Golf needs more celebrity tournaments

I wanted to write this for quite a while but so many things came jeopardizing it to some extent. But it is as true as it was some weeks back really, when the 2019 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship took place.


I doubt it, but in case you are not familiar with the tournament, it’s a proper European Tour event, this year end of September. There is another Alfred Dunhill Championship taking place in South Africa every year, but here I’m talking about the Scottish links variant of the tournament.

There are multiple things that make this tournament so special:

  1. The courses
  2. The players
  3. The vibe

So let’s discuss all that and what it does to golf, the sport, the industry, the marketing and the general public perception as I believe you can’t really underestimate its effect(s).

The courses

Different to other tournaments, the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is staged not on one single course for the week, but on three different ones. And not just some course, we’re talking about not less than the Old Course of St. Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie—three of the world’s most famous golf courses, period.

This alone is special, but it doesn’t end there.

The players

Maybe the biggest specialty of all is that amateurs are allowed to participate. And pretty similar to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in the US there are numerous world-famous actors, (ex)politicians, athletes and other celebrities taking part, next to wealthy businessmen and people who have the contacts and the cash (and the game) to make an entry.

A small collection of this extra field for the 2019 tournament contained the following:

  • Luis Figo
  • Wladimir Klitschko
  • Ruud Gullit
  • Ronan Keating
  • Bill Murray
  • Andriy Shevchenko
  • Justin Timberlake

In other years you could also find these meandering over the sacred fairways:

  • Boris Becker
  • Michael Douglas
  • Samuel L. Jackson
  • Hugh Grant

The setting is basically, each pro has one amateur by its side for the four rounds. Three rounds are played on a rota of the three mentioned courses, plus another round in St. Andrews for the final day.

There is a pro scoring and a pro-am team scoring. Needless to say that the big bucks are only involved for the pros, but you can imagine that even the amateurs get quite ambitious at times. Those like Justin Timberlake, playing off a low single digit handicap can of course play impressive golf, even on such special and difficult courses, especially referring to Carnoustie there.

The vibe

This setting of tiny old St. Andrews, the biggest names in tournament golf plus big names in areas of sports, politics, acting and what not creates a special feeling around the tournament.

What it also does, it creates a lot more media coverage from TV stations or online platforms who usually don’t cater for golfers so much. Therewith the publicity created on a global scale for everything that’s golf related becomes multifold for that week and the days after.

If you’re a Ronan Keating fan and you follow him around social media and read all sorts of publications in that regard, you then end up being told he’s currently enjoying a very special event in Scotland involving him playing golf with the best players in the world.

Don’t tell me that’s not good marketing!

It definitely is in my opinion. As quite similar to my feeling we should have more team events on tour, I’m pretty sure we should have more pro-am events such as this. You’ll be aware that on tournament week’s Wednesdays usually there is a pro-am taking place, but seriously, who’s following that in the media coverage. That’s more a sponsor and media thing rather than bringing the pro-am thought across for the whole weekend.

I really like this format and I would encourage those who have the power to step up and indeed foster one or the other additional events during the year. It’s all good for the sport we all so love.

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