Opinion: Pro golf tour should embrace livestreaming apps like Meerkat, Periscope, to attract new fans and show ‘missing’ action

The action starts here. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

The action starts here. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

Even as it ramps up its own official efforts to bring more live action to fans via the Internet, the professional golf tour should embrace the emerging “livestreaming” services like Periscope and Meerkat to expose even more live play to a wider and possibly younger audience.

Why? Because golf is unique in its ability to allow fans very close to the players, and combining that with the predictability of action makes for a perfect recipe for compelling livestream content, something that may not be possible at stadium-based events like baseball or football. And since golf itself is admitting that it needs more live coverage, why not open the gates as wide as possible, and see what happens? As I will explain below I think the downside is minimal, and on the upside there’s the opportunity for the world’s stodgiest sport to shed some of its historical knickers and attract a younger, hipper audience that it might need somewhere soon down the road.

Perfect for Periscope

That overall idea was my instant takeaway from a day at the World Golf Championships Match Play event this week at Harding Park Golf Course in San Francisco, where I strolled the grounds on Tuesday, when practice rounds and a pro-am event were taking place. While the almost non-existent crowd meant I could really get up close and personal, it struck me that even at crowded days at golf tournaments a good number of fans are extremely close to the players, making cell-phone livestreaming something you may actually want to watch.

Ian Poulter in fine form on Tuesday at WGC.

Ian Poulter in fine form on Tuesday at WGC.

Even with my limited photography skilz I was able to get some good shots Tuesday, including one stop-action picture of Ian Poulter’s perfect swing. I also spent some time watching Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner dial in their short irons at the practice range, and the thought occurred to me that golf geeks might really like being able to watch such “action” via a livestreaming service. So why not allow and even encourage it? If you follow golf at all you are probably, like the rest of us golf fans, regularly frustrated by the lack of “live” coverage either on TV or online. Especially so since there’s now no real reason not to have as much live coverage as you can.

In the old days, it might have been cost-prohibitive and technically impossible to have TV cameras following every golfer on the course on every hole. But as cameras and wireless technology continue to improve, you’re seeing more and more flexibility and choice in “official” golf coverage, most recently with Tuesday’s announcement of PGA Tour Live, which later this summer will bring live coverage of some Thursday and Friday morning action to Internet viewers for a small fee. That’s great news for frustrated old-line golf fans, who will probably happily pay a few bucks a week not to miss early rounds, especially from players who may finish before the TV coverage comes on air.

But why stop there? Even the PGA’s new service will be extremely limited, only showing two “featured” groups each day. That means possibly half the field still won’t be seen, and who knows when someone will have a hot round? Even The Masters’ excellent online coverage only shows a couple groups at a time and a couple holes. Why not allow unlimited or at least PGA media-approved livestreaming, something that could expand Tour coverage while rewarding hustling reporters who scour the course for unknowns having a good day? From where I sit the opportunities seem to far outweigh the negatives.

Remember: Online is additive for regular TV coverage!

After Tuesday’s press conference I briefly chatted with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and asked him about livestreaming apps, which are popping up at other pro sports events, like baseball. Though he doesn’t seem like someone who spends a lot of time on Twitter Finchem did know what Meerkat and Persicope were, and said “we’re looking at it [livestreaming] since it raises obvious issues.”

At the WGC social media tent. They wouldn't let me carry this on course to hold behind Sergio.

At the WGC social media tent. They wouldn’t let me carry this on course to hold behind Sergio.

Those obvious issues, of course, are that livestreaming clearly violates broadcast rights agreements and circumnavigates sponsor advertising, two big items in the PGA’s revenue list. But like other sports, golf isn’t really concerned with livestreaming right now since the guess is that most fans want to watch the action and not spend minutes holding up their phones so the Internet can see what they are seeing. That’s probably a safe bet but I think golf should go the other direction and encourage livestreaming, perhaps from golf media professionals already covering events or from sponsors themselves, who are also already providing social media coverage of their sponsored players. Instead of looking at livestreaming as something that takes away from its professional, sponsored coverage, the PGA should see the new services as a valuable promotional tool, one more likely to be consumed by an audience that doesn’t watch much golf now — young, hip, tech people who live on services like Twitter and might find golf cool if they could watch some live action on their phone, for free.

Already this week some golf media professionals with good social media skills, like Stephanie Wei, have done some livestreaming from Harding, but why not have more? Livestreaming could be a way to bring more exposure to up-and-coming players, who might never be part of an online “featured group” and who almost never show up on broadcast coverage, unless they shoot a hole in one. By and large the professional golf TV coverage is wonderfully produced, but it’s also predictable and as stuffy as sports gets: Tiger, Phil, commentators with British accents. What golf could profit from is some kind of Men in Blazers coverage, which might be a way to get younger fans for the twentysomething stars like Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy who are now No. 2 and No. 1 in the game respecitvely. Livestreaming could be a simple, fun and cheap experiment that’s worth a shot.

