Does Anyone Read Golf Books ?

10th October 2017

Does anyone read golf books anymore – and if so what ?

These questions came in to my mind after a sequence of surprising events last week.

It all started when I read a review of a book in The Sunday Times on 1st October. I then walked into Foyles in Birmingham a few days later and purchased a copy, paying the full cover price of £14.99. If this wasn’t odd enough I then proceeded to read all 310 pages within a matter of days.

This was most unusual for me in that I rarely touch a newspaper nowadays, almost never pay the full price for a book and rarely read let alone finish one so quickly. I also can’t remember the last time I read a book which wasn’t about golf.

The book in question was ‘The Diary Of A Bookseller’ by Shaun Bythell.

Shaun is the owner of The Bookshop in Wigtown which for those of you who don’t know is a ‘book town’ in Galloway, south west Scotland (that’s the bit below Trump Turnberry on the golf map). It is a well known outlet in the book trade as it is Scotland’s largest second hand bookshop. As the title suggests the book tells the story of Shaun’s life in the shop. The actual period he covers here being the 12 months between February 2014 and  January 2015.

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Given what I have already said you won’t be surprised to learn that I thoroughly enjoyed Shaun’s stories of life in the book trade. I recommend it to you.

I like collecting things and golf has proven to be a fertile ground for such endeavours over many years. It first started for me with cigarette cards and moved onto programmes. It’s now books, hence why I decided to buy and read Shaun’s book.

I have always liked books even though I wouldn’t consider myself a great reader of them. It was therefore only a matter of time before I started to accumulate golf books. I simply couldn’t stop myself.

In the early pages of The Diary Of A Bookseller Shaun tells a story which got me thinking about golf books even more. The salient bits are quoted below: –

Friday 28th February

This morning I went to Callum’s to collect thirty boxes I’d been storing in his garage. This largely consists of a collection of 500 books on golf which I have been trying to get rid of for over a year……The books in his garage were from a collection that I bought from a house in Manchester last year. I didn’t have space on the shelves to put it out, and the warehouse was full, so when Callum offered his garage as a temporary store, I gratefully accepted.

Thursday 6th March

In the morning I unloaded the boxes of books about golf that I picked up from Callum’s on Saturday. I’ve tried to sell them on eBay as a job lot twice, but with no luck, so I will probably put them into auction in Dumfries once I have checked whether there’s anything in there that’s worth listing online.

I do remember seeing this listing on eBay and it was a reasonable collection at a fair price. I did think about bidding but recall being put off by the fact I already had some of them and that their location was a little too remote for me (I recall ‘Dumfries’ was listed). I would have wanted to personally inspect them before paying out and simply couldn’t be bothered to drive up to Scotland to do so. I assume selling big collections of any genre is difficult so I am not surprised that Shaun found 500 books on golf hard to pass on. Unfortunately he doesn’t go on say what actually happened to them or how much he ultimately sold the collection for.

Nevertheless his story got me thinking as I continued to read the book. When was the last time someone told me about or recommended a golf book to me ? Is the literature of golf poorer than other sports ? Why does cricket seem to have book after book published whilst golf appears to languish ?

Last week a second hand bookseller said to me at her counter: ‘I don’t sell many golf books – maybe all the golfers are too busy practicing to read ?’ Perhaps there is some truth in this – after all golf is one of the few sports that can be played alone – but to be honest I doubt it.

In recent years I have built up a reasonable collection – at least in my eyes – of around 800 golf books by trawling eBay and visiting charity and second hand bookshops in every destination I happen to pass through. I am careful as to how much I pay and as to the condition I will accept. I like all golf books except instructional ones, unless they are antiquarian or rare to use trade parlance.

However, I have to admit that I have struggled to find or make the time to read as many of these books as I should have done. I have probably read less than 20 cover to cover. I hope to get to them all eventually but know the reality is I never will.

I have often dreamed of a life as a specialist bricks and mortar golf book seller in my retirement even though I know there must be little or no money to be made in such a pursuit (even online). I am sure I would buy more books than I would sell if my ambitions were realised.

I like the pursuit of golf books and I like surrounding myself with them – even though my study now seems to have a permanent musty smell (which I believe to be solely book related) – but the time and effort required to read them just seems to elude me.

So the reason for mentioning this is to establish: –

1) how rare my golf book buying (but not reading) affliction is and whether I should seek treatment for it ?

2) whether you still read golf books ?; and

3) if so which ones you enjoy most ?

