New age broadcasting of golf in Covid Times

V Krishnaswamy

This may be a defining moment in golf. This could be ‘new age’ golf, played with ‘traditional’ rules. While the players will still try to play each hole in the least number of strokes like they have since we have known golf, all else around them will be different, as action returns to the Colonial for the Charles Schwab this week.

For one there will be NO spectators; no marquees laden with rich guests brought in by sponsors; no hand shakes, no high-fives and so on. The latest golf lexicon instead has new entries as a result of the pandemic.

Even broadcasting, the soul of the sport in a manner of speaking for it brings in not just the money but also the fans, will  change dramatically.

Jim Nantz, the voice of golf on TV telecasts, will be at Fort  Worth, the venue of the event, while analyst Nick Faldo will be “miles away” in Orlando and giving his  views. In short, the two will not be seated next to each other as they always have.

“This is one of the great challenges I’ve seen ever in my 30 or 35 years” of broadcasting the sport,” Nantz said during a conference call with reporters. “I will be there alone,” he said.

As the broadcasters try to reduce the staff on site to about half, Nantz will not be face-to-face with his crew and producers, as a whole lot of new changes kick in during the coverage as golf returns after three months. The last time a PGA Tour competitive round was the first day of THE PLAYERS before the event was cancelled after first round.

As for the new plans for coverage, CBS has  requested many players to  wear mikes, so that viewers can hear what they say while on course. But it will be totally up to the players to  accept or turn down that request.

They have also been requested to make quick stops in front of an unmanned camera and give a few thoughts about the game in progress. Those clips will likely be used as short clips later in the broadcast. However, golfers can turn down either or both requests.

Thee crews and backroom staff has been working on various possibilities for almost two months preparing for thee return and it is time now.

As part of a massive logistical exercise, staff handling graphics, editing, replays and more will be stationed in Golf Channel studios in Orlando, Los Angeles, New York, Stamford, Conn., and as far as New Zealand.  CBS Sports will add more mobile units and reconfiguring its trucks to provide more space for personnel on site.

Clearly golf wants to use the advantage it enjoys over other sports in that it can be played with players maintaining  a fair distance between each other, unlike sports like football, basketball and more, which require  contact.

The  PGA Tour also plans multicast Twitter coverage with  various commentators, ranging  from legendary golfers to athlete celebrities and showbiz celebs, too.

At the recent  Charity matches, including one which pitted Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady, the players had mikes and cameras on their carts. But with the Tour events being the  ‘real deal’, that will not happen as a matter of fact, but only if the  players are willing. Generally, pros are in their own “bubble’ with their  own thoughts and exchanges with their caddies, and do not like being disturbed, especially by the fans while they are  hitting  shots. But they do like the adulation for a great shot.

Crowd reactions are part of the charm of golf, but now there will be no crowds. So, will the golfers be able to cope with the deafening silence? Let’s wait and watch this week, as golf resumes its journey on the PGA Tour.

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