Pace of play has been a hot topic in golf for many years now.
Rounds on the PGA Tour have gone, in some cases, north of five-and-a-half hours. But the great joy of our game is that it is far more wide-ranging than the professional game and along that spectrum, there are two golfers pushing the limits of what playing golf really means and where it can be played. They play with a spirit of exploration, adventure, travel and do it at a relentless speed. In fact, they’re doing it at a pace, and to a level, few of us can really comprehend.
Meet Scott Dawley and Luke Willett. Scott is from United States and is the world speed golf record holder. What does that mean? Well, he not only completed his round at the 6,122-yard Horton Smith Golf Course in Missouri in 42 minutes, 15 seconds, but he did it in 65 shots. Gross. That round included five birdies, was completed with five clubs, and involved Scott putting one handed.
What of Luke? Luke is a British speed golf champion, one of the world’s best and a man who pushes the limits of our game like few others. In 2019 he cycled 830 miles in 10 days to play all 14 courses to have staged The Open. In 2020, he played Woking, West Hill and Worplesdon in under three hours, a time which included running from course to course. He’s not an average golfer. He has also played 18 holes in 25 minutes and shot 64, albeit on a course not deemed fit for a speed golf record.
No wonder then, the paths of these two incredible golfers crossed. Together they are a formidable force, and their latest project sees these two incredible speed golfers come together to battle it out in one of the world’s most exciting golf destinations – and a place we know well – New Zealand.
Luke v Scottis a series like no other – we sat down with the guys to find out more.
TWGs: Welcome. Maybe you could tell us how this adventure came together?
Scott Dawley: Luke and I have known each other for a number of years now. I had seen Luke doing these incredible challenges as the Iron golfer and admired that from a distance. I could see we were both family men, fathers and husbands and we both have busy lives. We both approached life and golf differently to others and all of those things came together. Last year I wanted to go to Europe to play in some speed golf national championships and I reached out to Luke. He arranged for me to stay with his parents and take me in, so to speak, and that was the first time we had met in person. I can still remember the moment, in fact. It was 3.30am, I had just flown over from the US and there was a knock at the door at Luke’s parents’ place. I open the door in the middle of the night, and it was Luke. And that was it, we were off to play in our first battle at Royal St George’s.
Luke Willett: We’re both the kind of people who want to be on the road, or on the fairways, or up a mountain or on a beach. So, we hit the road straight away down to Royal St George’s for that first Luke v Scott challenge match. I managed to win that day, probably because Scott’s body was in a few different time zones, but it was just great to things going. And off the back of that, organically, the relationship and rivalry built and ultimately led to this incredible adventure in New Zealand.
Scott: It was also my first experience of links golf that day – I mean Royal St. George’s, are you kidding me? I was in a different reality. We tee off on a beautiful, sunny day. By the 3rd hole it was cloudy and by the 7th hole it was raining. And on the 11th hole it was windy – it was just a really thrilling experience from start to finish. Luke took me down that day but, as we were standing there on the 18th green, I just felt inspired, and I knew that would be just the start of things between us.
I invited Luke to come across to Florida and take part in the Speed Golf World Championships, which I was hosting in St. Augustine at the World Golf Village. He came across and I arranged for our next battle to take place at TPC Sawgrass. I had lost at Royal St George’s, and I didn’t want that to happen again, so the GM at TPC Sawgrass arranged for us to play the Dye’s Valley Course as a battle and a warmup for the World Championships and I managed to beat Luke on the 18th.
Luke: You did. But I think it was there on the 18th at TPC Sawgrass that we felt there could be something about this rivalry, this adventure. I love the competition but actually for me it was about the shared mindset – that ‘anything is possible’ mentality. It’s very easy in life to only see the barriers and many things that can hold you back or stop you doing something. But they’re only stories we tell ourselves. Because anything is possible and anywhere is possible – we’re evidence of that, and that mindset led us to set out with this goal of taking on this adventure in New Zealand.
TWGs: So, let’s talk about New Zealand, how would you describe the series to our readers?
Luke: New Zealand is an incredible place, the home of adventure sports with its bungee jumps, a place of incredible beauty and wonder that has been seen by the world in the Lord of The Rings and a real golf outpost, home of the All Blacks. It feels like a country where only the brave and lucky end up. For us, as Dads, it might have felt impossible, but we made it possible. Our Luke v Scott adventure was about exploring everything that makes New Zealand the amazing place it is we played stunning golf courses, beautiful beach golf, we went down to Rotorua and played geothermal golf, we played golf in the dark with glow golf balls, we played with former All Black rugby players, and it was everything we hoped it would be. And look, none of it would have happened without a magical thing called the Q Golf Club, that really made it all possible. I’ll let Scott explain more.
