To social network or not for golf coverage

Did we all get to watch the golf in the end last night? For a time there I thought I’d have to lather myself in Head & Shoulders 24/7 to stop scratching.

It’s all well and good for the corporate fat cats of this world and their fancy red buttons but for the likes of me sharing a two bed flat in London with sixteen pensioners, forced to label my mackerel tins as MINE because of their irreplaceable value, such privileged access has been a distant fantasy of late. Still, when you have a mother praying to St Anthony on your behalf to find you a way to watch it, you never give up hope. “Give Me Sport” is how the novena went. The candle shone in the front room and the big man surely delivered.

For those not familiar with the kings of clickbait, ‘GiveMeSport’ has 26million followers on Facebook and until yesterday I was flummoxed as to why. Sensationalist headlines lure you in to an abyss of pointless drivel – mind numbing gossip articles plastered in lucrative advertising, it’s everything that’s wrong with journalism today.

What’s that? You’re showing the golf live on Facebook tonight and I don’t even have to like your page?

“Just when I think you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this. And totally redeem yourself!”

I think we may have caught a glimpse of the future last night. Our game is crying out for viewers. The telly box may as well be a Trocaire box as far as golf’s concerned. Students and graduates can scarcely afford rent, let alone a Sky Sport’s package and they’re the ones our game needs to attract more than anyone. I’ve tried streaming illegally but a dodgy internet connection mangles the majestic flow of McIlroy’s swing into one of a stuttering robot. You’d swear the cameraman following the roll of a meandering putt is doing so while being attacked by a deadly wasp. Honestly, you’re better off not even trying. You can always read about the action on IrishGolfer.ie anyway.

Facebook though. Take a bow Mr. Zuckerberg. You can infiltrate my personal page with all your creepy, intrusive marketing tactics all you like if my golf coverage continues to run so smooth. Talk about access, you wouldn’t get this far into a Big Brother House. And the golf wasn’t half bad either. There was a wide variety of players featured with no obvious loyalties on show, and all without an ad break to disrupt the pace of play. The only people not enjoying it were Jon Rahm, the perpetual bull in a china shop, and my Facebook friends, soundly muted in my new found golfing sanctuary.

If this is what anti-social media has become, then I’m all for it.

There was always going to be some sacrifices. No trips to the Sky-Cart where Tim Barter quickly quips through the highlight reel of a player’s round. “Ian Poulter, two birdies with one stone so to speak today, talk us through one on the particularly tricky 3rd hole.” “Yeah, hit it really nicely, got the ball in the cup in one under the par on that one.” “You think you can win this week Ian?” “Are we still asking this Tim? I’m Ian Poulter. I could intercept a North Korean missile headed for Guam with a towering six iron.” “Ian, thanks for your time.”

Well spare mine Tim. No more than eating a salmon steak and sweet potato fries on Good Friday, I can just about cope without you.

‘But what about our Sky Zone experience?’  Oh, the one where I get reluctantly dragged from the action to spend ten minutes in a bunker with Nick Dougherty explaining how if I hit two and a half feet behind the ball I might break my wrist? I’ll take the unrivalled, uninterrupted golf please, the likes of which I haven’t seen since watching Ken Brown and Peter Alliss on the BBC in the early noughties. The whole evening was so satisfying. It was like listening to Nirvana, stripped back and unplugged in New York. No frills necessary. Just let the boys play.

Now before you jump in, I’m not for one minute suggesting that we bin all the interludes of analysis during coverage. Much of that information is interesting, both to those established in the game and even more so as a teaching tool to those new to it. But why not have both? Keep your Sky Golf channel but throw some love our way too, because unless you’re living under a rock at the bottom of your ivory tower, there is a certain generation of people excluded from premium packaged programming. It’s a coming of age realisation. When you flee the mother’s nest, life gets real. I mean, how can I trek Machu Picchu and pay for Sky all in one year?

But in all seriousness, making the golf this accessible to such a diverse audience is an immensely positive move. The digital age has no doubt left a few of us behind and there’ll always be those relying on television to come up with the goods, no matter the cost. But for the rest of us being priced out of our passions unwillingly, let’s hope this fleeting foray into Facebook feeds is paving the path to a new way of thinking. For me at least, there’s no going back now.