All replies will be gratefully received in the Comments section below or via Twitter (which come to think of it is the main reason why I struggle to find the time to read newspapers and books anymore).

ME.

Copyright © 2014-2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

My Top 100 Golf Twitter Accounts

1st November 2015

A Top 100 Golf Twitter Accounts list has been on my ‘to do list’ for some time.

There are so many Twitter accounts specialising in golf and so many nuances to the game that such a compilation will always, to a degree, be personal in nature.  Trying to rank such a list is even more challenging.  Nevertheless I have given a list and a ranking a go.

The number of Followers an account has can’t be ignored but is not the only measure of value.  Accuracy, content, interaction, location and presentation are equally as important – at least to me.

Please let me know who I have missed out – there will be some – so perhaps we can develop a better list together over time.

Twitter Logo

To start us off here’s my Top 100 Golf twitter Accounts list:

1. @EuropeanTour – 186.8k
Outstanding coverage of the European Tour

2. @PGATOUR – 993.5k
US PGA Tour account

3. @GolfChannel – 512.2k
Official account of the US TV channel

4. @PGATOURmedia – 31.5k
Additional PGA Tour information

5. @PGAcom – 294k
Official site of the PGA of America

6. @NCGmagazine – 45k / @LadyGolferMag – 18.2k
British golf magazines from the same stable

7. @SkySportsGolf – 159.2k
Britain’s premier golf broadcasters

8. @McIlroyRory – 2.6m
Golfing superstar and Europe’s undisputed No. 1

9. @JordanSpieth – 805k
The star of 2015 with two major wins

10. @JDayGolf – 182.7k
Australian golfer who finally broke his major duck at the 2015 US PGA

11. @GeoffShac – 28.8k
Golfing journalist and author with popular website

12. @GolfMonthly – 71.4k
Magazine account

13. @GolfWorld1 – 44.2k
Magazine account

14. @TheTodaysGolfer – 29.9k
GB Magazine account

15. @ChallengeTour – 16.7k
Europe’s second tier Tour account

16. @ByTheMinGolf – 12.9k
Tournament coverage and provider of regular podcasts

17. @johnhuggan – 8,974
Respected Scottish journalist, never short of a (golfing) view

18. @BobHarig – 26.6k
ESPN journalist and analyst

19. @golf_com – 149.4k
Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine account

20. @GolfDigest – 275.5k
Leading US golf magazine account

21. @GolfweekMag – 78.7k
US-based magazine account

22. @alexmiceli – 10.4k
GolfWeek journalist account

23. @collegegolf – 9,270
GolfWeek’s US College account

24. @GolfweekRingler – 5,570
GolfWeek journalist Lance Ringler’s account – US College focus

25. @IrishGolfDesk – 12k
Journalist Brian Keogh’s Irish golf account

26. @chubby6665 – 84.4k / @TeamISM – 12.5k
Founder of ISM sports management company

27. @AlanShipnuck – 61.8k
US journalist for Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine

28. @GlobalGolfPost – 16.9k
Weekly online magazine account

29. @PGAEuroProTour – 8,988
British-based senior development tour feeding the Challenge Tour

30. @DaveLynndawg – 26.2k
Retired English Pro with humorous slant on golf / the world (Adult content)

31. @jcorrigangolf – 7,618
Daily Telegraph golf correspondent

32. @IanJamesPoulter – 2m
English Pro committed to his twitter account

33. @WestwoodLee – 777k
Leading English Pro who occasionally goes off piste on twitter

34. @Graeme_McDowell – 694.4k
Irish Pro with high quality twitter feed

35. @GolfiMagazine – 16.3k
Golf International magazine account

36. @GolfingWorld – 19.1k
Video-based account of the TV programme shown on Sky Sports

37. @4golfonline – 28.8k
Mark Crossfield’s popular coaching, product reviews and match  banter / video site.

38. @EnglandGolf – 22.8k
England’s National golf body.

39. @ScottishGolf – 8,767
Newly amalgamated Scottish golf union

40. @GUIGolf – 2,783
Irish golf union account

41. @golfunionwales – 3,143
Welsh golf union account

42. @MMcEwanBunkered – 1,596 / @BunkeredOnline – 17.6k
Scottish journalist working primarily on Scotland’s No. 1 golf magazine

43. @secrettourpro – 19.5k
Professional golf insider

44. @VC606 – 1,461
Specialist on Official World Golf Rankings

45. @JustinRose99 – 462.4k
English Pro and one of the world best golfers.

