Since its inception in 1995, the Golf Channel (or simply GOLF) has driven the game into the cushioned sectionals of avid fans. One of the first television ventures to focus on an individual sport, it set a precedent for what is available for all fans today. Sadly, the channel has eroded over the years since NBC took it under its wing.
Today’s content is not as vibrant as the past. Many of the former shows have disappeared along with the on air talent. GOLF is now just a venue for tournament golf, much of which doesn’t occur in prime time, along with a drawn out talk show, GOLF Today. The coverage of major tournaments is worthy of a watch but overall today’s product ain’t what it used to be.
NBC’s introduction of Peacock along with moving their offices from Orlando to a hotbed of golf – Stamford, CT, served as the writing on the wall for GOLF’s demise. Recently it was announced the web page would be absorbed into the NBC Sports site. It’s obvious as the demographics from eighteen years ago have changed, younger generations don’t want to sit around and watch golf at designated times.
It all makes sense money-wise. Why pump dollars into a viewing portal nobody cares to watch? Televised coverage of golf is boring on many fronts. Graphics and shot tracers have added some appeal but the commentators telling the story don’t connect. When a player misses a putt it’s painful when the person behind the mic says,”he missed the putt.” Golf broadcasts overstate the obvious in triplicate. Something has to improve for all of the networks.
The things I prefer to watch are the behind-the-scenes stories of players, caddies, teachers and others engaged in the sport. But producing shows takes time and money. The only viewers ate diehard boomers like myself that enjoy the discovery of professional golfers actually being real people. Feherty’s sit downs were solid. In the beginning Peter Kessler did a wonderful job with his guests.
I also tolerate some of the instruction even if a shapely female in tight shorts is absent. Michael Breed’s departure didn’t help matters. His enthusiasm and dynamic delivery engaged his viewers. Now Martin Hall is left to fill the void. Martin knows golf but his style often puts me to sleep. If he came on at 10:00 pm it would serve me better.
In truth there just isn’t that much at GOLF to hold my interest except during the majors. Those Live From shows cover all the bases with interesting content. Tournament coverage focuses on a few players with putting seeming to dominate telecasts. To be honest I’ve been watching ESPN+ coverage of a group’s complete round. Every shot is shown. You can see how players handle their emotions in four and a half hours. It’s a refreshing perspective.
I’m not sure how the contracts with the various tours were devised. I would bet once they come up for renewal you’ll see NBC send all of its golf to Peacock. Prime coverage will revert back to the network. Although I have seen Peacock sandwich coverage with NBC and GOLF. It’s a remote nightmare having to flip to three channels for one event.
The future does look bleak for the dream of Gibbs and Palmer. Yet they hit it at the right time and made history with their presentation of one sport. The days of Rich Lerner spinning one of his essays along with Brandel pouring gas on a smoldering fire are coming to an end. In a time when you can watch whatever you please on demand, well who needs niche channels?
It was good while it lasted. The initial heydays were GOLF’s best days. But all good things must come to an end. In the future if you see a Peacock wearing a bucket hat with a carry bag draped on its shoulder don’t be surprised.