Scott: I would just add to that by saying New Zealand is the centre of the speed golf world, or it’s certainly shifting in that direction. Jamie Reid, the World No 1 speed golfer, lives in New Plymouth and that also happened to be where the National Speed Golf Championship was going to be played. So, we saw an opportunity to go there and not only play in that event but to explore what might be possible while we were there. Luke v Scott had begun at Royal St George’s, continued at TPC Sawgrass and New Zealand felt like the next battle ground. As Luke says, we went to speak to the guys at Q Golf and they really made this possible, and the club they have developed, which is an incredible adjustable golf club that means Luke and I can play a whole round with one club. Simon and Jamie Moore saw the potential ain what we were trying to do and wanted to be a part of it.
Luke: And the Q Club really played into the ethos of what we were doing. On any adventure, you need to be adaptable, versatile and you need to bring a disruptive spirit, to not be afraid to break the rules. You need to follow an untrodden path and feel comfortable there. And it just so happened right there in New Zealand, was this company, Q Golf, which is doing all of those things. They saw their ethos in what we were doing and from there it was down to us. We had this blank canvas, with mountains, volcanoes, geysers with steam popping out of it. The sea crashing into empty, beautiful beaches, black volcanic sand, a light show with glowing golf balls. In its purest sense, this was an adventure into the unknown.
TWGs: Tell us about how people can watch your series?
Luke: We’ll be releasing 10 episodes on the Q Golf Channel on YouTube. I hope when people watch it, they see two guys who are trying to explore the edges of the game of golf. You know most people are in the middle and that’s fine. But what happens if you take a step or two to the left or the right and try something new. Perhaps one round, you play with a half-set, perhaps on another, you might try and jog a hole or two and see what happens. It goes against what we have been told all our lives but when you try new things your fear of the unknown begins to fade away. And that’s powerful.
We wanted to try and show, golf does not need to be limited by white stakes. We wanted to show that the world is our golf course, that you can take golf anywhere. And so, we wanted to inspire others, not necessarily to do exactly what we’re doing, but just be willing take chances themselves and to be willing to go on journeys and adventures in their own golf life if that makes sense.
Scott: And it’s also about disconnecting to reconnect. We began in the hustle and bustle of Auckland, and we finished absolutely alive with energy and truly connected to nature. I want to forge a new path, but I wanted other people to come along down that path and make the path a little wider. I believe so strongly in what we’re doing, and I think other people should experience that.
TWGs: Sounds amazing. And knowing you guys you won’t stop there, right?
Scott: I would be lying if I said we weren’t planning the next series. We’re talking to distribution partners content platforms because we definitely want to continue to explore this, and we realise season one is just the beginning. As we move along, we’ll really home in on what the audience likes and is inspired by. But we’ll continue to travel around the world through these seasons.
TWGs: And what about another crack at that speed golf record, Scott?
Scott: For sure. I am headed back to Missouri, to Horton Smith Golf Club, to try and break it again. I actually think I can smash my record this time. Last time I hadn’t actually trained properly to break the speed golf record, this time I have. And I hope I can put it all together and set a new record.
TWGs: How do you train for something like that?
Scott: The only way to do it really is to play speed golf and if you can’t to simulate that, which means running for 250/300 yards and then stopping, and then running 150 yards and then stopping to walk for 10 seconds and then going again to try and mimic what it’s going to feel like when you get in that position. Because if you can train well, you feel a lot more comfortable when that time comes. I have been playing speed golf since 2013, so for me part of it is the muscle memory that comes with playing so many rounds of speed golf. I still play normal golf too. There was a time when I got quite anti traditional golf but that has gone now.
TWGs: Can playing quickly actually benefit the average golfer?
Scott: I guess everything golfers are taught is that taking your time, low and slow, makes you hit better shots. But I actually believe the opposite is true. Playing faster is actually probably better for you and your game. I have played golf in almost every way you can and not having that time to over think or aver analyse actually frees people up. But it’s a spectrum and there’s a place for everyone along that spectrum. The only way to find out is to give a go.
TWGs: And what about for the wider speed golf movement?
Luke: It feels, to us, like the time has come where golf is going to move in a different direction. The pendulum has swung as far as it can in one direction – the multitude of technology, the distance, the maximum amount of time it can take to play golf. We believe it is ready to start swinging back in the other direction and to really see what can be done when people open their minds- maybe golf becomes quicker, lighter, more sustainable walking, fitness, speed – those kinds of things are going to start happening. And that’s a very exciting thought. Playing traditional golf, speed golf, enjoying playing 9 holes or 18. Hopefully people feel like Luke v Scott, helps people realise that there isn’t just one way to play the game we all love, or one way to approach it. It belongs to all of us.
*To watch Luke v Scott visit the Q Golf YouTube page YouTube.com/@QGolfClub
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