Reimagined schedule the way forward for Australian golf

The ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia will endeavour to recapture golf’s golden years in this country with a reimagined tournament schedule that will see the tour in full swing from October and culminate with the crowning of the Order of Merit winner in March.

The restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic has brought about significant disruption to the 2020 schedule but in order to play a full complement of events the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia will extend the season until March 2021, a format that will become the norm moving forward.

When Greg Norman was at the height of his powers in the 1980s and 1990s the Australian summer of golf featured tournaments such as the Heineken Classic, Australian Masters and Johnnie Walker Classic in February that attracted some of the game’s biggest names.

Co-sanctioned with the Nationwide Tour – now the only direct pathway to the PGA TOUR – the Jacob’s Creek Open and Moonah Classic were also played in February between 2002 to 2010.

A shift to a wrap-around season would not only allow golf fans to follow the Order of Merit race more easily, but according to ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Tournaments Director Nick Dastey, will also open the door for new events to be added in the January-February window.

“The coronavirus has obviously caused great disruption to golf tournaments throughout the world but we saw an opportunity to not only provide our players with a full season this year but put in place a schedule that we believe is in the best interests of golf in Australia,” Dastey said.

“If the current restrictions do not ease in time we now have the opportunity to push events into the early months of 2021 and give our players every opportunity to push for that Order of Merit title.

“We remain hopeful that the tournaments currently scheduled will proceed as planned but we are also exploring opportunities to add new events early next year to further bolster the schedule.

“The golf season used to run over the summer months and into the new year and we believe by adjusting the schedule in this way that it will be a positive move not only for our players but also golf fans.”

An adjusted ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia schedule centred around an October-March fixture would provide:

  • Defined golf season that fans can engage with over a six-month period
  • Opportunity to add events early in the new year, a relatively quiet period in an otherwise busy golf calendar
  • Possibility of more co-sanctioning with the European Tour to create an ‘Aussie Swing’ early in the new year
  • Opportunities to introduce new and innovative events that would serve as the culmination of the Order of Merit race
  • Incorporation of The Players Series featuring male and female professionals into the schedule
  • Shift of ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Qualifying School to a March-April date

Currently the winner of the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit receives a one-year exemption onto the European Tour and such a shift in dates would allow them time to properly prepare for a European season that often begins in November.

As Tour Development Manager, former tour player Kim Felton is tasked with creating new opportunities to add to the schedule and is excited by what an adjusted calendar offers.

“Many fans will remember the Aussie summer of golf starting in October and carrying the excitement of the Order of Merit chase into January and February. Rolling back to this will give us the potential to host more events, which will significantly enhance the quality of our schedule,” said Felton.

“Creating more playing opportunities will strengthen our talent pathways and the development of our future stars so they can progress onto the world stage. We are confident the new-look schedule will reinvigorate the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia and allow golf fans to be more engaged in the careers of our Aussie golfers.

“In some respects this change, brought upon by COVID-19, has been fortuitous and we’re really excited by what it allows us to do and what a wrap-around season can potentially look like.”

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