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Volume 21 No. 26
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Putting a stadium feel on golf’s short game

The newest Las Vegas attraction is a pop-up sports venue tied to the Major Series of Putting, an event for both amateur and professional golfers that distributes $1 million in prize money.

Sports architect Populous teamed with Nicklaus Design to design a 70,600-square-foot temporary facility set up behind Planet Hollywood off the Vegas Strip. It features an 18-hole course and a 4,000-square-foot clubhouse with a large bar that runs the length of that indoor space, plus a bonus 19th hole for playoff competition. Their client, the Major Series of Putting, is a subsidiary of Lune Rouge Innovation, a company owned by Cirque de Soleil founder Guy Laliberté.

The inaugural 10-day event ran Oct. 27 through Nov. 5 and drew more than 1,000 participants, including a few PGA Tour players, to compete across multiple formats. Many of them won qualifier events in 14 markets across North America, said Guillaume Béland, MSOP’s president and general manager. Tournament admission was free, and spectators who wanted to play the course paid a $35 fee. A round takes about 30 minutes to complete, Béland said.

Populous and Nicklaus Design created a temporary facility for the inaugural Major Series of Putting in Las Vegas.
Courtesy of: MSOP
Béland, who has worked in the golf industry in his native Canada, came up with the idea after shooting a miserable 95 a few years ago at Oakmont Country Club, the site of nine U.S. Open tournaments. After dinner that night at Oakmont, Béland participated in an 18-hole putting contest on practice greens after placing a small wager with some club members. He fared much better on the greens than on the regular course, and it got him to thinking about staging an event focused on the finer skills of the sport.

“I realized putting levels the playing field,” Béland said. “You don’t have to master the overall game to become a good putter. As a promoter, I wanted to create a stadium feel on the greens and came up with the idea of a putting championship in a small venue.”

Two years ago, Béland made a cold call to Populous, pitching his concept. The two parties met in Montreal for the design firm to gain greater insight on the idea before they met again in a workshop setting in Kansas City, home of the firm’s sports practice.

Ultimately, Populous’ event-based group in Denver, which helps produce the Super Bowl, Final Four and the College Football Playoff, took over the project, said Bobby Sloan, a senior associate who helped design the venue.

The concept evolved from mapping a multicity tour to a one-time event for 2017, Sloan said. It cost $2.2 million to build the putting facility, excluding the contract with Southwest Greens to produce the artificial turf. Project officials decided to start small with one championship event in Vegas and let the concept build momentum over time. The course’s signature element is a 30-foot-tall halo structure enclosing the venue that holds the audio and video systems with a lighting grid for night play. The halo essentially serves as the backbone of the facility, which can fit up to 2,000 spectators, Sloan said.

“Over the past two years, we decided that instead of investing tens of millions of dollars and wondering whether it would catch on, it made better sense to build a temporary venue,” he said.

Next year, the goal is to build a permanent facility in Vegas and stage one-day tournaments (in addition to qualifiers) at golf courses in eight cities, Béland said.

For this year’s event, MSOP signed sponsorships with 15 companies, including Planet Hollywood, Coors Light, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and several golf equipment suppliers. Those deals ranged from $10,000 to more than $100,000, Béland said.

“The traction we got is unbelievable and we proved it’s an exciting concept,” he said. “Ultimately, the goal is to not have to build a course every time we host an event.”