If a question is worth asking, the answer – infuriatingly – is almost always ‘it depends’. And so it is with professional golf and where its future might lie.
Do Mike Clayton and Geoff Ogilvy have it right with their Sandbelt Invitational, a simple idea for a tournament where golf and its courses (rather than ‘name’ players) are the star of the show?
Or do the touted Saudi Super League/Premiere Golf League concepts have more to offer with their gigantic piles of money and ‘big name’ appeal?
Obviously, the answer depends very much on your relationship with golf as evidenced by the responses to these two offerings to date.
Ogilvy and Clayton must surely be delighted with the positive feedback they have received to last week’s launch announcement.
"2022 looks to be the year global professional golf will be thrown into at least some sort of turmoil as the existing hierarchy prepares to ward off threats from outside." - Rod Morri.
Despite openly admitting there won’t be a single ‘marquee’ player in the field (probably), the response both locally and internationally has been overwhelmingly positive.
Even six-time major winner Nick Faldo jokingly asked if there might be an ‘old codgers exhibition fourball next year’ so strong is the lure of Melbourne’s golfing gems.
Hardcore golf fans the world over, it seems, are excited by the prospect of seeing tournament golf at Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath, Yarra Yarra and Peninsula Kingswood regardless who is playing. (Though ironically, there won’t be a telecast of this year’s event.)
Contrast that to the – at best – lukewarm response to any and all announcements by the two ‘disruptor’ leagues.
The promise of ‘the best playing the best’ and the ‘excitement’ that team play and a league system would supposedly bring has done little to visibly stir the emotions of golf fans.
However – and this is where the ‘depends’ part comes in – give even cursory consideration to what the response of potential commercial partners might be to both offerings and those answers will be flipped 180 degrees.
For those involved in the business of professional golf, star players are the lifeblood of the game.
Without the Rorys and Tigers and Nellys and Minjees, you simply don’t have a product to sell. Not to a broader audience, anyway.
The lack of guaranteed star power (courtesy of quarantine and travel restrictions) is the reason the Australian Opens were cancelled for a second time in 2021.
Yet the reason more than a handful of golf fans will likely travel interstate to watch the Sandbelt Invitational has nothing to do with name players.
Obviously, Nirvana for all concerned is the bringing together of these two elements of appeal, where the game’s biggest stars tee up on its best courses.
The Masters and The Open prove every year this is golf’s Holy Grail and with their bold first step perhaps Ogilvy and Clayton have laid the foundations for something similar to grow in Australia.
2022 looks to be the year global professional golf will be thrown into at least some sort of turmoil as the existing hierarchy prepares to ward off threats from outside.
Perhaps those in charge can take something valuable from both the Sandbelt Invitational and the disruptor leagues that could shore up their position into the future?
Regardless of the outcome, it will be intriguing to watch what unfolds.