one for a draw and the two teams with the most points in each group after the round-robin stage go through to the next stage. Then it is the knockout stage of the tournament with quarter-finals, semi-finals, the third/fourth place playoff and the final taking place. The winning team bag €1m in prize money.
The whole notion of this innovative (in golfing terms at least) tournament was to become a popular shorter form of the sport, something akin to how Twenty20 has brought plenty of new fans to cricket. One of the new rules for this tournament has been the introduction of a shot clock on one of the holes: players on that particular hole (the fourth hole of each round as it happens) are given just 30 seconds to play their shot (not including the walk to the ball!), or they get penalised with a one shot penalty.
Danes Win Successful First Event
The first event in St Albans will always be one to remember. Not only was it the inaugural GolfSixes tournament, but we were treated to some thrilling action on English soil. Denmark came out on top in an entertaining final, beating team Australia. The team of Lucas Bjerregaard and Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark edged past Australia’s Scott Hend and Sam Brazel by a 3-1 scoreline in the final. Six months earlier, Olesen helped the Danes to World Cup success too so it was quite a year for the man from Furesø.
Despite hosts England going out at the quarter-final stage, the home fans witnessed some spectacular golf in the latter rounds. After a very successful first event, the European Tour’s chief executive said, “we’re going to take what we’ve learnt and build on this. The key is to get the mix right, making it entertaining and preserving the integrity of the game.” Since then, the tournament has gone from strength to strength and proved very popular with golf fans new and old.
Ireland Edge Out France
England were once again eliminated in the quarters in 2018, but Ireland went all the way to lift the trophy. England’s Eddie Pepperell and Matt Wallace progressed to the last eight, but the French team of Mike Lorenzo-Vera and Romain Wattel were too strong for them. France then beat Australia 3-1 in the semi to book their place in the final.
Ireland saw off South Korea in their semi-final, setting up what would prove to be an exhilarating final with France. Paul Dunne and Gavin Moynihan did the business in the final, securing a 2-0 victory to win the second GolfSixes event. South Korea beat Australia in the third/fourth place playoff to take home the bronze medal.
Thongchai’s Historic Hole-in-One in 2019
The 2019 GolfSixes had a new venue, as Oitavos Dunes in Cascais, Portugal took over from St Albans in England as the tournament’s host. Despite being away from home for the first time, England secured their best result in the GolfSixes, finishing as the runners-up to eventual winners Thailand after a tight finale.
Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee made GolfSixes history by hitting the tournament’s first hole-in-one, with the Thai team going all the way to glory in Portugal. On their way to winning the trophy, Thailand beat defending champions Ireland before seeing off Scotland too.
A thrilling event in Cascais went to the wire, with Thailand edging the closest GolfSixes final since the competition began in 2017. The English team of Tom Lewis and Paul Waring had a tournament to remember, but Jaidee inspired Thailand to a narrow 2-1 victory in the final.
England’s GolfSixes Record
|Year||How Team England Performed|
|2017||Eliminated in the quarter-finals by Italy|
|2018||Eliminated in the quarter-finals by France|
|2019||Runners-up to Thailand|
The First of Many Innovative Tournaments?
It is still early days in the history of the GolfSixes tournament, but the signs are that this format (or similar versions of a shorter form of golf) could become more and more frequent in years to come. With standard PGA and European Tour tournaments taking four days to complete, it is no wonder the sport has received criticism from many sports fans over the years for being too slow.
But the GolfSixes tournament can be done and dusted in two days, with spectators given the chance to see some top class golf and to see a whole tournament play out from start to finish over just two days. Time will tell if this style of golf catches on, but we rather think it might.