Twitter: GeoffShac
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Tweaking The Olympic Golf Format: Golf Needs More Disciplines

Even if you have disdain for the Olympic golf concept or discussion of the Games at this point, the issue of what to do going forward in Tokyo 2020 is important for all to consider.

Why? Because the fallback excuse for golf not broadening its format horizons is consistently lame: 72 holes of stroke play is the most recognized format for deciding a champion. Therefore, we're stuck with it in the Olympics even though even the most casual fan can see it's not very Olympian.

Stroke play is only the most recognized because any effort to introduce new formats has been strangled, trampled and bemoaned by players, who are paid not for their creativity and vision, but to display their golf skills. Yet as the Ryder Cup reminds us every two years when played with formats that most modern players would have torpedoed in a policy board meeting, the event produces consistency entertaining spectacles.

Olympic golf offering more disciplines and team fun should be our immediate priority, while weaving in other formats beyond the Games should also become a focus of the IGF. Showing fans the many ways golf can be played beyond card-and-pencil stroke play will do more good than any grow-the-game initiative.

Doug Ferguson of the AP declared Olympic golf a success in this story, quotes Peter Dawson mentioning how the IOC doesn't want a "trial format," and then gets to a possible solution that gets team play into the 2020 games.

The Summer Youth Olympics nailed it in China two years ago, though the field size was 32 players instead of the 60 players for the men's and women's competition in Rio.

The boys and girls each played the first three days for a 54-hole individual medal. Then, they played mixed team the next three days — 18 holes of foursomes, 18 holes of fourballs, and two singles matches to reach a 72-hole score. Sweden won the gold in a playoff over South Korea, while Italy won a playoff for the bronze over Denmark.

One idea being kicked around is to stage a mixed-team event the last two days between the men's and women's competitions. That could be either fourballs and foursomes on the same (long) day, or a 54-hole event with foursomes one day, and two singles the next day. That way, every shot would count.

My colleague Jaime Diaz made a valid point: the men’s event was such a success, that this actually frees the IGF to propose a bolder format tweak to Olympic golf instead of merely trying to keep it in the Games as is.

My polling of IGF officials, players and Olympic veterans suggests the following parameters must be kept in mind:

—60 player fields will probably not change. Even though many golfers, as expected, stayed outside of the Olympic Village because they traveled with family and spouses, golf still most can’t exceed that number.

World Ranking points will likely remain for qualifying. But it sure would be fun to hear of a more creative way that introduces a "play-in" element that serves as a great way to create excitement going into the games. If team play is introduced, shouldn't players be able to pick their partners ala beach volleyball?

—Individual stroke play will remain, and it'll be 72 holes.
A 36-hole final day could be interesting, but with five hour rounds that would be a long day for players, volunteers and the course maintenance crew.

--The IOC doesn't like competitions within competitions. Therefore three days of stroke play that determines a two-person team medal, followed by a one-day stroke play event, does not work for them. Unless its gymnastics.

—The Olympic format should be recognized in some international event of significance
. Pointing to the Ryder Cup for Four-ball and Foursomes play makes our task easier. The WGC Match Play has added pool play, so that’s covered too. However, proposing rounds of less than 18 holes become an issue in this scenario.

—Mixed Events Are Big With The IOC.
I haven’t thought of a way that a mixed doubles event works outside of the one outlined above by Ferguson, but the mixed team concept appeals to many. Though it would appeal more if players could select their partners and qualify (think Martin and Gerina Piller!). Golf would need to have a mixed event added to the PGA Tour, LPGA and European Tour schedules, something that is long overdue anyway.

—One week is enough for each gender. Keeping the golfers at the Games for all two weeks would be excessive. As would too many 36-hole days. Let them go enjoy the Olympic spirit. As we saw with Rickie, Bubba and the other golfers last week, having our game’s stars interacting with the other athletes not only gave a great impression, it positively changed their perspectives.

