Yesterday I took the 75-minute drive down to Copetown Woods to see a demonstration of PowerPlay golf. The notion, developed by former British Amateur champ Peter McEvoy, was to develop a version of golf that was shorter than typical 18 hole rounds, which many feel are too long and are keeping people away from the game. It is an interesting notion and one seized by Barry Forth, the GM at Copetown and a fairly entreprenuerial fellow.
McEvoy’s concept was conceived out of finding something that dealt with the problems facing the game — namely the length of time it takes to play. He first became involved with a six-hole course north of London, but that failed to spark interest. Then he considered something along the lines of 20/20 cricket, and five-a-side football — something that took the traditional concept of the sport and reinvented part of it.
He came up with PowerPlay Golf, which is played over nine holes and has two flags on each green. The white flag is the traditional flag and is the easier pin; the black flag is much more difficult and is worth more points for a net par, birdie or eagle. Players get to try three “powerplays” over the first eight holes. He unveiled the concept a couple of years ago.
“We invited the audience with the greatest degree of cynicism,” he said. “So we invited journalists.”
It went over very well, he said, and the concept moved forward. Powerplay is now in 21 countries, with Forth starting it in Canada this year. The next step is pro events — 16 player fields in the US and UK, involving IMG Sports, which represents many of the game’s best golfers, including Tiger Woods, Mike Weir, Sergio Garcia, etc. McEvoy envisions a 3-hour televised event involving four PGA Tour pros, 2 Champions Tour players, 2 LPGA players and a mix of 8 others (top club pros, amateurs, others).
“We’d have an eccletic mix of players,” he says.
For Copetown, the club is rolling out the concept on Wednesday and Thursday at specific times. Forth sees it as a way of generating rounds in off-peak times, especially late in the day when most people cannot play a full 18 holes.
The RCGA was there too — hedging their bets, it appeared. Peter Palmer, one of the managing directors at the RCGA, made it clear the organization would support the concept — if it garners some sort of popularity.
“Of course we hope it takes off,” Palmer says. “And if the results warrant, we’d look forward to increasing our participation.”
What’s my take? I’m skeptical about it, though there are some interesting points as well. One can play badly for most of a round, but have a couple of good “Powerplay” holes and make a bunch of points. That would keep anyone interested, I would think, as was my case, where I started out with two poor holes and then drove the 12th green at Copetown, setting up a birdie chance.
But I also wonder whether there’s enough risk/reward in the game. On our final hole, each was allowed a fourth powerplay. However, if we made bogey or worse, points were deducted. It strikes me that this might be the more viable option — allow powerplays on each hole, but if one makes net bogey or worse, deduct points. It might add more variation and excitement to the concept.
So truth be told, I’m not sold on Powerplay yet. It is an interesting concept and the folks behind it are passionate about it. Will we be talking about it in two years? I’m not so sure.
McEvoy is more certain: “I’ve personally seen thousands of people play,” he says. “I know it works. I know they love it.”