PowerPlay Golf: A Viable Alternative?

The golf industry is searching. Searching for a way to bring more players to the game. Searching for ways to make a game that increasingly takes five hours to play take less time. Searching for a way to offset the impact of the economic slowdown.

Barry Forth, the GM at Copetown Woods thinks he found an alternative in the UK. The concept is PowerPlay golf. EagleParBirdie blog has an extensive write up about the game within a game here.

The essence of the game is there are two flags on each hole — a relatively straight forward hole and a difficult one. Here’s what the official PowerPlay site has to say:

PowerPlay Golf is a new nine-hole form of golf, where there are two flags on every green. You can score extra points if you take a ‘PowerPlay’ and go for the Black Flag, but you have a limited number of ‘PowerPlays’ in your round – choose wisely.

Famed British amateur Peter McEvoy is promoting the concept, and Forth caught on to it after reading about it on the Web. He answered five questions about the new game in an attempt to explain its appeal. Forth has the rights to PowerPlay golf in Canada — and with rumours of a made-for-TV type skins game coming utilizing the concept, it’ll be interesting to see whether this catches on.

G4G: How did you hear about the PowerPlay Golf concept?

I was on the European Golf Course Owners Association website to try to get some ideas of what golf courses were doing there. I came across a presentation that was done at the EGCOA Conference by Peter McEvoy, the Co-Creator of PowerPlay Golf. It sounded very interesting and the more I read into it and went on the PowerPlay Golf website it seemed like an exciting and fun way to play 9 holes of golf. It has become very popular in the UK, Ireland, Australia & South Africa and will be launching in the United States very soon.

G4G: What was the appeal of PowerPlay?

PowerPlay Golf is different than anything anyone has done with golf before. That in itself made it appealing to me as we have generally not followed the beaten path when it comes to how we run our golf course. I immediately thought of running weekday leagues run at off-peak times when our tee-sheet is empty. Generally speaking, most golf courses tee off golfers on the first tee in the morning, and in two hours they get to the back nine. Why not run a weekday morning league off the back nine, bring more golfers in and increase the revenue without really spending any money? The same can be done off the first tee in the evenings, after the twilight golfers tee-off. With the current state of the economy, golfers may not have the time or money, or both, to play 18 holes as much as they did.

PowerPlay Golf is not meant to completely change the way golf is played. Golf courses that offer PowerPlay Golf will maybe introduce it monthly into current leagues, or run weekly leagues or an occasional special event. Golf courses are not going to have to flags in their greens all the time.

One of the major plans for PowerPlay Golf is to showcase PowerPlay Golf worldwide with a made for television event. These events are hopefully going to be played this fall, using well known PGA Tour Players and will certainly be an eye-opener to the golf world. There are many testimonials from some of the top executives in the world of golf that have been introduced to PowerPlay Golf, and the response has been that the potential is huge.

G4G: Explain how it works?

Although at first it does look a little confusing, PowerPlay Golf really is a simple format.

PowerPlay Golf is played over 9 holes, with each green having 2 flags on it, one White (easy pin) and one Black (difficult pin). Three times on the first 8 holes, golfers must announce on the tee that they are going to take a PowerPlay, meaning going for the Black Flag. When taking a PowerPlay, if you get a Net Birdie or better, you receive Double points (Stableford point system is below). On the last hole, you have the option of going for a fourth PowerPlay to increase your points, but if you get a Net Bogey or worse, you lose 2 points.

This gives golfers that are behind a couple points that chance to catch up and adds the risk-reward element to the final hole.

The Stableford points system is used and is played off of a full handicap. When going for the White Flag, the following points are awarded. When taking a PowerPlay, if you score a Net Birdie or better, you double your points.

Net Bogey 1 point

Net Par 2 Points

Net Birdie 3 points

Net Eagle 4 points

Net Albatross 5 Points

G4G: These ideas have been floated in the past (concepts of things like 12 hole courses, six hole loops, etc.) Why do you think this one will work?

I looked into the 6 or 12 hole games, but the problem is that logistically they don’t work well for golf courses. Golf courses are designed to have two, nine hole loops, creating a great opportunity for a nine hole game like PowerPlay to work. As well, because it is nine holes, it is easier for golf courses to fit it into time slots that are wide open, thus creating incremental revenue.

For golfers, it opens up the door to something new and exciting. If you can imagine yourself playing with three friends, and it comes down to the last hole where you must take a PowerPlay to have a chance of winning. The excitement and adrenaline that you would feel would be great, especially if you are able to overtake the lead for the win.

G4G: Where are people going to be able to play PowerPlay?

