Why LIV Golf CAN develop the game
One of the biggest debates around the breakaway, Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series is whether this new take on the professional golf tournament is the secret to growing the game. Open Championship, R&A Managing Director Martin Slumbers chimed in with some strong words on the subject.
“I would also like to say that in my view the ongoing comment that it is about developing the game is simply not credible and hurts the perception of our sport that we are working so hard to improve,” said Slumbers in a statement at the start of his pre-tournament press conference.
“We believe the game should be focused on increasing participation, achieving greater diversity and ensuring that golf is truly open to all, rather than this narrow debate involving a small number of players. ”
“Equally important, it undermines what makes golf, as Arnold Palmer said, the greatest sport mankind has ever invented. Golf is so much more than just professional golf, and we should all of us remember that.
VIDEO: What is LIV Golf?
From the money to the size of the course, many aspects of LIV Golf’s new proposition challenge the status quo. I can understand how some of these elements create a narrative that could hurt the perception of the game. Plus, you get the feeling there’s still a lot of twists and turns to come.
Of course, we all have an opinion and it’s quite possible that you don’t like some elements of the proposal but are open to others. I would definitely fall into this camp. Given that with only two events played, it’s still in its infancy, it seems to me a little too early to write off its growth credentials from the game as “not believable”. Let me explain.
One of the biggest problems with the current 72 hole format is that as you get to the end of it, there are fewer golfers on the course and, naturally, there is less going on. A combination of commercial breaks and commentator conversations are left to fill frequent breaks in the game. breaks are less likely to reduce engagement. But what about regular tours? I know from personal experience how difficult it can be to sustain interest all the way.
Those who originated the LIV Golf format at least tried to fix this problem. Individual format and team format mean that you have two separate elements reaching their crescendos simultaneously. With all the terrain on the course, there should always be something to watch and the temptation to grab your phone and watch something else will be reduced.
This brings me specifically to the team event. At the moment, team names, logos, and player alliances all look a bit strained. But don’t forget that we are only two events away. As more LIV Golf events take place, team scenarios will surely emerge. I can see a world where players are grouped together in a way that makes sense and creates both rivalries and alliances.
As someone with a sports-mad 8-year-old son, who grows more and more interested in elite-level competition every day, I can see how these team interactions along with the colorful logos and evocative names would spark interest. That this aspect of the proposal, along with the condensed format, could help develop the game seems entirely plausible.
At this point it is worth addressing what it means to grow the sport – are we talking about increased engagement with the professional game or more players on the fairways of courses around the world ? In my opinion, these are related. If we can better show what the game has to offer, especially to younger audiences, we have a better chance of getting them on the course. The big question is, in a world of ubiquitous smartphones and shortened attention spans, is the current 72-hole model the best way to show off what gaming has to offer? This is a question that many of us have been asking ourselves for years.
LIV Golf came to the table with a condensed version of the sport, added some extra color, and tries to create new scenarios (beyond the controversial topics that dominate the discourse). It is also streamed for free on YouTube, a viewing platform that many young people are much more familiar with. Whether or not this free approach continues in the long term, the product as a whole is designed to better suit modern life. To me, this feels like a natural and sensible evolution for golf that just might help it stay relevant for years to come.
As I mentioned at the start, there are many facets to the new LIV Golf Invitational series. Game fragmentation and the path to the proposed peak are two issues that may or may not be fixed. However, there are parts of the proposal that, in my opinion at least, have the potential to improve engagement.
The good news is that ultimately it will be the fans who will decide the success of the LIV Golf Series. If the format doesn’t work and the audience doesn’t watch, the money will surely dry up. If, however, he manages to capture the attention of sports fans in general and golf fans in particular, I think there is reason to believe that he will grow the game.