Did the Golf Channel’s Announcer-less experiment work?

by Derek on September 19, 2010

in Golf Channel,Nationwide Tour

Announcer Curt Byrum and producer Keith Hirshland, the mastermind behind Saturday's "announer-lite" coverage

If you’re not aware, the Golf Channel decided to broadcast the Nationwide Tour’s Albertson’s Boise Open today without traditional announcers.  Instead of continuous commentary, they focused more on capturing sound/conversations from the different groups on the course and conducting player interviews.  Announcers Jerry Foltz and Curt Byrum managed to stay busy however, as they were responding to tweets, Facebook and e-mails while also conducting phone interviews with notable golfers such as Stewart Cink, Zack Johnson, and Matt Kuchar.  So did the experiment in cost cutting work?  In a nutshell, Yes.

There were some rough edges.  At first, it was disconcerting to see guys lining up putts on the green without any sound.  However, once the initial shock wore off, it was actually pretty nice.  We were able to get some insight into the conversations between players and caddies.  Some of the conversations were quite serious while others were pretty funny, such as Jason Hahn’s exchange with his caddy over how to properly pronounce the term “false front”.

Given all of the microphones, I was expecting the tour to be handing out some hefty fines today, but the players seemed to keep their language in check.  I was waiting to hear an F-bomb after Michael Putnam blocked his drive out right on the 11th, but instead he just silently took a swing at his tee with the back of his driver.  I’m guessing that tour officials made it very clear to the players that they would be in front of mics all day long and that they had better behave.

Hunter Haas was actually wearing a microphone pack on the course today and consequently we were able to hear every comment, joke, and self admonition that came out of his mouth.  His sarcastic “Sweet!” after tapping in for a birdie was pretty funny.  This was the first time that any player on the PGA or Nationwide tours was mic’d during an event.

So what could be improved?  The main issue that I had were the on-screen graphics.  They tried to adapt their existing graphics  to the “announcer-less” model, but it didn’t quite work.  They just don’t show enough information.  They work fine when you have announcers chatting and providing all kinds of additional tidbits and insights, but they’re not enough when you’re left to your own devices.  I would suggest a graphics design much more like what you would see on Sportcenter.  Keep a constant set of information flowing to TV viewers.  Set the opacity relatively low so it isn’t too intrusive, but provide as much of the info that the announcers would typically have access to as possible.

A few more on-course interviews would have been nice as well.  However, it can be tricky to find the balance between tournament coverage and player interviews.  I did especially like the interview they conducted on the driving range with Justin Hicks and the putting green with Gavin Coles.  It was cool to get some insight into the kind of things that the pro’s work on at the range and on the putting green.

Will the Golf Channel try this again?  I sure hope so.  According to Foltz, the response was about 60% “love it” and 40% “hate it”.  If they can find a way to improve the on-screen graphics and possibly tie in the Twitter, Facebook and e-mail conversations, I think they would have a real winner.  For a first try though, it was a great effort.

Leave a Comment

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: