'Golf's Twenty20' set to launch at Clearwater

BRAIN CHILD: Sir Bob Charles says there is a need to speed up the game of golf in order to broaden its appeal.
BRAIN CHILD: Sir Bob Charles says there is a need to speed up the game of golf in order to broaden its appeal.

Golf's version of Twenty20 cricket has been conceived, organised, trialled and is set to start officially next month at the Clearwater Golf Club.

The fast-forward version of the 600-year-old game is the brainchild of New Zealand's most famous golfer, Sir Bob Charles.

In February Charles told Fairfax Media of a need to speed up the game.

To combat a drop in interest and revitalise the sport, Charles said it needed to be: "shorter, faster and more accessible if it is to survive".

Now he and the Clearwater club that he is an honorary member of, have done something about it.

The new game, coined 30-30 golf, had a trial at the course on Sunday and initial feedback indicates it was a success.

Using the usual greens, new tees have been built to make a much shorter, par-60 course featuring 12 par-threes and six par-fours.

The purists need not to worry, the original course is still in place and in use, the shorter version is just an extra option, specifically designed to be shorter and faster.

The course-within-a-course is exactly 3000m in length, 1500m each side, but it's by no means easy, according to Clearwater general manager Andrew Bell.

"You have to remember, the greens are still pretty tough greens, the bunkers are still bunkers; the course may be shorter and faster, which is the point, but it's still a tough golf course if you don't play it well."

The longest hole in the new layout is just 310m while the shortest is 80m.

Charles was one of 78 players to play the truncated course on Sunday and shot an even par 60 - the low round of the day and 17 shots under his age.

Carts are compulsory for the new format as speed is a major priority.

Bell expected players could play a full round of the "new course" in between two and a half and three hours.

Clearwater expects to have the new layout rated by New Zealand Golf and useable in a handicapped format soon.

The new artificial tee blocks, which are being shipped in from the United States, are expected to be set up and playable by mid to late-June.

They will be situated to the sides of the existing fairways, creating new angles for approach shots.

Though made of artificial grass, the new tees are meant to be "far better than the artificial driving range tees," Bell said.

According to the Clearwater website, a round for an affiliated golfer costs $95 while 30-30 golf will cost $50 with a cart.

"So it's about half the price, but you get more than half the golf," Bell said.

"And $50 would get them a round of 30-30 golf, a cart and entry to the competition."

The new format will have to be played at selected times as to not disrupt those playing the traditional course.

Bell said Monday mornings would likely be set aside for women's 30-30, Thursday morning for men's and Sunday mornings a combined tournament could be run.

"The course might sound a lot easier, but I would still challenge anyone to come out and play the course to their handicap the first time," Bell said.

"Some members said the new format could be a good change or good once in a while, but some of the older ones saw it as a way to play more in the winter and I think quite appealling."

The Press