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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Few Thoughts on PowerPlay Golf

I don't know how many of you watched the "Ignition" PowerPlay Golf tournament on Memorial Day (replayed on GC Tuesday night), but I thought I'd post my impressions of this new format.

The 30-second tutorial: PowerPlay Golf is a 9-hole Stableford tournament -- that is, you receive points as your score. Each green has two flags, white and black; the black flag is the PowerPlay flag, and it's the more difficult of the two. You play 3 PowerPlays in the first 8 holes, no more, no less, and you have an option of playing the 9th as a PowerPlay. If you shot at the white flag, a bogey's worth 1 point, a par 2, a birdie 3, an eagle 4, and an albatross (double eagle) 5; double-bogey or worse gets 0 points. If you go for the black flag, points for birdie and better are doubled. And if you PowerPlay the 9th hole and make double-bogey or worse, you lose 3 points. The player with the most points wins.

You wouldn't think the black flags would make that much of a difference, but it really adds strategy. In effect, you have to guess which three holes you can birdie and declare them as PowerPlays before you hit your tee shot. Wasting a PowerPlay can really hurt you in the end, and it adds a lot of strategy to the game. And in this tournament, with a drivable par-4 as the 9th, there could have easily been an 11-point swing there -- an 8-point eagle versus a 3-point loss for double-bogey.

For example, on one par-5 Paula Creamer did not call a PowerPlay but went on to eagle it. You might think that was a bad call, but most of the players who went for the black pin did well to make par. And Victor Dubuisson made a bad choice with his last PowerPlay that cost him at least 4 points.

There were 3 women among the 12 players, and they finished 1, 2, and T3:
  1. 32 points: Caroline Hedwall
  2. 29 points: Helen Alfredsson
  3. 27 points: Paula Creamer, Ian Poulter
Hedwall had won the LET event on Sunday, and followed up with this win 24 hours later. She birdied all of her PowerPlay holes, and that made the difference. Some commenters have suggested that the women did better because they don't have the ability to overpower the course, which some of the men clearly tried to do.

Personally, I liked the format. The entire tournament only took about 3 hours, and it was pretty fast-paced. I suspect that it will only make it as a pro event if it's played in conjunction with an existing event, just as this one was played at Celtic Manor where Saab is also sponsoring the regular ET event this week. But this could work well as a primetime sports event.

For weekend players, it really looks like fun. The only hole where you can lose points is the final hole, and then only if you go for the PowerPlay. But although all the players in this tournament went for the PowerPlay, it wasn't strategically the best choice for many of the players. With the shaved bank on the final hole, a couple of players did lose points needlessly. And Graeme McDowell remarked that the strategy aspect was harder than he expected, so this would certainly appeal to weekend players in search of a money game.

IMO this is a very workable format. For a course with 3 nines or more, it would be a pretty simple matter to turn one of them into a PowerPlay course by setting two flags on each green. And gameplay would run pretty fast once players became familiar with the format. So I'm giving this a "thumbs up"; it's definitely worth pursuing to see what they can do with it.

And just as a sidenote, keep your eyes on Victor Dubuisson. He's a French rookie on the ET. He finished solo 5th in this tournament and he's got some serious game. Once he acclimates a bit more to Tour life, he could become an outstanding player.


  1. Thanks for explaining the format Mike. I caught both the original and replay an hour into the broadcast. Thus I missed the complete rules of the game.

    I agree, it seems like it would be a good format for a weekend round with the fellas. Since most of my friends are bogey golfers as of right now, getting points for posting a bogey takes some of the sting out of going above par on a hole.

  2. No prob, Dex. BTW, you can find the complete rules here:

  3. Too bad I missed the game. Mike, do you have a tutorial of this game in video format?

    golf tutorial