PowerPlay Golf in Canada has just officially been brought into Canada within the last week, so as of now Copetown Woods is the only Official Venue. I have had conversations with a few other golf courses that are very interested and a couple that are going to offer PowerPlay Golf for sure. These courses will be named in the coming weeks, and will be added to the Canadian page or the PowerPlay Golf website ( once they become an Official Venue.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

21 CommentsLeave a comment

  • This sounds like a fun game…but one question? If it was done in morning…exactly as described…you would have your typical 18 hole golfer teeing off on the first morning tee on hole 1…while the powerplay players are teeing off on back 9.
    When the morning regular golfers got to the 10th tee…what happens to the double pins? Unless someone is running out behind those back 9 players to pull the extra pins…you would have the morning groups reach the back and seeing double pins on the greens it would be distracing, odd and confusing.
    How would that be handled?

  • Hey Craig 3…..Don’t be so negative. I think it is a great idea. The inventor of this concept also invested roller hockey, and ringette, syncho swimming, and pairs diving. I can see it really taking off. It is a fabulous idea for losers and there are many of those. A sucker is born every minute.

  • Leave it to Copetown. This is really silly. Been done in several different formats over the years. All revolve around 9 holes.
    Golf is 18 holes.

  • Craig … in regards to the 2 pins in greens for those not playing PowerPlay Golf, one of the turf staff would work behind the last group to plus one of the 2 holes … quite easy for them to do.

    Craig 2, 3, 4 – I suppose its not for everyone! Just another option.

  • Twice the traffic on cetain areas of the green=more beat up and bumpy greens, conditions would suffer. If you want to speed up play reward for quick play and penalize slow play. Give free food out if done in 4:15, charge an extra 10 if not.

  • Sounds like a great idea and I would play for sure, as it would add a new element to a league type format. I have played bingo bango bongo, one club challenge, hidden holes and ALL the other games at a number of courses. We need something new!!

    Look forward to hearing more about it..

  • hey wayne,

    it would likely not be twice the traffic since you’d be distributing traffic through the green. it would be less concentrated wear, which means traffic throughout a greater portion of the green than you would with only a single pin position. i doubt you’d notice.

  • Hey phil,
    In reality you are increasing the amount of play on the greens in use for the 9 hole. Copetowns’ whole idea is having this league/format at downtimes when the golf course is not busy.

  • hey craig4, 7 or whatever #,

    re read wayne’s comments…he said it was twice the traffic in certain areas. if its non-busy times, thats not doubling the wear… thats increasing business. nothing wrong with that. greens are meant to be played upon.

  • Yes, greens are meant to be played on but all surfaces have a limitation. Depends upon the design, build, etc. BUT from the sounds of it, Copetown is not busy so its a moot point.

  • Craig4 … we are not running PowerPlay Golf at Copetown Woods because we are not busy. If we weren’t busy, we would be one of the courses being sold at pennies on the dollar after being in receivership.

    PowerPlay Golf will allow golf courses to offer a more exciting version of a 9 hole league, which can be played at more off-peak times than an 18 hole league because it only takes 2 hours to play. Not many courses have people teeing off their first tee after 5:30pm as you can’t finish 18 holes before dark … a 9 hole league fits perfectly into that time slot to finish in time.

  • The big issue here is that golf is dying on its feet. It is becoming further and further divorced from what 21st century society expects. We are in a consumerist society where excitement and quick fixes are the currency.

    Golf has to embrace this cultural shift and PowerPlay Golf appears to be doing that.

    We should give it a chance, I think.

  • To Craig: when the interweb was invented, did you say it would never catch on? And who needs to carry their own phone around? And those microwave ovens are dangerous too, they’ll never catch on either.

    Or have you started to use all three? Looks like you’ve woken up to the web. I’d say you should relax, go to sleep, and wake up in two years when you’ll be playing PowerPlay on half the courses in Canada, like the rest of us who actually look forward to change – rather than resisting it.

  • The day I start seeing two flags on every green and my score doesn’t equal the number of strokes I took, is the day I start playing tennis again.

    At first blush, I thought this Power Golf could be the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, but upon reflection I am now certain that it is the single dumbest most retarded thing I’ve ever heard.

    The beauty of golf is in the simplicity the game – hit a ball into a hole in the fewest number of strokes you can. Making it more complicated will turn off many golfers and make it a barrier to those willing to try. Perhaps you could include mulligans, lifelines (phone a friend), get a few swinging logs and a couple of windmills.

    Why I’ve spent time commenting on this nonsense is sad.

  • If you don’t enjoy playing the game of golf then go play something else. Damn, look at my watch, I’ve got a game of baseketball coming up – i hate baseball and basketball but this combination is the best.

    Maybe if you hit the golf ball into a hazard you should go into a penalty box for 2 minutes (for a bunker) or 5 minutes (for a water hazard) . I hope no one steals this idea.

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