Mixed-team Olympic golf sounds great. Now take it 1 step further

A split image of Xander Schauffele and Nelly Korda with their 2021 Olympic Gold Medals.

Golf in the Olympics should be unique.

Getty Images

In 2009, when the International Olympic Committee announced golf’s return to the Summer Games, it was a huge win for the sport.

But there was one thing missing.

That one thing, though, might be added in time for golf’s fourth go-around in the Olympiad’s modern era. According to a report from the Associated Press, while the format for this summer’s Olympics in Paris is already set, Olympic officials are close to finalizing a mixed-team event for the 2028 Los Angeles Games, where the golf competition will take at Riviera.

Why is this such a big deal? While golf has electric team events in the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup and Solheim Cup, it’s clear there’s a strong desire to see more team play in the sport. And what better place to do that than at the Olympics, when representing your country is perfectly suited for team play?

Stroke-play over 72 holes has long been the standard for professional-level golf competition, and that won’t change anytime soon. But it feels like a disservice for the Olympics to use the same format that we see week in and week out on the PGA and LPGA tours when enjoying other sports that we might watch only once every four years (think kayaking, martial arts, table tennis, etc.).

The team golf trend has been growing over the past decade or so, starting with the change in format at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans to be a PGA Tour-team event. Then we saw a reinvigorated Presidents Cup International team two years ago at Quail Hollow. And finally, last December, the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour joined forces for the inaugural Grant Thornton Invitational, with Jason Day and Lydia Ko winning the first mixed-team event between the two tours since 1999.

LIV Golf has employed a different format as well. But there’s really not that much of a difference between 72-hole stroke play and 54-hole stroke play in the grand scheme of getting to see different formats (unless you’re the OWGR).

LIV’s team competition also feels like a convenient add-on since it simply combines teammates’ scores from the individual competition. The legitimacy of the team competition also took a big credibility hit (with this observer, anyway) when the league’s champion, Talor Gooch, was “traded” for Matthew Wolff, the 27th-place finisher who had been publically chastised by his captain. Its format is similar to college golf’s, but with prize money being so heavily weighted toward the individual competition, it steals some luster from the team side.

Gooch may have compared LIV’s team format to the Ryder Cup, but truly nothing can compare to playing for your country with a team of your fellow countrymen and countrywomen.

An artistic rendering of the 2028 LA Olympics logo on a smartphone
Report: Olympics could add mixed-team golf event for LA games
By: Kevin Cunningham

According to the Associated Press, the exact format for a mixed-team event hasn’t been decided. My take is it should be 36- or 54-hole alternate shot (foursomes), the only true team format, with two teams of two players from each qualifying country who will combine scores.

But the team component will be played separately from the individual competitions, because the IOC does not like to award two medals for the same event.

It also hasn’t been decided how teams will qualify or how many entrants will be able to play, but it seems to me allowing players to pick partners and holding a one-round qualifier or preliminary makes the most sense. Let the pros experience what the amateurs do all the time.

Seeing golf join the team fun of the Olympics would allow our sport to enjoy what makes the Games so great. Sure, we all love watching the individual accomplishments of greats like Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, Apolo Ohno, Mikayala Shiffrin and Usain Bolt, among many others.

But so many of the greatest Olympic moments have involved teams, from the U.S. men’s hockey team pulling off the “Miracle on Ice” and beating the Russians to the 1992 U.S. men’s basketball Dream Team doing its thing. Or how about the fact that the island nation of Jamaica put together a bobsled team in 1988?

Tell me with a straight face that the best swimming event isn’t the 4×100 medley relay.

Golf should be in on this magic. But there’s also one more thing our sport can do to really showcase itself during the Olympics.

Charles Howell III
Tour Confidential: PGA Tour power brokers, LIV Golf goals, mixed events 
By: GOLF Editors

The current plan for 2028 is reportedly to play the men’s individual tournament Wednesday to Saturday, the team event Sunday and Monday and then finish with the women’s tournament Wednesday to Saturday after a practice day.

That’s a lot of golf, which is great, but should we think about the casual fan’s attention span? Will they stick around for 10 rounds of competitive golf, especially when eight of them are something they can watch every other week?

This is the Olympics! Let’s do something unique: Let’s play the men’s and women’s individual competitions simultaneously. This idea has been floated before (here’s my colleague Dylan Dethier’s opinion from the 2021 Games), but it makes more sense now that the IOC wants to have separate team and individual competitions — something I agree with.

It’s also been tried a couple of times recently with great success. Take, for instance, the DP World Tour and Ladies European Tour’s Scandinavian Mixed, which features 78 men and 78 women competing from two separate tees but one combined prize pool. Linn Grant made headlines in 2022 when she beat everyone (male or female) in the field by nine (!!) shots.

The DP World Tour and WPGA of Australiasia also host the Victoria Open and Women’s Victoria Open concurrently.

The IOC would award medals separately based on the two fields, groups would alternate between the two fields and yardages would be different. But seeing the best male and female golfers on the same course at the same time would be something you would get to see only every four years.

It would help grab everyone’s attention for all four rounds of the individual competition, which could run on the traditional Thursday-Sunday schedule, and then take a break and let the mixed-team event have center stage on the game’s second weekend.

Oh, did I mention these games are in the United States? Sign me up for that right away.

Got comments? Tell Jack what you think at jack.hirsh@golf.com.

Jack Hirsh

Golf.com Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at jack.hirsh@golf.com.