Golf, On The Heart Beat
Technology and Media Will Change Golf Again
In this heart, there's a grateful nexus of golf, media, and technology that continues to burn into its 9th decade. Jubilation looms.
It’s about to burst onto the public scene as TGL, a technology-infused indoor golf league led by none other than Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
A band of headline-grabbing pro golfers will smash their 300-plus-yard drivers into a video screen that’s six feet taller than Fenway Park’s 37’ high Green Monster wall in a technology temple being built by TMRW Sports, the company founded by former NBC Sports President Mike McCarley with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
And TGL serves our prime-time sports hunger as football wanes and spring training and Masters weekend looms in two-hour weekly competitions on ESPN.
All of which has bulldozed me into a frenzy as TGL tickles the fancy of my inbred and acquired penchants embedded in an old sportswriter’s memory:
In golf, a trip from balata, graphite, ironwoods, perimeter weighting, trackman, and a personal abhorrence, range finders have passed through Ben, Babe, Arnie, Jack, Annika, and Tiger eras, enjoying an up-close relationship with golf savant Moe Norman along the way.
In media, the trip started peddling morning and afternoon newspapers, proofreading, copy boy, cub, police and sports reporting, advertising executive, radio maven, television producer, author, and SportsEdTV editor-in-chief.
In technology, the road through TV peeping tom and Alan Freed radio led to lead-fed linotype composing through offset printing to cable TV, then satellite programming weaved its way along as dial-up internet screeching to broadband to streaming, and AI topped me off.
Given that mix, is there any wonder why televised tech-infused golf has flowered into a rash that I absolutely cannot wait to scratch?
If your heart beats a little faster by now, here’s what else I’ve been able to learn:
The TGL Tour is in partnership with The PGA Tour.
Tiger and Rory have recruited Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Billy Horschel, Collin Morikawa, Max Homa, Matt Fitzpatrick, Adam Scott, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Tom Kim, Shane Lowry and two others.
They'll be divided into teams of three, at this writing yet to be determined, though they'll represent major market franchises, several owned by big-name investors like the Williams sisters and Red Sox, Mets, and Falcons owners.
The techno-infused indoor arena, corporately branded The SoFi Center is where the league will play and will house 2,000 fans at the Palm Beach State College campus.
It's an air-supported dome 75'high, and the entire playing surface stretches 97 x 50 yards. There's a 40-yard wide short game complex with three dynamic putting surfaces on a bigger surface, nearly 4,000 square feet, surrounded by three sand bunkers.
TGL has partnered with US Integrity to establish a betting program for the league. USI has established similar arrangements with most major sports leagues, including the NFL, MLB, NBA, and PGA Tour.
Do I smell neighborhood or country club Calcutta’s in the making?
The ESPN programming is set for two hours nightly, likely from 9 to 11 East Coast time.
In the inaugural TGL season, a demo night is scheduled for late December and a kickoff on January 9, a Tuesday, with another the next week on Tuesday. After that, ESPN says the dates are to be announced as they’ll surely fill the hole left when Monday night football ends.
Expectedly, the remaining 13 weeks of TGL round-robin team matches and semifinal and final matches will surely bump up against April 8-14 staging of The Masters.
I doubt these leading players will let anything interfere with major tournament preparation.
So the big question that lingers is: When will the TGL season end?
It's safe to presume events or competition elements must be live if television audience betting is in play.
Some others I wonder about:
Will the arena have artificial wind, rain, and temperature mixtures, and will they be AI accounted for in the record-keeping files sure to become a familiar feature?
Will caddies be allowed to participate?
How will lies be read in rough for approach shots?
Will players use different golf balls to adapt to technological nuance?
And, finally, how do we get tickets to be part of the live audience?
Radio silence so far from TGL.