As I discussed with
Gary Williams on Monday's Morning Drive, we have to get a two person team competition. Based on the feedback of those in Rio and in watching, I'd like to see one of two ideas considered (neither incorporates the mixed element).

--72 holes of stroke play, with the three low two-person teams awarded medals after 54 holes for best aggregate scores. Yes, some countries only send one player, but enough send two (or four) that world rankings could determine teams. Not a perfect concept and it's not introducing match play, but it's a competition that would spice up the first three days significantly.

--72 holes of stroke play, followed by two days of team match play. Award medals for individual performance and use the medal play days to whittle the match play down to the best 8 teams from the first four days. This gives players something to play for if they are out of the individual medal race. From the 8 teams qualifying,  play a four-ball or foursomes match play event over two days to determine three more medals.

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Reader Comments (26)

One thing that the mens schedule for the Olympics can do without is the Ryder Cup the same year.

The solution is simple- have Ryder Cups in 2018 and 2019 and every 2 years thereafter.
Are comments ever coming on in other threads?
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterV.Lind
I miss reading comments on this site.
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Matthew IV
"Will success spoil Geoff Shackelford?" Has the question been answered now that comments are off?

"The public is the only critic whose opinion means anything at all." - Mark Twain
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata
"Speaking of relevance, I'm fairly certain that Zach could have walked through the Olympic Village with his caddie wearing a name-labeled bib, the Claret Jug in hand, all while singing the Star Spangled Banner, and still would have been guessed by most as a masseuse for the USA sailing team."

Geoff, did an evil spirit hijack your site? I can't believe that you would speak ill of a two-time major champion. Zack might not be the most exciting golfer out there, but his accomplishments are impressive.

This constant shilling of Olympic golf is growing old.
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterSilly Bodkins
+1 John Matthew

Hopefully it's a simple glitch why comments are off
08.25.2016 | Unregistered Commenterpatience
Why are comments on for this thread???
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterAmen Coroner
No comments, no

But it's true. Yes, he is a 2-time Major Champion, but without his SeeMore putter, would anyone recognize Zach Johnson?
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
RE: Comments, this from Geoff's twitter feed:

Greg Beaulieu ‏@Greg_Beau 17h17 hours ago Halifax, Nova Scotia
@GeoffShac Geoff, I see all comments are off. Not really a surprise but maybe a post on your site explaining would be useful.

Geoff Shackelford ‏@GeoffShac 15h15 hours ago
@Greg_Beau fighting off a spammer who I really don’t want to give attention to. Thanks for your patience and support!
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterPJ
Let's face it this site isn't the same without comments from readers. While I appreciate Geoff's writings I much more enjoy the feedback from fellow readers.

Geoff I appreciate that you're "fighting off a spammer" but there has to be a better way. If not you're going to lose a lot of us. There are many other places to share our thoughts.
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
Maybe there could be a medal for chipping over a really high flop wall or breaking small windows from 50 meters.
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterDD4442
The Zach Johnson reaction is not surprising given his ties to the John Deere tourney, which was clearly the most impacted by the Olympics, from field strength to TV to overall coverage. He is obviously bitter about it.

While comments are on this thread, a quick note to all as we close in on Ryder Cup. The Ted Bishop book "Unfriended" has a bunch of good inside info from 3 RC's, of course especially Gleneagles, the the machinations behind Tom Watson's selection and overall process. There is a bias of course, but still very interesting. stuff.
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
Enough Olympic golf ....enough ! There have been just as many extremely boring match play tournaments over the years , with low ranked players battling it out on Sundays while nobody watches. Let's just have the long drive idiots compete . That would be a nice clean format for both men and women. It's obvious to casual viewers that the people hitting it the farthest are the most skilled players in the world. Ask yourselves ; if you want to challenge a better player to a match , which would you choose , match play or stroke play ? Stroke play has been the format for championship golf for a long time because of one reason , it identifies the best players .

