Would you like to watch PGA Tour events without fans?

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

The PGA Tour is holding meetings this week to discuss options for re-starting the schedule and possible format changes. One of the proposals is to play tournaments without fans. Would you be in favour of such a move?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): No, I would not.  They may be regarded as “wallpaper” by TV producers, but spectators are vital to the colour, atmosphere, and excitement of a golf tournament broadcast.  One of the criticisms of LPGA events on TV is the lack of spectators.  Without fans cheering, applauding and just ‘being there’, golf on TV would be like watching dew evaporate.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Would love if the Tour could do this, but only if its safe and not risking unnecessary exposure and spread to staff (tour staff, media, etc.) and players to run the events. In theory I am in support. It’s the travel for staff and players I think of the most, multiple airports and week to week. But if they can schedule events that will allow players and staff to drive to each week, that could work. I just don’t know how realistic that is, it seems daunting the logistics to work out in such short order.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: I guess it would be OK. The number of fans varies so much from Hawaii where there are next to none to the Masters where you can’t buy a ticket. I can tell you from experience there’s a big difference. I played in the CPGA Championship at The National Club and my starting time on Thursday and Friday was two in front of Trevino and then two behind him. My wife was my entire gallery watching me but 10,000 were waiting to see Lee. They were lined up 7 or 8-deep on both sides of every fairway. The most I had ever played in front of would be no more than a dozen or so before that. I also was paired with Al Balding in the CPGA Championship at Mayfair in Edmonton and he drew quite a few people. Anyway, it’s a lot more than the exactly zero I have now, and it was nerve-rattling.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): Having fans in attendance would certainly be preferable, but that might not be a reality at any type of sporting event until we eventually reach the point of herd immunity or a successful vaccination is created and widely dispersed. For the record, I would be totally fine watching gallery-less golf for the foreseeable future. I would even be open to the idea of the tournaments being players only with no caddies (sorry loopers). After all, we’re living in unprecedented times. If we are able to somehow get golf back on the air during this pandemic in a way that is safe for all involved and enforces the tenets of social distancing, we will have to prepare ourselves for the fact that it’s going to be different than what we are accustomed to. And at the end of the day, barring spectators and caddies from the proceedings are rather small sacrifices for regaining a little bit of normalcy in our lives.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Absolutely.  As much as it was fun watching Masters reruns last week, I’m dying for live sports of any kind, and in particular golf.  Yeah sure, I’ll miss the crowd reactions to shots, and it will take away from some of the atmosphere, but not as much as other sports.  Imagine the NFL without fans, that would be weird.  But for golf, it would be fine, let’s get them back playing as quickly as we can!

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: As mentioned regarding the proposed Phil-Eldrick fandango, too many people would be put at risk to produce such a TV show. The Tour has to take its cue from Dr. Fauci, not the Twit in Chief, when he says that the virus will dictate the timetable.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): No. Fans are an integral part of the entertainment package. Can you imagine an NHL game played in an empty arena? Although we’d be spared “You da man” and “Mashed potato” yells, and fans that kick Tiger’s errant drives back into play, a tournament without fans would be lifeless and flat.

During this strange time, most of us have more time than usual to read or watch TV. What are your favourite golf books or movies? 

Deeks: None of the above.  My wife and I are SO lucky to be self-isolating (since early March) with our sons and their families, including three grandkids under age 7.  So, other than the Round Table, which I take very seriously, I haven’t paid any attention to golf.  And other than feeling a strange void in my life over Masters weekend, I haven’t missed a thing.

Loughry: I’ve had “Extraordinary putting, transforming the whole game” by Fred Shoemaker sitting on my shelf for over a year. I read “Extraordinary Golf” which I loved, so, I’ll be getting to this by mid-May. I enjoyed The Match by Mark Frost, although I’ve heard it’s a little stretched in terms of facts, but I still highly recommend it considering where the match was played and who it involved (I won’t ruin the surprise, it’s a must read in my opinion). And I also have “A Wee Nip at the 19th Hole” by Richard Mackenzie. A friend of mine at the R&A gave it to me as a gift and I must admit I’m 20 pages in and can’t put it down. If we’re talking movies: Caddyshack, Happy Gilmore are right there for me followed by Bagger Vance. And just accept that Dead Solid Perfect is in the mix too.

