For those who haven’t followed it, Powerplay is basically this (from ESPN):
The brainchild of former British amateur champion Peter McEvoy, PowerPlay golf is designed to emulate the speed and success of cricket’s Twenty20 competition. Played over nine holes using the Stableford system, there are two pins on each green, and a player must aim for the harder black flag on three of their opening eight holes, with double points on offer.
The telecast had some strong names (Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell, Paula Creamer, Gary Player) and some lesser-knowns (winner Caroline Hedwall) and the typical sideshow of John Daly (explain to me why he was there?).
In Canada, PowerPlay has been championed by Barry Forth, the entrepreneurial GM of Copetown Woods near Hamilton. Forth is a smart cat, and has been pushing Powerplay as an alternative to typical golf for a year or two.
Some have heralded Powerplay as a game changer. But after watching the telecast, I’m not so sure.
Let’s get the telecast out of the way — it was basically horrible. Lead announcer Dominic Holyer was full of ridiculous and inane comments, and the crew was trying far too hard to push the “powerplay” concept, with Holyer asking whether a PowerPlay was ongoing with every appearance of a player. Since there aren’t that many of them throughout the nine-hole game, it became redundant pretty soon. The way he hyped the notion of a PowerPlay, you’d have thought for a moment that we were about to witness an ace or an albatross. Instead we were just witness to called birdies.
I found the telecast off-putting, and I’m not sure it helped sell the game, which seemed overly complicated from the broadcast, which is essentially the exact opposite of how PowerPlay is being sold. The premise is that Powerplay is a simpler, faster version of the game everyone players — but that wasn’t how it came across on television.
By the two-hour mark I’d decided that PowerPlay is — maybe in a similar way to match play (though not to the same level) — more interesting to play than to watch. Match play fails on television because it is unpredictable — golfers can falter and be beaten in a dozen holes, and television wants to know that its stars will be there until the last commercial break. PowerPlay tries to alter that by building up to the final hole — but it still seems like something that might be more fun to play (and I have tried it) than to observe.
I also wondered if having a few groups play — even with good players like Paul Casey — was too distracting. It would have been much more interesting if the event was focused on one group — maybe Creamer, Player, McDowell and Poulter — and allowed spectators to focus on this new form of golf. Instead the cameras bounced around from group to group while the announcers screeched about whether someone had a powerplay or not. Frankly, even to me it was hard to keep it straight and be interested.
A breakthrough in golf? I don’t see it. An alternative that might find its own supporters? Quite possibly.