46. @DarrenClarke60 – 303.9k
Northern Irish Pro and 2016 Ryder Cup Captain

47. @MichaelClayton15 – 4,185
Former Australian Pro now golf architect and writer

48. @AndrewColtart – 19.9k
Former Scottish Pro now making a name for himself as a Sky Sports analyst

49. @garyplayer – 223.9k
80 year old golfing legend

50. @WebDotComTour – 33.8k
US second string tour – keep an eye on tomorrow’s champions

51. @rhodesygolf – 3,744
British sports betting expert and odds compiler

52. @StephanieWei – 39.3k
US journalist who travels the world tweeting regularly

53. @bkgolfguide – 3,184
US golf historian Brent Kelley’s account

54. @AlDunsmuir – 14.5k / @GCM-mag – 7,536
Golf Club Manager’s Association in-house journalist and magazine account

55. @DPugh54 – 25.1k
Respected European Tour coach and Sky Sports analyst

56. @LukeDonald – 571.3k
English Pro who has been at the top of the game for the last 10 years

57. @MattFitz94 – 21.8k
The future of English golf

58. @ShaneLowryGolf – 86.7k
Interesting Irish golfer who has really broken through in 2015

59. @SharkGregNorman – 81.5k
Former World no. 1 Greg Norman and now US TV golf analyst

60. @JasonSobelESPN – 105.9k

61. @JasonDufner – 470.2k
US Major winning golfer

62. @bubbawatson – 1.4m
Another US Major winning golfer

63. @RickShielsPGA – 23.4K
British Pro with popular video blog

64. @iaincartergolf – 57k
BBC golf correspondent and author

65. @TonyJohnstone56 – 7,316
Former Pro, golf analyst and wildlife expert

66. @golfshake – 23.9k
Golf community website with a popular twitter account.

67. @Fehertwit – 462.7k
Former Pro from Northern ireland, now golf media personality based in USA.

68. @FrankNobiloGC – 65.3
Former New Zealand Pro, now US TV golf commentator.

69. @JohnPetersonLSU – 7,147
straight into the Top 100 with today’s ‘Happy Gilmore’. Maybe insane.

70. @Cannonball63 – 3,500
Renowned golf photographer

71. @golffile – 720
Golf photography company account

72. @LeeWybranski – 265
Golf championship poster artist

73. @b_dechambeau – 605
Exciting young US golfer; the 2015 US Amateur and NCAA Div. 1 Champion

74. @RandA – 16.6k
Official Royal & Ancient Golf Club account

75. @USGA – 102.1k
Official United States Golf Association account

76. @gcamagazine – 4,479
Golf Course Architecture magazine

77. @PaulAzinger – 136.4k
Former US Pro and respected TV analyst

78. @TigerWoods – 4.9m
Infrequent tweets from the second best golfer in history

79. @TheOpen – 270.2k
The Open Championship – Official

80. @TheMasters – 436k
The Masters Tournament – Official

81. @usopengolf – 154.9k
The US Open Championship – Official

82. @PGAChampionship – 52.6k
The US PGA Championship – Official

83. @THEPLAYERSChamp – 35.3k
The Players Championship – Official

84. @ETQSchool – 1,619
European Tour’s Q-School

85. @suzannepettersen – 93k
Norwegian ladies golfer

86. @LydiaKo – 33.4k
New Zealand’s golfing protege and Ladies World No. 1

87. @HullCharley – 27.5k
England’s great hope in ladies golf

88. @gcw – 109.7k
Golfing humour – photos and video

89. @GolfClubWanker – 16.2k
More golfing humour

90. @IMGgolf – 35.3k
Major golf management and broadcasting business

91. @sportingintel – 85k
General sport business account but certainly worth a look

92. @LPGA – 94.7k
US-based professional Ladies Tour

93. @LPGAMedia – 2,578
The LPGA Tour media account

94. @LETgolf – 23.8k
Ladies European Tour

95. @LadiesGolfUnion – 4,457
Ladies Golf Union; useful for GB ladies amateur golf

96. @womensgolfcom – 8,775
Online Women’s Golf Magazine account

97. @RyderCupEurope – 119.7k / @RyderCupUSA – 78.1k
The European and USA Ryder Cup Team accounts

98. @PresidentsCup – 29.5k
Official President’s cup account

99. @SolheimCupEuro – 8,936 / @Solheim_Cup – 5,849
The European and USA Solheim Cup Team accounts

100. @OlympicGolf – 4,247
Golf is in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

[Follower numbers were accurate as 31st October 2015]

ME.

