PowerPlay Golf: New Format Promises More Excitment in Less Time

PowerPlay Golf Logo
The official logo of PowerPlay Golf. © PowerPlay Golf

"PowerPlay Golf" is the trademarked name of a golf format designed to require less time to play and to force the golfer into risk-reward strategic decisions. The format is marketed worldwide by PowerPlay Golf Holdings Ltd. The official website is powerplay-golf.com.

What are the basics of PowerPlay Golf?
More details below, but the basics are these:

  • A round of PowerPlay Golf is nine holes rather than 18
  • Stableford scoring is used
  • Each green has two flags rather than one
  • The golfer must choose whether to play to the "easy" hole location or the "difficult" hole location on each green
  • Playing to the harder location is called a "power play" and can result in extra Stableford points
  • Golfers must take three "power plays" in the first eight holes, and have the option to take another on the ninth hole

When was PowerPlay Golf "invented"?
The public unveiling of PowerPlay Golf happened in March 2007 at Playgolf Northwick Park in London. PowerPlay Golf Holdings Ltd. was formed in April 2007.

Who created the PowerPlay Golf format?
The PowerPlay Golf format was the brainchild of Peter McEvoy and David Piggins, two Britons. Piggins is an entrepreneur; McEvoy's name will be recognized by many readers who are fans of amateur golf. McEvoy was a 5-time member of the Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team; a 2-time captain of the GB&I Walker Cup team; and a 2-time winner of the British Amateur championship.

More details on the PowerPlay Golf format
Ken Schofield, the former longtime executive director of the European Tour and now the chairman of PowerPlay Golf, calls the format "an exciting short form of the game," and one that "will not only appeal to TV audiences and broadcasters, but will also complement the long form of the game and will increase the amount of golf played around the world."

How do you play PowerPlay Golf? First, start by remembering that you're still playing golf: Tee off from the teeing ground, play down the fairway, reach the putting green, putt the ball into the hole.

A round of PowerPlay Golf is nine holes, rather than 18; score is kept with Stableford points rather than strokes; and there are two flagsticks on each green rather than one. The goal of PowerPlay Golf is to provide a faster way to play golf, and to introduce more risk-reward strategy (which the game's creators feel bumps up the excitement level).

The biggest difference is obviously the fact that there are two flagsticks on each green. One hole location on the green is the "easy" one; it is marked with a white flag on the flagstick. The other hole location on the green is the "hard" one; it is marked with a black flag.

Here's the crux of PowerPlay Golf: Three times in the first eight holes, the golfer must choose to play to the more difficult hole location. The decision has to be announced by the golfer on the teeing ground before teeing off on any given hole.

Again: In the first eight holes, the golfer must play to the harder flag three times. Doing so is called "making a power play," hence the name of the game.

If the golfer scores birdie or better on a "power play" hole, his Stableford points are doubled. (Stableford points remain the same for pars and worse on those three "power play" holes, but the harder hole locations presumably make higher stroke totals more likely on those holes.)

So that's the first eight holes; what about the ninth (final) hole of a PowerPlay Golf round? On the ninth hole, all golfers have the option to attempt another "power play" (to play to the harder hole location). Making birdie or better again doubles the golfer's Stableford points, but making bogey or worse on a ninth-hole "power play" leads to a points deduction.

So the optional ninth-hole power play is riskier than the three mandatory power plays over the first eight holes. But it also presents the possibility of a major move by a trailing golfer.

Where can I play PowerPlay Golf?
Any golf course can host the PowerPlay Golf format. It just needs to cut two holes in the greens on one of its nines. PowerPlay Golf Holdings Ltd. helps courses set up for PowerPlay, and some 9-hole courses have already been built specifically with PowerPlay Golf in mind. The PowerPlay Golf website should eventually list courses set up for this format.

Benefits of PowerPlay Golf format
Its creators designed the game to be faster to play, so those who enjoy golf but don't have 4-5 hours to spend playing 18 holes have another option.

PowerPlay Golf's creators tout that fact that 9-hole layouts require less land to build, and less water and chemicals to maintain.

And a 9-hole round should be more affordable than playing 18 holes. (All of these things apply to traditional golf played on standard 9-hole courses, too, of course.)

How is PowerPlay Golf viewed by golf organizations?
The R&A and USGA have not taken official positions on PowerPlay Golf. But R&A executive director Peter Dawson was quoted by Golf Digest saying this: "I certainly don't think it snubs the traditions in any way. I think golf has always developed, and I think this is an interesting venture. How successful it will be, I find very difficult to judge, but I'm very open-minded about it."

As noted, Ken Schofield, the longtime director of the European Tour, has signed on as chairman of PowerPlay Golf; and powerhouse sports management firm IMG is involved in promoting the format.