Why golf's modern crusaders should take a leaf from Sunningdale's book
Be it shot clocks or mixed-entry gimmicks or team events or six-hole sprints, there has been no shortage of attempts to modernise golf tournaments in the last few years. Recently I played in the Sunningdale Foursomes, and I left once again feeling that those trying to reinvigorate the sport should spend a few days in this special corner of Berkshire each spring and see if anything can be learned from this ancient, storied, idiosyncratic event.
This year in the wind and rain, the reigning Women’s British Open champion Georgia Hall teed it up in a field that also included two men’s European Tour players, Challenge Tour players, a plethora of strong amateurs, and people like me.
Past winners include Max Faulkner, Peter Alliss, Sir Michael Bonallack, Peter Oosterhuis, Sam Torrance, Ronan Rafferty, Chubby Chandler, Luke Donald, and Ross Fisher.
In recent years Paul Lawrie and his son have formed a pair, Sandy Lyle is a regular, they all come and subject themselves to the early spring weather, the foursomes very own handicap system, and the likelihood they will be eliminated by some chancers no one has ever heard of in the second round.
That unique handicap system allows pros, amateurs, men and women to compete fairly from the same set of tees. The foursomes element helps of course, and what a curious leveller alternate shot can be.
This year’s weather only added to the challenge. Rain and wind blighted the first two days and certainly in our matches it was a relief to be without a card and pencil.
In our final match the combined handicap of the group was +8, we lost at the 17th when approximately 18-over-par.
Scoring that morning had been rather better, but as the rain clouds gathered over lunch and our defeated opposition settled in at the bar with a bottle of red, you did wonder who had the better deal.
The Foursomes has been around exactly along as the Masters. In their own way, both wave in the start of another season and can be counted as two of golf’s most brilliant and bonkers events that you hope those aiming to modernise the sport choose to copy not change.