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Is It The End For ‘The Golf Paper’ ?

22nd February 2017

I was saddened to read today that The Golf Paper will not be returning in 2017.

The newspaper was due to return on 29th March 2017 from it’s latest winter break.

Greenways Publishing have clearly decided that this title is no longer financially viable for them. I assume after nearly two years they have simply concluded that it will not be possible to generate sufficient subscriber and advertising incomes to cover production and printing costs.

The concerns I expressed in October 2015 (see below) were around what I considered to be unethical practices. Back then it was the advertising for and taking of subscriptions from the public just before Greenways announced the paper would not be published for five months between November and April 2015.

Whilst I appreciate the disconnect between owners and staff and the need for a ‘business as usual’ approach I note that The Golf Paper were still touting for new subscribers on Twitter as recently as 11th February 2017. In my opinion senior management must have known the future of the paper was in some doubt as early as October 2016 – when last year’s run came to an end. Therefore such behaviour still sits a little uncomfortably with me.

I raised this on twitter tonight. I was therefore pleased to see the paper’s Editor Alex Narey call me out to say clearly that all subscribers will be refunded.

In passing I am not sure what facts Mr. Narey wants me to check. As I see it the paper is not being published again and was clearly advertising for subscribers up until very recently. It remains to be seen if all subscribers are reimbursed in full.

ME.

_________________________________________________

16th October 2015

UPDATE

David Emery of Greenways Publishing today gave me the following re-assurance re. the future of ‘The Golf Paper’. His e-mailed response is repeated in full below: –

“I’d like to allay Mark Eley’s fears re. The Golf Paper while at the same time thanking him for his kind remarks about the product.

It was always the intention of Greenways Publishing to give The Golf Paper a winter break through December to early April when the sport hits a distinctly quiet period. Some of our other publications take a similar Sabbatical. The Cricket Paper has generally ceased from October-April, although this year it is continuing through the winter to take in the England tours of the UAE (Pakistan) and South Africa. The Football League Paper stops between May and August.

In our experience, subscribers are content to let their investment roll over for those fallow months. Anyone unhappy is instantly offered a refund.

The Golf Paper will continue until the World Tour Championship in Dubai (Nov 19-22) and then return for The US Masters build-up.

I am not going to comment further on David’s statement.  All I will say is I am a very happy long-term subscriber – both in terms of the paper’s content and prompt delivery to me – so I am pleased to hear it’s ‘business as usual’.

If you haven’t read ‘The Golf Paper’ yet I would urge you to do so.  If you do then please tell your friends. The more people we can get to support it the more chance it will have of growing and thriving.

ME.

_________________________________________________

15th October 2015

I am no expert on newspapers and the media but I am starting to fear the worst for ‘The Golf Paper’.

‘The Golf Paper’ was launched in Great Britain on 8th April 2015, ahead of this year’s U.S. Masters, by Greenways Publishing Limited. Graham Otway is the Editor at Large and a number of well known journalists and golfers have contributed articles to date. 28 newspapers, each costing £1.50, have been issued so far and there is also a digital version available.

Greenways, which is owned by David Emery, a former Daily Express Sports Editor, had previously launched The Non-League Paper (March 2000), The Football League Paper (October 2005), The Rugby Paper (2008 England & Wales / October 2013 Scotland) and The Cricket Paper (May 2012) before venturing into golf.

The Golf Paper 151015

So let’s look at the warning signs emanating from ‘The Golf Paper’: –

Firstly, the launch of a paid-for weekly newspaper, let alone one dedicated to golf, was always going to be challenging given the changing media landscape and huge amount of high quality golf competition. One only has to think of Global Golf Post provided free online to subscribers every Monday, let alone the well established UK monthly magazines, to see the difficulties Greenways were going to face.

The first four issues came with 48 pages but ever since the number of pages has been reducing – in broad terms 40 pages (issues 5-16), 36 pages (issues 17-19), and now down to 32 pages in recent weeks (issues 20-28).  Some of that is down to reduced advertising but not all of it.

‘The Golf Paper’ doesn’t seem to be attracting enough advertisers. This week’s issue just has the ‘in association with’ sponsored pages of David Howell and Carin Koch as well as the Boss Watches Hole In One page. Whilst arguably beneficial for the readers you don’t have to be a media person to know this can’t be good for Greenways income and profits.