The last suggestion for format made the most sense . There will be only a few teams with any chance to win anyway.
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterJJBeck
I have missed the comments.

Here's a totally off the wall idea: Give medals for each day of play. If they give out multiple medals for doing the same swimming and gymnastics disciplines, why not a medal for best round of each day?
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterThe O
maybe the Olympics could steal a page from the Masters and hold a par 3 tournament.
08.25.2016 | Unregistered Commenterthusgone
Fighting off a spammer. Genius. I thought it might have been all of the knuckle-dragging over a posting about a sitting President a couple of weeks back, combined with the frothing Trump support. Completely missed the spam angle!
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterUnconvinced
Yes, I miss the comments. It is kind of like a wedding without a reception, you know the ceremony is the reason you are there but the socializing is the most fun part.
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterPABoy
Relieved there is a good reason, though disturbed by what it is. There had been so many posts removed here in recent weeks when they appeared to take a line opposing the rather gung-ho pro-Olympic stance of Geoff and others that I wondered if he had had enough of the hoi polloi. But I generally figured that perhaps he was on a break after Rio, which doubtless meant a lot of effort, and had nobody to monitor the posts.

In any case, there has always been disagreement on this -- and every -- blog site. I hope as long as it is argued cogently and courteously it will not be shut down in future -- I began as considerably opposed to the inclusion fro pro golf in the Olympics, but read all the arguments on both sides and watched a fair bit of the event, including the exciting final round, and I have modified my views somewhat. To what extent other posters' opinions were instrumental is not yet clear to me, but it is something I continue to think about. My own views were neither unformed nor unINformed, but I have never considered that I know all the answers, and it is instructive and valuable on this and many other issues to be exposed to the collective insights of other people.
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterV.Lind
+ 1 V.Lind / a number of other news sites just take a breath and turn off the comments...
Loved the Olympic golf and sad to see the IOC .If FIFA can be reformed, maybe one day someone will make a run and reform the IOC.

I read a great article that suggested countries share the summer games...Given the enormous cost burden..Track & Field in Berlin Germany, a list of sports competing in Rome, part of the games in Netherlands..
Its simply so costly for one country to take on constructing these massive venues and see them dormant 2 weeks later.

Geoff, longtime follower, learned so much from your book "Grounds for Golf" about the game my Dad & I enjoy, love the blog and enjoyed seeing the comments off for a bit...totally your perogative
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterPrairie Golfer
As others have said if the comments were to be permanently shut off here that would be it for me. The recent treatment of respectful comments by longtime commenters here like PA PLAYA was a big time turn off for me. I fully understand the need to moderate disrespectful comments and personal attacks but a site that isn't strong enough in it's convictions to put up with some difference of opinion isn't one that I'm interested in.

I sincerely hope this isn't one of those sites.
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterGriffin
posts off on political stuff with vicious commenters; ok for the rest.

Blocking the spammers selling shoes, etc, please block.

You could have a registration, and that would end the hacks. No sign in #, no post.
08.25.2016 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
Strange days. Hope you are all well.
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterTighthead
@digsouth...yeah I don't know the details of how but I don't like the changing usernames that goes on here a lot. You should get one username and if you enter it wrong and it doesn't match up with your IP address then your comment doesn't go through.
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterGriffin
Great comments regarding the lack of comments. I don't always agree with all of you guys but I sure did miss your comments for the last few days.

Great idea Griffin. There has to be a better way then to shut all comments down.
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
Geoff, reading the many comments above, I don't blame you for ending the comments. I'd miss 'em but wow, you sure have a lot of a**holes for readers who really aren't very grateful for what you do.
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterOB
I typically zip through the post and head straight to the comments. Gawker, now this? "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, ... that was always in that individuality, and which I shall carry in mine to my life's end."
08.25.2016 | Unregistered CommenterOriginal AG
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