Five ideas to improve The Match: Unique formats, skills challenge among options to enhance golf tournament

Saturday’s The Match 7 wasn’t the most competitive night of golf this year, but it was entertaining, which is always the intended outcome with these events. 3 and 2 at Pelican Golf Club before spiking the football, doing the Griddy and then following that by performing the Waddle all over two of the best to ever do it.

As far as exhibition golf goes, it was perfect.

There have been many iterations of this type of golf with more ideas coming to fruition along the way. In fact, seemingly every generation has its variation of The Match, and this one is no different. What has changed over the last 10, 20 and 30 years, however, is the technology available to deliver the golf to a captivated audience.

The Match has appropriated this technology and delivered good player-broadcaster interviews, put cameras all over the courses involved and delivered on having a microphone and camera on players at all times (including selfie-taking times while driving golf carts). It’s better now than it was 20 years ago because we’re closer to the action than we’ve ever been.

While I’m not positive how much the technology part of The Match should – or even could – expand, there are still a few ideas floating out there that would make this property even more valuable going into the future. This is about combining the currently-used technology with some alternative options for this style of televised golf. Following J.T. and Spieth downing Tiger and Rory, I compiled a few of those ideas for future matches and what they could feasibly look like.

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1. More unique formats

The one-club challenge on Saturday only worked because all four of the competitors are professional (I don’t need Josh Allen and Aaron Rodgers playing a 450-yard hole exclusively with a 4-iron), but it was so incredibly compelling that you could make the entire event a one-club challenge; I would absolutely be more interested than if guys were playing with all 14 sticks.

There are myriad variations of this you could run – make the losing team of each hole take a club out, three-club challenge, driver only on one hole and so on – but the crux is the same regardless: Make pros show us how talented they are by playing holes with one club better than the rest of us could with all of them.

2. Title belt

This is not an original idea to me, and in fact it’s not even original to Shane Bacon (who tweeted about it on Monday). Rick Gehman brought this up on the First Cut Podcast last week, and I think it’s brilliant. Make The Match a title belt. The options this gives you are as limitless as they are obvious. If J.T. and Spieth are the current belt holders, a different twosome can be pitted against them to try and win the belt away from them.

Eschew those The Match bracelets the duo won on Saturday and go full 1860s Open Championship by handing out belts. You wouldn’t even need to pit two golfers against them as long as you implemented handicaps. This would provide a bit of an edge to something that, at times, perhaps lacks it.

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Furthermore, as Joseph LaMagna pointed out, you could establish some rivalries that we rarely get at regular events. Obviously, they wouldn’t be played with the same intensity of a Players Championship or a Memorial, but it would still provide a fun wrinkle to this series of events.

3. Skills challenge

Speaking of LaMagna, he has (and others have) been big on this idea.

While this is not a variation of The Match, it is somewhat an extension of it. LaMagna has pointed this out, too, but something like an all-star challenge could be a better (and certainly more transparent) way to distribute the $100 million PIP fund than just … online mentions and television time throughout the season. You could field your all-star weekend through a fan vote, or a combination of superior play plus a fan vote, and basically arrive at the PIP – except you would be monetizing it, and it wouldn’t function as a top-secret endeavor.

4. More player commentary

One way to rev up the interaction on the broadcast is to have a current player who’s not a broadcaster as part of the team. This was done a few years ago with J.T. on the microphone, and he was fantastic. It’s too risky for a current broadcaster to really go at players, but if they’re getting it from peers, it could provide even better banter for the show.

5. Go to better courses

The way this exhibition is constituted lends itself to going to the Bandons and Sand Hills’ of the world. That’s a great thing, and something I hope the institution of The Match leans into. You don’t need 10,000 people there to make it exciting. Hell, you don’t need anybody at all. You don’t need massive infrastructure or anything like you would need at a normal PGA Tour event. This frees the event up to go to some golf courses we rarely (if ever) get to see on television – sort of like the U.S. Amateur or U.S. Women’s Amateur but with (presumably) four of the best players on the planet.

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