Finally, existing subscribers were sent an e-mail on Tuesday 13th October advising them that “After a fantastic launch year, The Golf Paper will be taking a well-earned winter break in November before returning in April 2016.” I don’t recall anyone mentioning a six month break when The Golf Paper was being launched. Whilst currently not clear at what point in November the paper will go into hibernation this must be viewed as a concerning development for its future. As we are all aware golf now ‘enjoys’ a wrap around season with big tournaments most weeks of the year. Just think about the European Tour’s Race to Dubai Season Finale which is coming up and the ‘Desert Swing’ next January and February. Such a move is also clearly not going to be good for reader loyalty and habit. In six months time how many existing readers will have moved on and forgotten about their Wednesday paper ?

What is slightly concerning to me is that this week’s issue makes no reference to the ‘big break’ yet happily continues to advertise for subscriptions on page 2. ‘The Golf Paper’ twitter account remains very active too and has also been advertising subscriptions this week:-

A new subscriber would no doubt be very unhappy to pay £60 for 30 issues this week only to find the paper going to ground in a few weeks time for six months…and even less so, dare I say it, if the paper failed to re-appear next April which must be a possibility.

I don’t want to be a doom-monger and obviously wish the ‘The Golf Paper’ team well. I read it and like it but the alarm bells appear to be ringing. I just hope the people who run it can turn it around (if that is what is required). If not, and things aren’t going as well as Management had hoped, let’s hope they are transparent and conduct themselves properly in the coming weeks. Journalists and subscribers, both existing and new, at least deserve that.

ME.

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

The 3 R’s: Replace, Repair & Rake

27th March 2015

Golf Course Managers and their teams of green keepers undoubtedly have a tough job.  Have you ever thought how hard it is to keep you own garden in reasonable shape ?  Yes – then try thinking about a site the size of a golf course.

Course Managers have a thankless task at the best of times with the unpredictable weather often impacting on their maintenance programmes and the final course presentation that you and I see when we turn up for our game.

Of course, such matters are not helped at this time of year by The Masters.  Every golfer switches on their TV in April to see an immaculate Augusta National course with pristine fairways, beautiful flowers and fast, perfect greens.  They then turn up at their own course and start to make comparisons which are totally unfair – based on climate, play and budgets to name but three differentiating factors.  Course Managers soon know the golfing season has started as the criticism starts ringing in their ears from unqualified and often blinkered members.

I think we all need to stop criticising and start asking ourselves whether we are doing enough to help the greens staff at our courses.  Indeed some of us may be actually contributing to some of the problems they are facing ?

I was trawling through my golf photos on Pinterest earlier and put these together to make a photo I could post on Twitter.

Golf Course Etiquette

The Three R’s – Replace, Repair and Rake and While You’re At It – Get A Move On.

I often see evidence at my club of poor course etiquette by members when playing my rounds.  Club members need to start sharing the responsibility with their greens staff for the state of their courses.  I don’t expect people to turn up with their mowers but just ask that everyone is a little more conscientious.

It’s not difficult but many golfers are simply not respecting their fellow players and the courses they play on.  I am really going to make an effort this season to replace any fairway divots, properly repair any pitch marks on greens and rake all untidy bunkers that I come across – irrespective of whether I am responsible for them.

It may be a back to basics approach but I am sure if we all adopt the three R’s when we play we can make a really positive impact at our Clubs.

ME.

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Leave Golf Alone 2

25th March 2015

On the 29th October 2014 I wrote about how much I disliked all of the hybrid versions of golf that seemed to be popping up – be they Speed Golf (running), Foot Golf (football) or Disc Golf (frisbee).

Today I came across an article and video on the Florida Today website authored by their Fitness and Water Reporter Michelle Mulak.  It tells the story of Smash Golf, a new version of golf played with a tennis racket.

Further research suggests that Smash Golf was actually launched by Florida golf pro Daril Pacinella in December 2014.

Take a look at the two videos below – you have to see it to believe it.

I wonder if you can have a second drive like in real tennis.  As an aside have you ever thought how much better tennis would be if every shot counted like in proper sports.

I hope this latest video is an April Fool that has mistakenly been released early, although I am not sure the USA bother with our silly tradition.

WARNING: Watching the Smash Golf videos will probably upset you and make you very angry, although you may admire the ingenuity of the racket’s putter attachment when play arrives at the green.

Watch the Smart Golf Introductory Video By Clicking Here – December 2014

Watch Michelle Mulak’s Video Report By Clicking Here – March 2015

ME.

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

The Open – Time For Sky Sports

22nd January 2015

I found myself discussing The Open’s television rights on twitter earlier today.  This got me thinking a little more about the merits of the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) and the most obvious alternative Sky Sports.

