The First Call Inbox

Are the networks giving golf viewers what they really want?

The First Call readers offer thoughts on how televised golf coverage can be improved

Question of the week [July 1-7]: What changes would you make to network golf tournament coverage?

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I find network golf coverage to be missing the mark by a wide margin. There are the lame post-round interviews — "How does it feel to be ... ?", "What do you need to tomorrow to ... ?", fill in the blank and get a predictable boring 30-second sound bite. No wonder Brooks Koepka doesn't do interviews anymore now that he doesn't have to. A bright spot emerged briefly with the "Happy Hour with Smylie" pieces (during the U.S. Open) where a player sat down long enough to discuss in-depth what they were watching live and how the player handled the same situation. It provided insight into what players were thinking.  

There is rarely intelligent discussion of golf course architecture beyond "that isn't a bad place to be for that right/left pin location." Nothing about what the architect was trying to accomplish, little on risk/reward choices, nothing on the defensive strategy employed. Almost nothing about agronomy and how it has evolved or how the different grasses affect play and strategy. I wonder how many viewers actually understand what or how a Stimpmeter is used?

And, no matter how hard they try, to continue to feature FedEx Cup points and standings when no golfer I know understands the system — and doesn't care. It is a waste of everyone's time.

Tom Klabunde
Tempe, Arizona

I'd like to see more than the first page of the leaderboard. Two or three pages would be nice. I love them all,  but I don't need to see them strolling down the fairway. I'd rather see another leaderboard. I really like Trevor Immelman — he knows what he's talking about. I have to say, I don't like the split screen (ads/golf), but I guess that's where the money comes from.

Donna Dean 
Vancouver, British Columbia      

The first and foremost thing to do is get rid of that incessant annoying buzzing from planes, drones, blimps or whatever. It is so loud, at times, that it drowns out the voices of the announcers. There have been many times this annoying sound forced me to change  the channel to get relief.

Janice Doede
Orland Park, Illinois

I would keep the four guys on at the same time, but I would tell them, particularly CBS' Colt Knost and his inane frank comments, to stop with the silly chatter, which they think is funny and report the action. I would also remind all of the commentators that some silence is not a bad thing, especially when a golfer is about to make a swing.

James Brock
Atlanta, Georgia

Don’t show Tom Kim’s pre-shot routine on shots and putting.

Judd Wellard
Lewiston, Michigan

I'd like to see a live leaderboard for only the players on the course at the time. I get really tired of seeing the leaderboard during major coverage that shows the leaders' scores along with tee times hours later than the action happening on the course. By showing a live leaderboard of those on the course, a viewer can get a feel on how the course is playing that day and what heroic efforts, if any, chasers will need to do to catch the lead.

Cameron Maness
Germantown, Tennessee

Please use technology available and spotlight where the hole is on the greens when golfers are putting. Most of the time you cannot see the hole when the flag is taken out.

Ron Payne
Sikeston, Missouri

These are changes I would make:
1. For events where Tiger Woods is playing, cover the tournament not his every move. Should he somehow get into contention, then cover some of his shots.
2. Quit pretending players are competing for FedEx points. They’re professional golfers in yet another cash-grab event competing for unbelievable amounts of money — not points.
3. When covering an event at an ultra-exclusive club like Newport CC, where the U.S. Senior Open was played, don’t pretend that 98% of the viewers will ever be able to get through the gates to play.
4. Don’t pretend that the signature events have the world’s best players. Most recent majors winners and many of the world’s best players have been barred from playing due to the PGA Tour's childish LIV ruling. These signature events are a sham in that they bar fellow PGA Tour members, have no cuts and pretend to have the best fields ever.
5. Spend more time on the good guys on Tour — the ones who acknowledge fans with fist bumps, etc., from green to tee, the ones who sign autographs. Point out those who refuse to even look up during those times, including and especially the sociopathic Woods. His disdain for fans is palpable, yet ignored by media sycophants.

Most of my friends have stopped watching any TV golf other than the four majors due to biased coverage and limited fields due to no LIV players.

Vinny Mooney
Poughkeepsie, New York

One thing we don’t need to see on TV is 2-foot putts. How many tap-ins do we see in four days of coverage? Show it to us if it’s missed and has some bearing on the cut or the tournament. 

Also, do we need a three-man booth? Between the guys/ladies walking the course and in the hole towers, it seems like we can get plenty of opinions and commentary. 

We’re getting a few more uninterrupted back nines in big tournaments from Rolex and a few others. Kudos to those sponsors, who still get plenty of mentions, as they deserve. 

Shotlink, Toptracer and Trackman help make the coverage. 

Barry Duckworth
Knoxville, Tennessee

The only things I miss when watching the coverage of the various matches are the details on distances players hit their drivers and fairway woods and other clubs.

I understand that the average golfer will not be able to duplicate their shots as seen on TV, but the data — to me — is most interesting and more detail would be wonderful to see and read.

Michael Elkas
Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey
I would like to see the score shown on TV displayed as the round number, hole they are on and total score like the European Tour coverage. Second, show more golf shots and stay away from the two-minute standing over a 14-inch putt — the LPGA doesn't take all day to make a putt. Third, the announcing of who is the world No. 1 is so worn out that I turn the station after the 80th time I hear it — maybe sooner. Fourth, I am not a speed reader, so when the score does come up, let it stay and not bleep it out after a second or two.

Bill Moreau
Almonte, Ontario

The obvious change would be less commercials, but that is unrealistic as those TV commercials help pay for the cost of broadcasting the event. I don't think TV coverage of the PGA Tour is all that bad. In fact, I think it is pretty good. The LPGA and LIV have their network commentators acting as cheerleaders and that really turns me off. The women's game is strong, hence the networks do not need to sell the product because it sells itself.

In terms of the PGA Tour and network coverage, I would focus on the coverage team. Is there high quality commentary and good chemistry among those calling the action? CBS probably has the best, most cohesive team. NBC has never recovered from Johnny Miller's retirement. NBC needs to find a replacement for its lead analyst ASAP. On a positive note, Smylie Kaufman is the best young talent in TV golf, so NBC needs to feature his skills as they move forward. 

A suggestion PGA Tour player Harry Higgs made was if a person on the coverage team has a close, personal relationship with one of the leading players in a tournament, let that analyst take the lead as he/she will have far more insight than the others on the coverage team. I thought that was a very interesting proposal by a PGA Tour player.    

Reid Farrill
Toronto, Ontario

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Front photo: A television camera rig waits by the 18th green for finishing threesomes during the first round of the 2021 Marathon LPGA Classic at the Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio. Credit: Tom Boland / Golffile