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Team Golf

The social element of golf is among the most powerful draws of the game (there’s nothing quite like the creative banter of a match with a wager on the line), yet the urethane sphere is propelled solely by the swing of one individual.

Every two years, the Ryder and Solheim Cups runneth over and bring “team golf” centerstage, delivering a spike in international viewership with the biennial matches between the U.S. and Europe. This week, the women are in Spain for the Solheim Cup, while the men tee off next week in Italy.

When it comes to recreational team golf, our research confirms that camaraderie is indeed the biggest selling point.

About 90% of Core golfers tell us they’ve played “team golf” at some point – from charity scrambles, team matches with buddies and member-guest events to competing on high school, college, or club teams. Scramble is the most popular format, having been played by 81% of respondents, followed by better ball or best ball, but more than one-third say they’ve participated in some kind of Ryder Cup style team event.

Would golf be better served with more team events?

Beyond the Ryder and Solheim Cups there’s the Presidents Cup, PGA TOUR’s Zurich Classic, Walker and Curtis Cups, Palmer Cup and many more.

It appears inevitable that a Formula 1-esque team golf model is coming. But the first golf entity to generate high-profile investment for “team golf” appears to be TGL, the tech-focused golf league developed by Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Mike McCarley’s TMRW Sports scheduled to debut in January 2024. They’ve done it before the first ball is struck, with buy-in from star athletes (Serena Williams, Giannis Antetokounmpo) and prominent team owners from other sports: Arthur Blank (Atlanta Falcons), Fenway Sports Group (Boston Red Sox) and Steve Cohen (New York Mets).

Having Tiger, Rory, and many of their Florida neighbors – Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Rickie Fowler, etc. – as part of the three-player teams competing on Monday night primetime TV certainly doesn’t hurt, and TGL has also seized on the rising popularity in the booming indoor golf space.

The difference between “Four-Ball” or “Foursomes” may still confuse… but call them best ball and alternate shot, and it still translates to the pressure of a match falling across two pairs of shoulders instead of one… and that matters.

The intent of most recreational team formats is to provide for “backup” from playing partners, meaning less stress… and more fun. The biggest hurdle is the concept in most people’s heads that golf is an individual pursuit.

And while almost twice as many Core golfers tell us they generally prefer “individual” golf (playing their own ball) to team golf, it’s notable that almost three-quarters of those surveyed indicate they’d play more team competitions or events if they were more widely available.

More than any specific format itself, golfers say the social aspect and competing as part of a group – even if it’s just with one partner – is the primary appeal.

So, if the Ryder/Solheim Cup combo stokes your fire for a little team competition, you’re not alone.

Greg Nathan
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