The current United Kingdom (UK) television contract for The Open expires after the 2016 Championship that is to be played at Royal Troon next year.  The Daily Telegraph reported earlier this month that Sky Sports may be close to securing the next set of rights to The Open which in turn has started a debate that shows no signs of abating.  Some believe a confirmatory announcement may even be just a few weeks away.

Firstly I should point out that it is very difficult to draw firm conclusions on this matter without knowing the sums offered by all of the interested broadcasters and also having an idea of the likely viewing figures that each channel will attract with it’s coverage.  Such data is of course not in the public domain.

Recent renewals have seen The R&A increasingly have to walk a tightrope when considering The Open’s highly prized UK broadcasting rights.  On the one hand, do they seek to maximise television coverage and publicity for their premier event hoping this will encourage interest and participation.  Or on the other, do they choose a partner willing to pay the contract’s full market rate, thus enabling them to increase investments into the development of the game both at home and around the world.  What’s best ? High exposure to the public whose viewing (and subsequent participation) is still voluntary versus lower potential TV figures but the cash to allow focussed investment in clubs, communities and golfers.

The above debate boils down to the merits of the free-to-air BBC and the paid-for alternatives, Sky Sports or potentially the newer BT Sport.  The BBC clung onto the rights at the last review with little more than history and potential viewers to offer The R&A.

The BBC have covered The Open forever – since 1955 to be precise.  Peter Alliss, the voice of golf in the UK, has commentated on it since 1961 and has enjoyed the lead role since 1978.  We also shouldn’t forget the excellent job the Corporation does on the radio via their Radio 5 Live channel – not that this is under threat here.  A professional job can be guaranteed but with their coverage of sport rapidly declining, largely due to budgetary constraints, it must be coming less attractive for them. Likewise it isn’t easy for viewers to build a rapport with presenters and analysts who nowadays show up in their living rooms just once a year.

BBC At The Open

Hazel Irvine and Peter Alliss lead the BBC’s Open coverage 

What is currently unclear is just how hard the BBC are fighting for The Open.  Surely they can’t expect the R&A to again hand over the rights for a pittance when other organising bodies continue to enjoy lottery wins for their sport’s contracts.  What can not be denied is that the BBC have allowed golf to drift away from their schedules over the last 10 years despite the UK enjoying an unprecedented group of world class players, almost for the first time in modern history.  Losing the rights may also help them deal with the Peter Alliss question – how long should he go on and who can replace him ?

Sky have increasingly become a very credible threat to the BBC’s historic pre-eminance.  Their week in, week out coverage of both the European Tour and the US PGA Tour is admirable and of the highest quality.  They also now enjoy live rights to the three other golf Majors, The Masters, The US Open and The US PGA.  When one adds in the experience they have of covering other sports there can no longer be any question as to their credentials to manage The Open.  The UK arrangement for The Masters may prove to be an interesting template for The R&A to adopt, with Sky taking the lead role but the BBC benefitting from highlights and some weekend live coverage.

BT Sport can’t be totally discounted.  They have ‘poached’ Premiership Rugby, Premiership Football, FA Cup Football and Moto GP coverage from Sky and the BBC in recent years and are said to have bid hard for the US PGA Tour rights at their last review.  As a developing sports broadcaster in the UK they would be very keen to secure The Open given half a chance.  However, this contract renewal may be too early for them to be a serious contender but their involvement will no doubt have kept Sky honest during this latest tender process.

The R&A is often portrayed as an out of touch lawmaker and as simply a gentleman’s club but it has grown impressively in recent times.  Commercial activity at The Open has developed greatly, firstly under Sir Michael Bonallack and more recently under the leadership of Peter Dawson.  The retirement later this year of the latter is a further complication here too.  Dawson may not want to go out with such a big decision and no doubt new Chief Executive Martin Slumbers will not be looking forward to dealing with the potential aftermath.

So just how important is free-to-air coverage to the game of golf in the UK ?  Many commentators believe it is of critical importance.  Look at the recent victory of Lewis Hamilton over Rory McIlroy at the 2014 BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards as evidence of the need for more exposure and presence on terrestrial television they say.  If people don’t watch it they don’t know about it.  The complete removal of golf from mainstream television would be disastrous they believe, echoing the words of many in the cricket world which has experienced such a move.  People will stop playing and new players will fail to emerge without Rory to inspire them like Seve did their father and grandfathers they argue.

