BOB WEST — Full Swing certain to swell golf’s rising tide
Published 12:02 am Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Everywhere you turn there seems to be evidence that golf is growing in popularity.
National Golf Foundation numbers suggest a wave began to build coming out of the pandemic in 2020, not only in on-course participation but in off-course forms such as Top Golf, Drive Shack, Putt-Putt, Pop Stroke and more.
NGF figures, in fact, show there was more off-course participation than on course for the first time ever. That, of course, bleeds over into more and more people wanting to take the next step by getting their own clubs, maybe investing in lessons and taking up the game.
The most recent NGF figures show that since 2020 participation on a golf course is up by 1.3 million, cresting at 6 million total golfers in 2022. It’s across-the-board good news for nearly all facets of golf’s economy, from the sale of equipment and clothing to lessons and even to a boost in new-course construction.
Babe Zaharias pro Mitch Duncan has seen it up close and personal, with rounds played soaring at Zaharias in 2020, still rising in 2021 and going up slightly in 2022. If the past few days are any indication, numbers will continue to climb in 2023.
“We were completely out of carts by late morning both Sunday and Monday,” Duncan said. “The good weather helped, but there is no doubt golf is gaining players. The course was packed most of the day. We’ve seen a lot of new faces coming out of COVID.”
External forces also are in play in bringing new eyeballs and interest to the game. The latest of those is an eight-episode Netflix docuseries released last week titled Full Swing. It promises and delivers never-before-seen insider access to those playing the game at the top level.
If you are a golfing Netflix subscriber, Full Swing is mandatory viewing. If you are not a subscriber but enjoy playing golf, watching it or both, you may want to think about signing up. I say that after watching the first two episodes.
Full Swing is a compelling view and, in this opinion, may have as much appeal to the non-golfer or beginner as it does to those more heavily invested. What’s really exciting is where Full Swing can go in season two and beyond, now that the ultra-conservative professional golf community has seen it and heard the glowing reviews.
For the most part, Full Swing is a behind-the-scenes look at the lives and families of PGA players, the weekly highs and lows, mental battles and how major tournaments played out in 2022. Due to timing, the LIV factor and its defectors also plays in, although not as deeply as it might have.
The key to Full Swing taking flight was getting the PGA Tour and its players to sign off on having cameras in places they have rarely been. Some guys, like Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau, Ricky Fowler and Scottie Scheffler were quicker to embrace an intrusion on their privacy than others.
One who jumped in and may regret it is Brooks Koepka, whose once rising star is on the descent. Koepka came off as sort of a whiny basket case whose confidence is shattered. After watching him in episode 2, it’s easy to understand why he jumped at the guaranteed money being offered by LIV.
According to Full Swing’s executive producer Chad Mumm, who is being hailed for his vision and persistence, he had been pushing for more than a decade to get the project approved.
“Part of the reason it took me 10 years to get this done is they would never agree to a warts-and-all approach,” Mumm has said. “But by the time we got started they had no editorial control.”
Mumm was even more succinct in what he believes Full Swing brings to golf and viewers.
“I think this show has a chance to introduce golf to a whole new audience,” he declared. “I want people to see golf for what it really is and this kind of crazy traveling circus that is life on the PGA Tour.
“I think general sports fans may have some impression in their head about what pro golfers are like, and like anything, if you look under the surface, it’s nothing like you expect. I think people are going to have their expectations completely subverted in the first five minutes.”
With Full Swing, then, Mumm has hit a grand slam. There will be lots of winners coming out of it, especially the game of golf.
CHIP SHOTS: PNG alums Chris Stroud and Andrew Landry will both be in action this week as the PGA Tour moves to the Florida portion of its swing with the Honda Classic.
The event is contested over PGA National and its infamous “Bear Trap” in Palm Springs.
Stroud missed the 54-hole cut three weeks ago at Pebble Beach in his only start of the 2023 calendar year. Landry has two missed cuts and a WD in his last three starts . . .
In Monday’s Senior 50 Plus 2 ball at Babe Zaharias, the team of James Vercher, Ron Mistrot, Jeff Rinehart and Dan Flood scored a sweep, winning the front with minus 2 and the back with minus 1. Closest to the pin winners were Keith Mullins (No. 2, 5-5), Butch Cross (No. 7, 16-11), Rick Pritchett (No. 12, 4-9) and Ron Lasalle No 15, 11-10).
The Wednesday Zaharias DogFight, played in an all-points-count format, saw the team of Ted Freeman, Danny Robbins, Paul Duplantis and Lonnie Mosely win with 24 points.
Closest to the pin winners were Ed Holley (No. 2, No. 15), Mosley (No. 7) and Mistrot (No. 12).
Golf News should be e-mailed to Bob West at firstname.lastname@example.org.