The Hero Challenge - Fireworks or not?

The Hero Challenge aired on Sky Sports last night with fireworks, lights, noise and some of the world’s best golfers.

Golf and the European Tour have been singing about how they want and need to do something to appeal to new people and seemingly was the first real effort to do something substantial and eye-catching.

So how did it fair?

 


Fireworks, night protracer and floodlights…

What’s not to love? Protracer is always a sick addition to any golf broadcast and in the dark it made it look extra sexy. I still maintain there is something weirdly sexual about it… just don’t know what yet!

The fireworks looked cool and for us fans near the tee doubled up by keeping us a little warmer too and the floodlight golf looked great. Although for the spectators at the tee we lost the ball straight away, could have maybe done with more lights! But once again protracer sorts this out… God I love it!)


Noise

The Ryder Cup shows just how much more interesting golf can be with a bit of noise and atmosphere and the Hero Challenge added that. 

Well… at the start anyway… After that a load of the fans got a bit bored with the repetition, the celebs and the presenters inane chat.

The organisers had promised ‘a party atmosphere’ but parties are rarely that good without beer, music or when you’re freezing cold. Incidentally the first two can help with the third one!

Just having a DJ playing throughout would have helped keep the energy up along with people going around the crowd selling beers... just like in American sports grounds.

Presenters who hyped the crowd might have helped too but we'll move on to that!

 


Presenters

The choice of Rob Lee and Sarah Stirk as presenters boggles the mind. Now without wanting to be too harsh, as I’m sure they’re lovely people, they were shocking.

Perhaps comfortable sat in the Sky Studio chatting through the lens to some 68-year old golf club member who is watching the Friday night coverage, they weren’t cut out for this.

The banter was awkward live and judging by social media was even worse on-screen and there was a missed opportunity with the player’s relaxed to have a bit of fun with them… instead Lee asked ‘How about this crowd?’ about 158 times. 

By about the 112th time the crowd had gone quiet and the stands were emptying.

If they need someone to hype a crowd and have banter with the players I’m a gun for hire… #JustSaying. I’ll have Dougherty as my golf-pro sidekick and Henni Zuel interviewing players coming off the green.

Sorted.

 

Player’s personalities

We just don’t get to see players relaxed throughout the year. Their interviews are always dull and PR-managed to within an inch of their lives.

It’s not the golfer’s faults either.

But this gave them a bit of energy and they picked a good bunch. The most natural was of course Beef who was a huge crowd favourite but the likes of Lowry, Donald, Sulli etc all had a good laugh and maybe with some better presenters we’d have seen even more.

Star of the night was the winner Alex Levy who seemed a top lad and a proper character, who knew? Throughout the regular season there is just no way for it to come out!

As Beef told me afterwards there are some good guys on tour, they just don’t show it.

 

Format

The first few shots were exciting but after that the crowd and public at home seemed to get a bit bored. 

There was a lot of wasted time driving buggies up to the green and this wasn’t helped by the horrible filler chat. 

Also quite often the result was fairly clear once the furthest away had missed his putt leaving the other guy two putts to win the hole due to the closest to the pin winning any halved holes.

Perhaps just having the event as closest to the pin? Maybe with more balls? Or even having teammates up by the green ready to hit the putts or chips.

It seems odd that whoever came up with the format didn’t bargain for all this dead air and just how repetitive it would be. 


The celebs

Live at the event the celebs were the biggest buzz kill of all. Kevin Pietersen, Shane Warne, Brian McFadden and Piers Morgan are once again probably all alright blokes but really didn’t get the point of them?

Their game slowed everything down, the banter was long and with all due respect they all do the rounds on the nauseating Pro-Am circuit. 

It’s just not appealing to a new audience four blokes with an average age of 42 hacking it about. Surely pull four random punters from the crowd and give them the chance to win £10,000 for a hole-in-one if you have to split the pro bit up?

 

Thoughts…

In summary it’s brilliant to see the European Tour, Sky Sports and even the sponsor Hero getting behind something like this but they HAVE to get it right straight away.

When appealing to a new audience and trying to ‘Grow the Game’ there won’t be many opportunities to get people’s attention before they move on to the next thing.

I spoke to a few of my non-golfing mates who I had told to tune in and they were almost unanimous.

‘Yeh it was alright but I got bored after 15 minutes and put the England game on. That should tell you something!’

‘WTF was Piers Morgan doing on it? I switched off then.’

‘It looked pretty but I didn’t really get it. They didn’t explain what they were doing.’

It’s easy to please ardent golfers. They’ll love anything a bit different and even just whacking a protracer on things keeps them happy but it’s the more relaxed fun that needs to be worked on.

There is definitely legs in shorter formats of the game and golf has to do it, but every time they don’t nail it is another person watching something else.

There is a huge opportunity here and it could be a lot of fun… everyone would agree on that!

I'm the Managing Editor at The Club. I like putting and Rioja. I dislike my low slice.