Bubba Watson (left) and General Lee. / Via @bubbawatson
Like millions of other people around the world, I recently watched the annual running of the Daytona 500. I usually only watch two races per year; the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. So, last weekend I spilt my TV-watching time between the WGC World Match Play Championship and the Daytona 500.
As I switched back and forth between the events, it occurred to me the glaring differences in television production between Professional Golf and NASCAR. I am not an expert in the field of televised sporting events so am speaking from the perspective of a viewer. The comparison between the two events left me wondering why golf production on TV has not changed that much over the past few decades. Yes, there have been a few innovations over the years to improve the viewing experience. Most notably are the Minolta Biz Hub Camera, Pro Tracer Technology and Super Slo Mo. That technology is great; however, it really does not add to the viewing experience of the shots being played as they occur. One element that the camera does not seem to capture is the contours of the golf course. I would like to see more ground level views of the shots being played. For example, why can viewers not see the shots approaching into a severely sloping green to see the ball’s reaction? Instead, we keep hearing the talking head commentators say “wow, that ball really shot off of that slope.”
If NASCAR can plant a camera in the middle of a race track I am sure the golf production companies could place a few cameras green level. This would greatly enhance the type of viewing windows we could see on TV, as well as the reaction of the ball. For years now CBS announcers have been stating how the cameras do not capture the contours of the greens at Augusta National for the Masters Tournament. Having been to the Masters, I agree. The course has a lot of hills and the greens are very contoured. Each year CBS replays the shot when Tiger Woods holed his chip shot from behind the 16th green. The camera angle was really cool because we could see the difficulty of the shot by the slope of the green. This is the type of thing we need more of and I would expect the major events to lead this innovation.
Back to the Daytona 500. Fox had a camera in some of the cars that stayed level as the cars banked into the turns. With this camera shot the viewer could see the angles of the turns of the racetrack and just how much slope there is in the corners. I thought that was a really creative way to illustrate to the viewer how steep those corners are. These are the types of visuals I wish we could see more of in golf. Ground level action, not shots from the blimp or some camera mounted 100 feet above the ground. Also, if NASCAR drivers can speak to announcers from their car during a race then why can’t golfers do the same from the fairway?
If the networks want to attract new viewers and keep the ones they already have, then they need to become more creative. Younger audiences and future generations of golf enthusiasts are much more technically savvy and have higher expectations when it comes to technology. I believe the days of showing static footage from high above the course will only have limited appeal to future viewers.
What would you like to see from television production companies to improve the viewing experience of golf tournaments?