Turn on a the Golf Channel’s PGA Tour coverage on a Thursday and Friday and prepare to be underwhelmed. All you’re going to see is some chipping, putting, and par 3 tee shots. Not exactly what you’re looking for? Same here.
As I’m currently watching watching the Thursday broadcast, I’ve seen a 30 footer by Bill Haas who made a 3 on whatever hole that was (I couldn’t tell), a 20 footer by Padraig Harrington who also missed, and a tee shot by Jason Dufner on a par 3 who hit it 40 feet away.
To be fair, there isn’t really much going on during the first day of an event. Nobody has a big lead, and it’s likely that the leaders aren’t playing together, or necessarily in the afternoon wave when the Golf Channel has their coverage.
Nevertheless, the Golf Channel needs to step up their game when it comes to showing the first two days of a tournament. It’s still the PGA Tour and they can put something on tv that makes you actually want to watch rather than settling for. Here are some suggestions on how they could do that.
Put Cameras Behind the Players
Virtually every camera angle viewers see on a Thursday/Friday is from behind the greens in a tv tower. Show me what the player is looking at so I can relate! Unless you’ve played the course before (which very well could be the case this week since the Valspar is being held at a public resort), showing shots from that perspective does no good.
I want to see what it looks like from behind the ball. I want to stare down the green as if I were about to hit the shot myself. The hole locations on the PGA Tour are ridiculous to what you’re going to find at your local muni, but the camera angles can’t show that the players can only see the top half of the flagstick because of that giant bunker in front of green and when someone dumps it in said bunker, all the idiots at home think to themselves, “Wow. Tiger really sucks now”.
If the Golf Channel focused on the difficulty facing the field each week, we could get rid of the couch sitters who get the idea that they can actually play with the guys each week.
Go Crazy Futuristic
Think about the NASCAR coverage that you see for the split second before realize you’re watching nascar. They have tons of stats about the car on the screen at all times. Things like speed, engine performance and a bunch of other pieces of information I don’t know about. And they even show it during the commercials! Let’s get this going for the PGA Tour too.
I don’t know how hard it is to get pro tracer (that visible ball flight line they project into the air) on tee shots and second shots, but expanded shot tracker use and stats for drives/wedge shots can’t be difficult. So Bubba Watson is about to hit a 130 yard shot into the green? Put his stats for that shot on a sidebar! How often does he hit the green? What’s the average distance from the hole?
Next hole Bubba is about to mash a driver on a reachable par 5. Get some of the ball flight info on the screen. Makes it relatable to regular players who’ve been in a launch monitor as well. They do point out a lot of stats during the broadcast, but usually just talking about it. Putting up subtle graphics would be great and cut down on silly announcer chatter.
Thinking Like a Player
In general, Golf announcers talk about the current shot facing the player. Where the flag is, where the wind is coming from and what type of lie they have. But they never seem to go further that by explaining what kind of shot the player should hit (at least in the first two rounds of coverage). Johnny Miller is pretty good at explaining mindset, but he seems to be the exception.
During the coverage Thursday, Jim Furyk hit an iron shot into a random green and all the announcers did before he hit the shot was circle on the screen where the pin was. No talk about the trouble spots on the green, no talk about the type of shot Furyk likes to play, or the type he needs to hit to get it close. Just here’s the hole, and oh look he missed the green and has to chip.
Now obviously this type of information is tough to announce for, especially since the coverage skips around like a kid who just sucked down a cup of coffee. But by slowing down and going more in depth, talking about the mindset of the players becomes just as easy.
Get More Focused
One of the best parts about Master’s week is the awesome online coverage that they have. One of the best feeds they have is the Amen Corner stream where, you guessed it, they show all of the groups go through Amen Corner! Not only do I get to see every group come by during the day, but I quickly get a feel of how the holes are playing. Suddenly, I get the feel like I’m actually there and really can know the conditions.
The Golf Channel actually started to do this on the weekend with their “Spotlight Coverage.” It’s a great supplement to the NBC coverage, but frankly, Sunday is when you want to watch the leaders.
This week would be a perfect time to employ this on a Thursday/Friday. How about you show me a live online stream to highlight the “Snake Pit” and show me why it earned this pointless nickname. That’s the kind of information the viewers want. Or at least they should.