Our peculiar obsession with watching golf on TV

The non-golfer is completely baffled by anyone who would want to watch it on TV.


This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of Inside Golf where Michael Green writes a monthly column.

We golfers are right in the middle of a beautiful time of year for watching golf on TV. We’re smack bang in the middle of the majors. The first major of the year, The Masters has come and gone, and given us a taste of the early mornings on the couch that we all know so well.

We now look forward to the early mornings watching the US Open in June, the US PGA Championship in August and the late, late nights in front of The Open Championship in July. And with The Open back at St.Andrews in 2015 it’s going to be as good, if not better than every other year before it.

We’ll all gladly forfeit sleep in the comfort of our own bed, swapping it for four sleepless nights on the couch – and depending on who is in contention; much of the final round will be spent on the edge of it. Low lighting, low noise and coffee close by, it’s a familiar place for us all and a time we cherish each year.

So why is watching golf so loathed among those who don’t play golf? Why is it one of the few sports where it seems that having some experience in playing the game is a requirement to enjoy it on TV?

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard or read that golf is one of the most disliked sports to watch on TV. Indeed I’m sure that if you were to ask people for their most preferred sport to watch on TV, golf would feature very high on the list for those people who play golf and very low on the list for people who don’t. God bless them.

You only have to do a quick search on Twitter for ‘golf’ and ‘watch’ to find that someone, somewhere in the last 24 hours has said that golf is the most boring sport to watch on TV. And it’s hard to argue with.

It’s slow, tedious, and utterly pointless (aren’t all sports or games in some way pointless?). Commentators sound dull, often there is no noise at all and golfers aren’t exactly dressed like athletes. They look more likely to be off to compete on the stock market rather than in a sporting arena. And the whole thing goes on for a very long time.

If you were flipping channels and waiting to see what program is coming on next, you may have to wait many hours, perhaps even days before the golf coverage ends.

But all the reasons that non-golfers find the sport incomprehensible and loathsome to watch on TV, are all the reasons we love to watch it. And I think we can all agree it’s definitely not boring.

So why the disparity?

When I tell people I get more nervous watching golf than I do any other sport – very few believe me. It’s hard explaining this to people who have never played the sport. In fact, I chose not to try anymore.
We love the epic drives, the incredible recovery shots and the long snaking putts that can drop in to rescue a round.

But as a golfer, it’s the familiarity with the nervousness that can envelop while standing over a three-foot putt to win the hole, a career-best round or to win $10.

The thought of the same enveloping nervousness while standing over the same putt to win a major golf championship is somewhat unimaginable, yet tantalisingly tangible.

If you’ve never played golf where something, anything is at stake, and you’ve never experienced the need to suppress the adrenaline that is such a hindrance on the putting green, you will never understand the enthusiasm by which we vicariously watch golf on TV.

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