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New Speedgolf Format Launched, Hawkins Soars To Victory

2016 Speedgolf Texas Pro-Am | 12.31.16

· Speed Golf,Tournament

On New Year's Eve, Jason Hawkins claimed the title at the inaugural Speedgolf Texas Pro-Am hosted at Wolfdancer Golf Club at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort in Bastrop, Texas - 20 miles outside Austin. The other major winner for the event was the debut of a new Speedgolf format.

heat-by-heat results posted below

Hawkins' victory over a field that included 3 of the top 10 players in the Speedgolf Power Rankings comes on the heels of a top-5 finish at the 2016 Speedgolf World Championships, and is sure to improve his world ranking in the upcoming release on January 15th. Hawkins distanced the field on the strength of a blistering run time (41 minutes) on what may have been the longest course setup in modern Speedgolf history (6,500 yards). Congrats Jason!

SG Heats Format Explained

  • A "pod" of four players teed off individually on the first hole (we started on the back 9, but for purposes of this narrative, we’ll refer to holes in their order played) and played a three hole “heat.” 
  • Due to the shorter distance of the heat (3/4 mi), players were able to tee off every 2 minutes (in contrast to the 5-8 minute intervals required in traditional Speedgolf events), without concern for catching up to or passing other players. 
  • After putting out on the third hole, each player moved aside and waited for the remaining players in the pod to hole out. Scores were then recorded, announced, and posted before moving on to the next heat. 
  • This process was repeated for each of the remaining heats, until we reached the final heat, the final hole of the day - hole #9. 
  • Before teeing off in the final heat, the pod was reshuffled with the high score going first and the leader going last.

The final score, as in regular Speedgolf, was the sum of golf strokes and elapsed time, with the slight difference that the time and distance between the last hole of one heat and the first hole of the next heat was not counted. At Wolfdancer this was actually critical, because there were several gaps between holes that were not feasible to cover in a run (one was a steep and slick downhill cartpath, the other would have had players run through the hotel grounds - ha ha!)

Key Takeaways

There was plenty to like about this new format. Here are a few of the key takeaways:

1. Interaction

Unlike a normal competitive Speedgolf round in which each player is completely isolated

from the rest of the action, taking breaks allowed for interaction between everyone involved.

#2 world ranked Allan Phillips & SGTX Pro-Am Champion Jason Hawkins interacting between heats

2. Scoring & Competitive Awareness

This was the first Speedgolf event where hole-by-hole Speedgolf Scores were recorded. By taking breaks between heats to post scores, competitors knew exactly where they

stood relative to the field throughout the tournament.

Hole by hole scores were recorded after each heat

3. Media and Fan-friendly

Both of the above points (Interaction and Competitive Awareness) not only benefit the players, but also anyone else watching. Because a group of four would never be too far apart before regrouping, there are many opportunities to watch several different players in action. For now, periodic updates provided by this new format allow for the emergence of a competitive narrative throughout the round. Eventually, technology will be leveraged to fully capture real time scores and times in the midst of the action.

Garret Holt & his scorer/spectator/wife Shannon smile for the camera while play ensues in the background

4. Pods

This format allows competitors to be grouped together. Since time differences between runners of different speeds would never be too extreme in a short stretch of holes, leaders could be grouped together in multi-round events.

Pro Pod: Garret Holt, Scott Dawley, Jason Hawkins, Allan Phillips

5. The Power Game

Speedgolf is generally known as a game of accuracy above distance. This new format probably doesn’t change that, but with multiple opportunities to hit the ball while “fresh” on the first hole of a heat, and with a bit less residual fatigue, you definitely were more physically able to cut loose with the driver if the hole or strategy called for it.

Allan Phillips prepares to bomb driver

6. Essence Of The Game Preserved

There has been much discussion about alternative Speedgolf formats as a way to grow the game. While this is undoubtedly a worthy discussion of having, several of us have cautioned against deviating too much from the essence of the game, which is to get the ball in the hole in as few shots as possible 18 times as quickly as possible. This format preserved the fundamentals of medal play Speedgolf, with the only differences being periodic stops during the round and travel between certain holes not being counted.

Additional Takeaways

  • Round Duration - Despite several breaks in the round for recording of scores, we still got around in just over 2.5 hours, and that was on a very difficult and expansive layout and working through the technical aspects of the new system.
  • Versatility Of Running – One thing I really liked about this format is that it tested different types of running. In a normal Speedgolf round, the best strategy is typically to maintain a steady pace throughout, rarely going above your lactate threshold In this format, in which some heats were one hole (< 400 yards), there were many opportunities for players to “cut it loose” on the run, knowing that they’d enter the hole fresh and have minutes to recover before the next heat. In the longer heats (3-4 holes), the endurance aspect of the game was still tested, as those heats typically lasted 8-12 minutes. And of course, endurance will always be tested when you’re covering over five miles on foot at a fast pace, no matter how many stops occur! But above all, this format can reward the athlete with multiple “gears” in their arsenal to go fast on a single hole but also maintain a steady pace in an extended stretch of holes.
  • Putting strategy – With the multiple stops during the round, each “final” hole was effectively like number 18 in a normal Speedgolf round. Every competitive Speedgolfer knows that hole 18 is the one hole in which you don’t have to worry about what to do with your bag for the next hole. Free of that worry, many “Hogan handed” (one handed) putters will revert to conventional putting on the 18th hole. With 8 different “final” holes in the round, the one handed putters were given the option to mix up putting styles several times in the round.
  • Practice Style – For many of us, this round actually mimicked the way we play Speedgolf at home. Many of my rounds involve “intervals” where I’ll play a few holes, get stopped behind a group of normal golfers, then find another set of holes and then start running again. For the competitive game to mimic this improvisational practice style is a nice bonus.

In Summary

This format could be a real game changer for both competitive and recreational Speedgolf. On the competitive side, it offers all the benefits we covered above (along with some we probably haven’t listed). On the recreational side, the periodic regrouping allows players to enjoy the camaraderie found in regular golf that is lost in the “time trial” style of Speedgolf. Look for this format to only get better as we refine the details at subsequent events.

For more, tune into Episode 48 of the Pace Of Change Golf Podcast, where we interview Champion Jason Hawkins and discuss the SGTX Pro-Am in detail.

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