My view is that The R&A should hand the rights over to Sky.  If golf is reliant on just four days of golf on the BBC every year for its future success then something is very badly wrong.  Whilst I can see the link between terrestrial TV coverage and participation I am not persuaded it is that significant.  Snooker and bowls are on the BBC a lot but I have no intention of seriously taking up either.  I believe the results would be greater if the R&A took Sky’s cash and invested it in a focussed way into the game.  By involving the National Unions and the Professional Golfers Association, and with local advertising, subsidised club memberships and school coaching schemes could be offered at a much higher level than currently.

Golf has many more important issues to overcome to increase its popularity than the need to cling onto the BBC.  Many of these need funds to enable them to be fully realised.  Getting more women and children playing, making the game quicker (perhaps with more 9-hole courses), subsiding public / council-owned courses, helping old fashioned private clubs become more customer facing and developing new formats that attract new players all quickly spring to mind.

It is time for change.  I think Sky deserve a crack at it given their 365 day a year loyalty to the sport.  They have earned it.  I am also sure the additional funds generated can help the R&A to make more of a difference and grow the game.  I don’t see what The R&A have to lose – the contracts are normally only short-term so if it doesn’t prove beneficial then they can go back to the BBC, ITV or Channel 4 if they want at the next review.  Personally I doubt they will need to.

ME.

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Game Golf – My Thoughts

17th January 2015 

I was lucky enough to receive the GAME GOLF digital tracking system as a Christmas present from my wife.  Having now played a couple of rounds with it I thought I would share my thoughts.

Game Golf Logo

For those that don’t know GAME GOLF is a wearable system designed to track and display your golf game.  At its heart it provides you with an electronic scorecard and record keeping system for every round of golf you play.  It makes it easy to see playing strengths and weaknesses and as such is a good guide for future practice and training.  In summary it is like having your own PGA Tour ShotLink software.

It also has a social aspect which some users may find beneficial.  Data can be shared with other users and other players can be followed or challenged.  I believe their are some privacy settings if you don’t wish to share your data publically.  Further enhancements to the system and how it can used are also expected during 2015.

GAME GOLF was developed in 2013 by Active Mind Technology Inc, a company founded and led by Irish businessman John McGuire but based in San Francisco.  The PGA of America and the Golf Channel are both financial backers.  It was formally launched at the PGA Golf Merchandise Show in Orlando in January 2014.

It is endorsed by Jim Furyk, Graeme MacDowell and Lee Westwood.  Whilst providing some marketing credibility this is largely irrelevant for me.  These guys don’t really need it, clearly have the benefit of Tour stats and analysts and any challenges against them are illusionary at best.  Having said that using some golfers from the Ladies and Seniors Tours may have been more beneficial for the company.

Game Golf GMac

Graeme MacDowell uses GAME GOLF (occasionally)

The product also received invaluable publicity last summer when President Obama was seen using the system on holiday in Martha’s Vineyard.  Pictures and comment on GAME GOLF were inevitably seen all over the world.  Interestingly the system wasn’t seen on the President’s clubs in Hawaii during his recent winter break.

Game Golf Obama

President Obama has used GAME GOLF

The system appears to be doing very well and proving popular with golfers.  It is now being used in around 80 countries and well over 10 million shots have been recorded and logged to date.

So let me explain how it all works: –

How much does it cost ?
GAME GOLF currently has a recommended retail price of £159.99 in the United Kingdom.

What do you get for your money ?
In the box you get a small tracking device, 18 club tags, a USB cable and a protective pouch.  The tracking device contains both GPS technology and motion sensors.

How does it work ?
Step 1 – you screw one of the red tags into each of your clubs.  The tags are marked on the top.  Assuming you carry 14 clubs you therefore have 4 spare tags.
Step 2 – you then log onto the http://www.gamegolf.com website to create an account (i.e. e-mail address, password, home golf club) and set up a digital golf bag to match the red tags added to your clubs.
The tags perfectly matched my 14 clubs so this was effectively pre-loaded for me
.
Step 3 – download the up to date software to your computer and tracking device using the USB cable.  This also charges the tracking device.  The software has over 30,000 courses loaded into it.
Steps 1-3 took me about 15 minutes and was straight-forward and intuitive.
Step 4 – at the course you turn on the tracking device (making sure your location has been picked up) and attach it to your belt.  To record each shot the top of the club used is pressed against the bottom of the tracking device at the spot it is played (see photo below).  This can be done either before or after the shot is played.

