GolfSixes was a team match play tournament which was played on the European Tour between 2017 and 2019. The format consisted of 32 players who were paired up by nationality to represent 16 teams. The name of the event is derived from the fact that teams play over just six holes, with rounds taking place over two days.
After winning over fans with the first two editions at Centurion Club in St Albans, GolfSixes moved to Oitavos Dunes in Portugal for the 2019 tournament as was due to play there again in 2020 but the event was cancelled.
GolfSixes wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea. Fans of a more traditional format and players who are focussed on winning tournaments at the very top level kept to 72 hole stroke play events in the main but the European Tour had been able to coax some very good players from both the men’s and women’s game to compete here.
|Oitavos Dunes||Cascais, Portugal||1,971 Yards||€1,000,000|
GolfSixes Recent Winners
|2019||Thailand||2-1||1 Point||Oitavos Dunes|
|2018||Ireland||2-0||2 Points||Centurion Club|
|2017||Denmark||3-1||2 Points||Centurion Club|
This tournament was only held over six holes of fast, entertaining golf, those watching on TV were not be treated to the full splendour of this rugged, coastal course but they chose the holes well (three par threes, three par fours) to provide a real taste of what the course was all about.
In many ways, Oitavos Dunes looked and played like a typical links course. The coastal wind was always a factor, there were plentiful sand dunes ready to punish errant shots and large, sloped greens. Scoring well over the short format of the GolfSixes matches required some real imagination into the greens and a steady hand once aboard the putting surfaces.
GolfSixes was seen by many golf fans as a novelty event but the format of the tournament had been replicated at many different levels of the sport. It certainly provided excitement as players had to very carefully straddle the line between attack and defence. You needed birdies to win holes but could not afford to make costly mistakes from which there was little time to recover.
Layering on the challenge of links golf on top of the GolfSixes format suggested that it would take some very good, very consistent golf over two days to win this tournament. Players who had previous links form were favoured as were those who had had a taste of GolfSixes before.
The GolfSixes tournament was a team match play competition which took 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 global crisis at the time.
The tournament consisted of 16 teams of two players from the same nationality. There were four groups of four teams in the group stage who played in a round-robin format over six holes. The tournament used 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 took 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 earned 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 went through to the next stage. Then it was the knockout stage of the tournament with quarter-finals, semi-finals, the third/fourth place playoff and the final taking place. The winning team bagged €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 had 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) were given just 30 seconds to play their shot (not including the walk to the ball!), or they got 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 went 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 was still early days for the GolfSixes tournament before it was cancelled, but the signs were 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 could 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, despite losing this event, we rather think it might.