What the Hero Challenge needs to do if it is to help grow participation in golf back to what it used to be
An article posted right here on Digital Sport back in October explored Golf’s European Tour’s latest innovation, the Hero Challenge.
The challenge is essentially a par three, knockout playoff played just before the British Masters in mid October. It was an event created in order to show off a new, speedier, millennial-friendly side of a sport which is seeing its participation rates decline, especially amongst a younger generation.
It was, however, a great success amongst fans, players and the media and it will have brought golf to the attention of people who wouldn’t usually tune in to watch the sport. But it will take more than one event at one tournament to increase the amount of people participating in golf across the world.
The European and PGA Tours need to learn from the success of the Hero Challenge at the British Masters and actually push on with similar ideas to attract new audiences and reinvigorate the old.
To do this, golf must evaluate why the event was a success, and potentially apply it to current tour events. One of the reasons that it works so well is that is takes one skill set, isolates it, then creates tournament around it. So why not create more specialised events around some of the skills peculiar to golf, just like the World Long Drive Championship does.
The potential for new ideas within golf are limited but in a world of social media and six-second videos, shorter form golf could be profitable. It could be as simple as staging a Hero Challenge style event at every major tournament across the year. Promoting it in this way could see the shorter form become a specialised event in itself – and with the right investment and sponsorship could become something special as a stand alone event.
The challenge for golf now is to find a way to engage with a younger audience that is tuning out. It needs to adapt to the social media age, and shorter form events are one way of doing that. As would be following the path of Red Bull Sport in taking an event and making it as extreme as possible. Imagine golf with different twists, adding an element of excitement that’s not usually there – certainly for an audience with a short attention span. Imagine snow golf, (the slightly more dangerous) blindfold golf or even golf which incorporates speed and different forms of scoring.
The key fundamental to attaining success in increasing participation levels across the sport primarily begins with the work of the European and PGA Tours. They are the biggest worldwide tours, and any event that has their backing will carry much more clout, enabling new forms of golf to reach existing fans and possibly broadcasters, too. Both tours are crucial to the growth of the sport in the coming years as they can provide funding, exposure and the leverage required to take golf to new heights.
The Hero Challenge would be a great basis to start from. It was a success the first time around, and it can be easily implemented into the current golfing schedule. It works as a spectacle, but it is also a great appetiser event for any golf tournament. As it has already been partially established, golf must build upon its success and organise more events like the Hero Challenge to have a positive impact on the moving forward. It’s time to get creative, otherwise people will continue to switch off in their droves.
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