Game Golf Tagging The GAME GOLF tag is pressed against the tracking device to record each shot

Whilst a little conscious of this to start with it has quickly become a part of my pre-shot routine and has not proven to be a burden to my enjoyment of the round.  Neither the tags or the tracking device interfered with my swing in any way.  It grates a little on the greens where obviously short putts also have to be recorded.  However, this may have more to do with my putting than the system !  
Once the round is completed the tracking device is removed, turned off and stored in the pouch.

Step 5 – once home you open up the website and upload the round information from the tracking device to your computer using the USB cable.  Before finalising and ‘signing’ the round off (sadly after which no further changes can be made) you are able to amend and delete and erroneous or missing shots.
Having got on ok with the device on the course this was the next big test for me.  How accurate would the data be ?  I am pleased to report the information provided was pretty good.  My home club had been found and the data recorded satisfactorily – not perfectly.  On one of my rounds an extra shot had been added to two holes where I had gone ‘off piste’ and had ‘tree trouble’ – more my fault than the system’s.   The review system enables you to amend the data shown so it doesn’t take long to get your round accurately shown.  All I have needed to do beside delete a couple of extra shots is clarify putts taken off the green.  After all I don’t want my real putting stats to be impacted by my use of the putter from off the green !  I know many users find the fact that signed rounds can’t be amended frustrating, particularly in their early days when they are still getting used to the system and even after careful checking still end up submitting a round with an error or two.  Hopefully, GAME GOLF will enable changes to signed rounds to be made in the future. 

Step 6 – you are then free to explore and interpret the data as you see fit – see below.  Obviously the more rounds you play and log the better the data quality.

Step 7 – Optional – you can download a mobile App to access your data on the move if you wish.  An iPad-specific version is still awaited but I assume must be coming down the line.

What information is available to me ?
The data is currently provided under four tabs on your home page: –
a) ‘My Rounds‘ – lists your loaded rounds and headline stats for each, namely, Fairways Hit, Greens In Regulation (GIR), Putts/Hole, Scrambling and Sand Saves.
I haven’t found it easy to record bunker shots so far so my sand save stats are non-existent.
b) ‘Explore‘ – enables you to access recorded scores at each course, review other players statistics and compare your performance with that of others.
c) ‘Insights‘ – It includes ‘Off The Tee’, which analyses tee shots by club and by round, ‘Approach The Green’, which highlights GIR stats by club and distance, ‘Scoring’, which shows round, par 3 and putting data, and last but not least, ‘Club Performance’, which highlights each shot with each club in the bag, thus providing clarity as to distances hit.
This is where the real value of GAME GOLF lies. I found the data provided both interesting and helpful to my game improvement thinking.  Importantly it has confirmed beyond question my club distances.
d) ‘Challenges‘ – enables yo to participate in challenges and competitions against other users.
Not of particular interest to me but will be welcomed by others. 

Are there any limits on when and where I can use it ? 
No.  Both the USGA and R&A are supportive of the system and have confirmed it can be used in all competition play.  Some pros have already been seen to use it on the PGA Tour.  This is not surprising as the system provides no on course information.

So in conclusion I love golf and am not immune to a gadget or two so GOLF GAME is right up my street.  This system is quite expensive but I believe the price is justified when one considers the GPS technology and motion sensors in the tracking device and the course data and analytical software that it provides and uses.

I found it easy to set up, use on the course and ultimately upload and access my performance data – and I am no IT expert (as the website shows !).  I also like the presentation of the information, particularly the ‘Off The Tee’, ‘Approach The Green’ and ‘Club Performance’ options and screens.

For some the effort involved, which can be a minor distraction during play for both you and your partners, may not be worth the trouble.  A barely audible beep also goes off when a shot is tagged which some may not like either.  In my opinion it’s use did not slow down my play or that of my group.  Of course some people won’t have or want to make the time to input and amend their scores, after all playing golf already takes a long time.  At the same time if you don’t have the time or inclination to practice then one may consider the stats. of little use.

I feel GAME GOLF has added something to my enjoyment of the game.  It is focussing my mind on every shot and certainly creating a talking point on and off the course.  I now benefit from accurate and objective statistics and can use these to better focus my practice and strategic approaches on certain holes where I am consistently under-performing.

I was a little late to the use of GPS watches for assistance with distances but now wouldn’t be seen without my Garmin Watch on the course.  Whilst it won’t be for everyone GAME GOLF is in my view a welcome addition to the golf accessories market.  I am sticking with it and as such recommend you look into it too and give it a go.

ME.

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.