This week the European Tour kicks off its 2013 season with the Volvo Golf Champions Tournament in Durban, South Africa. This invitation-only event is open to players who won on the European Tour in 2012, or who have won ten or more European Tour titles during the course of their career.
The likes of Louis Oosthuizen, Darren Clarke, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrrington and Colin Montgomerie will all play 72-holes to decide the winner as with a limited field, there is no cut in this first event of the year.
Yet despite this being the inaugural event of 2013, the main talking point this week is not so much about who will win the tournament, but what prizes the sponsors, Volvo, have put up to be won should a golfer achieve a hole-in-one.
Now for mere mortals, a hole-in-one is something that, while undeniably rare, can actually prove to be quite expensive. The tradition of buying everyone a drink in the clubhouse following scoring one has led to a few empty wallets and even golf insurance being available that pays out for your larger-than-expected round should you hit an ace.
For professionals on tour, not only are they a more regular occurrence but they often receive a sponsors prize for achieving the feat on a specific hole in any given tournament.
This week at the Volvo Golf Champions, on the 156-yard 12th hole, anyone who sinks the ball with one shot will win themselves a brand new Volvo V40. This is no surprise as cars are often the prize when tournament hole-in-one prizes are offered.
It is the prizes on offer at two of the other par three’s that have surprised many. On the 170-yard 15th hole, spank the ball into the cup with your tee shot and you’ll win yourself a Volvo Excavator, rather like the one displayed in the picture below.
Things get even stranger on the 18th as a hole in one on this long 273-yard par three would not only be an achievement in itself, but also l and the lucky player a brand new Volvo truck, worth £93,000.
This may seem a tad crazy; which golfer do you know is going to turn up to the Masters hauling his golf clubs in the back of an articulated lorry, or carried in the front scoop of a Volvo Excavator?
In all honesty, not many are likely to turn up at Augusta in a four month old Volvo V40 either.
Yet it is not as daft an idea as it sounds, Louis Oosthuizen was particularly enamoured with the digger stating:
“I saw one of these on display at the start of this year during the Volvo Golf Champions at Fancourt.
“At the time I thought how useful one would be on my farm, so to have the chance of winning one for myself is a fantastic incentive.”
In my view, I think sponsors of other golf events need to get as creative as Volvo have with the prizes they offer for hole-in-ones during tournaments. Most golfers are going to have bought their own, expensive, customised vehicles and are about as likely to be inspired to try and get a hole in one by the promise of a new Ford Mondeo as the average golfer would be about winning a broken golf tee should they achieve the same feat in monthly medal. So winning a truck like the one below, may not be such a bad thing after all.
So let’s hope sponsors get creative this year. If they do then the prizes on offer at the KLM Open, the Johnnie Walker Championship and the Bridgestone Invitational could be interesting.
That still leaves golfers plenty of chances to win a car they don’t want or need at the larger number of Volvo and BMW sponsored events slated for this season.
But your own airplane, a large VAT of 30 year old single malt and free tyres for the rest of your life… that’s a different matter.