It also doesn’t have to be revenue-free, since the PGA could allow sponsors to livestream their logoed players — I’m thinking here that the excellent social media crew at Callaway would jump on such a chance and probably be ready to do so by next week. Maybe the PGA could sell a few approved livestreaming spots to the highest bidders? Maybe then I will finally get the 24/7 TigerCam that I’ve always wanted — and I think that other golf fans, new or old, would appreciate as well.

BONUS: More MSR photos from Harding below.

Masters champ Jordan Spieth relaxes during practice round.

Masters champ Jordan Spieth relaxes during practice round.

Zach Johnson dials in short irons on the range.

Zach Johnson dials in short irons on the range.

Mobile device use is still limited and confusing.

Mobile device use is still limited and confusing.

Sponsor plug! No test drives were available.

Sponsor plug! No test drives were available.

In case you need help with your tweet or Instagram.

In case you need help with your tweet or Instagram.

Don't quite understand why we weren't given the keys to this cart.

Don’t quite understand why we weren’t given the keys to this cart.

MSR finishes the WGC with a 1-up win.

MSR finishes the WGC with a 1-up win.

Watching Golf this Week: The Frozen Open, or WGC Accenture Match Play Championship

Pardon us for our late entry for this week’s watching golf episode… can we claim we were just waiting for our keyboard to thaw?

In case you hadn’t heard, the opening rounds Wednesday of the World Golf Championships Accenture Match Play Championships got put “on ice,” so to speak, after a snowstorm moved in on The Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz. Snow? In Arizona? You bet. Watch Ricky Fowler get pasted by a snowball… what fun!

Seriously, there is a golf tournament going on, but my personal opinion is that match play does not make for a good TV viewing experience, especially in the first rounds when there are so many matches going on that it’s hard to keep track of where anybody is. In the spirit of March Madness, which is just around the corner, I say it’s best to wait until Saturday or Sunday to see if there are matches you care about, then tune in. If you’ve joined the PGA bracket competition you can track it live to see if your bracket is busted, like mine was thanks to Richard Sterne’s 1-up upset of Jason Dufner Thursday. As of this writing, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are still playing. Update: Rory and Tiger are out. But you can still watch this weekend!

UPDATE 2: Here’s Saturday’s pairings:

Below are starting times for Saturday’s third-round of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. Attached is an updated bracket with results from Friday’s second round included.

Saturday 2/23/13
Tee Time Match # Players
1 07:10 AM Match 49 Robert Garrigus vs Fredrik Jacobson
1 07:22 AM Match 50 Nicolas Colsaerts vs Matt Kuchar
1 07:34 AM Match 53 Shane Lowry vs Graeme McDowell
1 07:46 AM Match 54 Bubba Watson vs Jason Day
10 07:10 AM Match 51 Scott Piercy vs Steve Stricker
10 07:22 AM Match 52 Tim Clark vs Ian Poulter
10 07:34 AM Match 55 Gonzalo Fdez-Castano vs Webb Simpson
10 07:46 AM Match 56 Martin Kaymer vs Hunter Mahan

Round 4 – Approximate Starting Times: Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 12:40 p.m., one tee start

All times local Arizona MT


(all times Eastern)

Thursday, Feb. 21 — Golf Channel, 12:30 p.m. — 6 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 22 — Golf Channel, 2 p.m. — 6 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 23 — Golf Channel, 12 p.m. — 2 p.m.; CBS, 2 p.m. — 6 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 24 — Golf Channel, 9 a.m. — 1 p.m.; CBS, 2 p.m. — 6 p.m.


Thursday and Friday, Golf Channel coverage via PGATour.com and GolfChannel.com; Saturday and Sunday, CBS coverage at CBSSports.com. Right now only Comcast cable subscribers can watch live online video on weekdays. NOTE: If you are using the PGA Mobile app to watch the CBS or Golf Channel online video, be advised that it only works with iOS phones and with some (not all) Android phones. There is no fix planned for the immediate future.

SIRIUS XM (Satellite) Thursday-Friday-Saturday, and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. The live broadcasts are also available to subscribers on the SiriusXM Internet Radio App and online at SiriusXM.com.


Geoff Shackelford — well known golf writer. If you’re not following Geoff you are missing the online boat.
Golf Channel — official Golf Channel feed
@PGATOUR — official PGA Twitter feed
@StephanieWei — great golf writer who is a Twitter fiend.
Doug Ferguson is the lead golf writer for AP. Good Twitter insights that often aren’t part of your wire-service lead.

The Golf Club at Dove Mountain is a Jack Nicklaus design, and we expect it plays better when the snow melts off. Not sure if there are chairlifts. End of snow jokes.

Hunter Mahan, over Rory McIlroy.