Olympic golf is finally returning to the Summer Games for the first time since 1904, but not without a healthy amount of criticism and controversy even before the first tee shot. Not only did several of the game’s top names decline to participate due to health concerns (including, but not limited to, the Zika virus) in Rio, but the course site and competition format (individual, stroke play) were also called into question. For better or for worse, though, golfers will still be hitting the links in Brazil looking to capture a medal for their country and, despite all the complaints, it could be a big stage for the sport. With that being said, that hasn’t stopped us from thinking of ways that the entertainment value could be ramped up a bit.
Getty ImagesScott Halleran
Relay race format
Golf has never really concerned itself with speed. Whether it’s you and a group of your buddies enjoying some Sunday cold ones on the course or a seven-hour marathon of Masters coverage on TV, golf never seems to be in any rush. So while a relay race format similar to the one used in swimming would be jarring, it could also be incredibly fun to watch. Both mental and physical toughness would be put to the test and players would be forced to abandon their usual, slow-paced methodical approach and adapt to a high-anxiety style of play. Let each country bring a team of four and see who can finish holes the fastest and with the least amount of strokes taken. It would be magic. If you don’t believe me, just watch this.
Getty ImagesScott Halleran
More wild animals
The course is Rio is apparently full of capybaras, monkeys and owls, which got me thinking what it would be like if other exotic animals were strategically placed throughout the venue. Not cute, fuzzy little creatures, either. I’m talking menacing, dangerous beasts. Think Golf Channel meets National Geographic. It would be like a miniature golf course, but instead of hitting around spinning windmills, players have to navigate around lions and other terrifying animals. That’d put some real stakes on every shot. Imagine Bubba Watson smashing a shot out of the rough and then running for his life from a jaguar or something? Talk about riveting television.
Getty ImagesWarren Little
There have already been complaints about the conditions of the Olympic course in Rio, but the biggest issue in my mind is that it’s not challenging enough. Sure, it has the typical hazards and hurdles that every other course in the world brings to the table, but what if it presented obstacles that were much more intimidating? Instead of leisurely walking the course to get from hole to hole, golfers would have to conquer obstacles that tested their physical strength and mental resolve. After all, it is the Olympics…let’s see how well these guys perform when pushed to the limit. Make them climb over walls, crawl under barbed wire, cross monkey bars and other challenges with the risk of penalized strokes if they don’t complete them.
Getty Images for MarriottTasos Katopodis
Alternate shot format with three-legged pairs
Instead of boring individual, stroke play, golfers should be matched up with fellow countrymen and given the ol’ three-legged pair treatment. Tie one of each golfer’s legs to a leg of their partner and make them play each round alternating shots with their partner. Not only does it involve teamwork, but it also adds an extra challenge. Watching each pair try to walk 18 holes would be worth the price of admission alone.
Getty ImagesMark Kolbe
Make them play handball instead
Have you watched Olympic handball? That stuff is wild. Just make every event handball.