Schurman: Still love Herbert Warren Wind, Bernard Darwin and Bob Jones.

Kaplan: In order, my Top 10 golf movies are: Happy Gilmore, Caddyshack, Tin Cup, The Legend of Bagger Vance, The Greatest Game Ever Played, Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius, The Short Game, Dead Solid Perfect, Caddyshack II (for its irreverence and the Jackie Mason/Randy Quaid combo) and The Caddy.

Rule: Well, admittedly, I’m not the biggest bookworm, but when I read books, they are often about golf.  It may seem obvious given my job in golf travel, but Tom Coyne’s books on touring around Ireland and Scotland – A Course Called Ireland, and A Course Called Scotland – were interesting reads for me, and should be for anyone that has been over on a trip, or is planning one.  As for movies, I would vote for The Legend of Bagger Vance, closely edging out Happy Gilmore.

Quinn:  Evenings of self-isolation are a pleasure re-reading classics like Curtis Gillespie’s Playing Through — a year of life and links along the Scottish coast. It is a brilliant, heart rending, beautifully written insightful look at life, love, and golf. Curt Sampson’s The Masters is a great read, any time of year.

Mumford: I have a lot of golf books covering everything from architecture and history to swing mechanics and humour. My favourites vary with my mood. Dead Solid Perfect by Dan Jenkins, A Good Walk Spoiled by John Feinstein and his follow-up called The Majors: In Pursuit of Golf’s Holy Grail, and The Spirit of St. Andrews by Alister Mackenzie are several I have read more than once and would highly recommend. As for movies, my favourites are The Greatest Game Ever Played and Tin Cup, both of which I’ve watched many times.

This past Sunday was supposed to be Masters Sunday and the option was there to watch a replay of Tiger’s 2019 win? How did you spend the afternoon?

Deeks: I did watch it, on and off.  Good for CBS and Tiger to make it interesting.  It would’ve been nice to do that with other Masters winners, reviewing their final rounds and victories.  I’d love to hear Mike Weir’s thoughts on watching his 2003 win… or Fred Couples in 1992.  Or, obviously, Jack’s win in 1986.

Loughry: Of course, I watched the replay. It was awesome, especially Tiger’s interview with Nantz at the end, which gave me more insight than I’ve ever seen from Tiger since his teen years. And I recorded it for the next pandemic we have. That back 9 and leaderboard was CRAMMED. It was still exciting watching the re-run and knowing the outcome.

Schurman: Sorry, anything but Tiger. I’m tired of being told he’s the GOAT and having no TV options that exclude him. BTW There is no GOAT only 5 or 6 who were the best of their era. I’d love to live long enough to see the ‘holo-deck’ (Stars Wars) invented. Every bit of information is put into a computer and based on those facts you can participate in a foursome with anyone you choose to play with from any place in time, virtual reality. Or, you can watch matches played between anyone you select to see play. Imagine, you vs Hogan, Hogan vs Jones, Jones vs Vardon, Nicklaus vs Jones, Tiger vs Morris Jr. Tiger and Jack vs Byron and Hogan at Cypress Point.

Kaplan: My girlfriend and I are currently spending all of our leisure time ploughing through Lost, so that’s what we did almost exclusively on Sunday – although I was able to pause it and sneak in a few moments of his final round whenever during bathroom breaks.

Rule: I watched most of the 2019 Masters on Sunday, it was cool that they had Nantz interviewing Tiger over the broadcast, neat to hear his perspective on certain situations during the round.  But man, I really wish I was watching the last round of this Masters, I had been ok without live golf up until last week, but missing the Masters hurt a bit!

Quinn: No April showers here — weird — so the afternoon was blissfully spent digging a trench, crowbarring out basketball-sized rocks, manhandling bags of soil, and planting a row of cedars. I hear Eldrick won again. Pity.

Mumford: Frankly, I forgot it was Masters Sunday, not that I’d have much interest in watching last year’s disaster. Instead, we had a 9-inning family baseball game that pitted kids and grandpas against parents and grandmas. Led by my 5 and 8-year old grandsons, we kicked ass. One of the highlights included a much-needed 7th inning stretch that featured craft beer. It was an awesome day! The Wreck at Rae’s Creek never entered my mind.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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