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Comment: The Perils of Stadium Golf

So European Tour boss, Keith Pelley, bless his entrepreneurial heart, sees a future in stadium golf.

Not all golf mind you, but some.

To quote Darryl Kerrigan, the loveable figure in the acclaimed Australian movie, The Castle: ‘Tell him he’s dreamin.’

Honestly, the Kerrigan family had more hope of getting $10 million for their humble self-built home on the edge of Melbourne airport than Pelley has of getting this one off the ground.

As good a job as he has done growing the European Tour and taking it to new frontiers, he is barking up the wrong tree here.

Thankfully, he is not advocating abandoning the traditions of the time-honoured 72-hole event.

But having worked in the NFL, NHL, and Major League Baseball, Pelley says he is always “on the lookout for innovation” on the European Tour.

That’s why he has thrown up the prospect of transforming a stadium into a makeshift, six-hole course for a novelty tournament.

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"I can see a day where that will be an event that would happen once a year as a celebration of our game," Pelley said.

"It would be completely different. It could be fun.

"We want to modernise (the game) as much we possibly can. In order to do that, you have to unleash your imagination, and we're having fun doing it.

"We have to be creative. Allowing our imaginations to be unleashed so that we can improve the game, so that we can bring new fans and new people to what I think is the greatest game of all."

Pelley has a proven track record embracing quirky ideas and he's not afraid to try them out.

Before last year's British Masters, he helped launch the Hero Challenge, where eight leading professionals and four celebrities took part in a knockout contest after dark.

And he has launched GolfSixes, the game’s version of Twenty20 cricket, where two-man teams from 16 nations will battle it out over shortened match play rounds.

The tournament will debut in May and have fireworks and live music thrown in for good measure.

Good luck, Keith.

But we remember one of our own, Victorian pro Peter Wilson, trying a similar format at Flinders Golf Club, south-east of Melbourne, for a couple of years. 

He is back playing the Tour.

Peter Thomson, the venerated elder statesman of Australian golf, has long advocated the game needs to be faster moving and more action-packed to attract wider television coverage and new audiences. 

'We have been left behind by cricket and AFL football,' Thomson often laments.

He marvels at the success of Twenty20 cricket and would be in the Pelley camp on this one. 

But seriously … live music, fireworks, novelty golf? Save it for the village fair or school fete, Keith.

The younger generation is showing signs of falling back in love with golf. For that, we can thank Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Lydia Ko and others. 

The sport does not need to be tricked up to be more attractive to the millennials and their older brothers and sisters. If you want a shorter version then play nine holes.

Indeed, the best recent entrepreneurial innovation in the game has come from an unlikely place - the often-maligned custodians of golf, the R&A and the USGA.

They have catapaulted the rules of golf into the 21st century, flagging more than 50 bold rule-change proposals aimed at speeding up and simplifying the game.

Among other things, players will no longer be penalised for accidentally moving their ball while searching for it, nor will they incur a penalty if their ball moves when they are addressing a putt.

Other radical innovations include being able to putt on the green with the flagstick in the cup and the time allowed to find a lost ball being slashed from five minutes to three.

“The entire rule book has been rewritten," said David Rickman, the R&A's Executive Director of Governance.

“We believe the changes will be good for the sport.”

He said the "trade-off" between relaxing many rules and making them more understandable for the average player was worth it.

All power to the rule-makers.

Their initiative will do more to reshape the image of golf and make it more appealing than any hair-brained, albeit well-intentioned, tinkering from the entrepreneurs.

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Michael Davis