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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Watching the beauty of golf shots on television

Other than actually feeling the sensation of hitting a really, really good golf shot with one's own hands and golfswing, watching a skilled player, whether an amateur or tour professional hit a great shot gives me that small moment in time where I can appreciate seeing the magic of a golf ball in flight, on a true trajectory, speeding towards its target.

No matter what, it is better watching it in person. Ask those golf fans that go to tournaments to cheer for a particular player and enjoy the shots they make on the course or even on the practice range. Watching this on television takes a distant second place.

The reality is I have to watch golf on TV most of the time as I cannot be at all tournaments all the time, even the local ones. I do go to all the local tournaments I can schedule permitting.

The producers of golf on television sometimes provide us with great viewing and most of the time they don't. I am not sure why. Frank Chirkinian had it right when producing for CBS by showing as much golf as you can within the limits of those sponsorship minutes for commercials. One should not talk over the action.

The best view of a golf shot, one that puts the viewer right there both visually and emotionally with the player is from behind the player and looking down the line towards the target as the ball is struck and launches into the sky towards its intended landing zone. This view can be on ground level, elevated, elevated at an angle or even elevated from the sponsor's blimp. Watching a shot from the green come up and land is fine. I like the close up of the ball on the green and where it lands and ends up. I really do not like watching shots hit from the tee or fairway from the viewing stand near the green.

It is a thing of beauty. At the Ben Hogan Collection website, one of the commercials we produced has a wonderful shot of Ben Hogan hitting to a bunkered green off into the distance. The swing is flawless, the strike pure, and you can see the flight of the ball as it rockets towards the green on its perfect trajectory. We have had many compliments on that shot over time. Within the collection there are some additional film clips of Mr. Hogan on the practice range at Augusta National that view him hitting golf shots from this similar angle, albiet from a further distance. The flight of the ball is seen over and over again. It is mesmerizing, let along entertaining.

I am not sure why this angle is not shown more. It really puts the viewer right there where they can appreciate the moment. One of the networks has a trajectory tracker that draws in the flight of the ball to give the viewer a graphic of its path. Its nice but contrived. I am sure that the camera can capture better than that in this day of high definition television. They did it in the late 40's with Mr. Hogan so why can't they give us thie view now? I know I would like to see a better view of the ball's trajectory.

There is a whole lot of new graphics and technology in place that the networks use to enhance our viewing experience. Some of it is just plain junk. A lot of it is pretty terrific. The fly overs of the various golf holes, the graphic representation of the green and its slopes and valleys, and even the dotted putting line. I do like the effect of the golf balls draining down the fall lines to give a real perspective of speed and curvature of the track of a rolling putt. However, about that dotted line. Award winning or not as the network claims, its nice to see what the player has to content with on slope and curvature but please eliminate it when the player is ready to strike his putt. When it stays in place it looks stupid, like a blue zipper.

Another reason golfers watch golf on television is to try to learn something from the pros that will help them improve their golf swing, lower their scores, hit the ball farther, and beat their buddies or competitors. We watch the golfers, we watch their preparation for a shot and listent to their discussions with their caddies. Way, way too often we have to listen to golf comentators who used to play competitively or in some cases never did go on and on about the shot and even critisize their play. Do we have to please with the networks to show more golf, more golfers hitting shots, and less dribble. The hype about the money list, the rankings, continued eligibility, the self promotion of the PGA Tour brand versus everything else except the Fedex Cup is really draining. It kills a telecast of a golf tournament, and championship, an enormous event for the local course and economy.

I do like to hear about the players especially if the piece has some journalistic quality to it and not just a 30 second interview at the end of a round that doesn't say anything, either from the player or the comentator. I do like to hear about newsworthy and interesting things that players do and that happens to them, and I do get bored about the boring stuff of life that even a tour pro has to do and endure.

Can more golf swings be shown? Yes, and with the great new slow motion technology available it really becomes a lesson for viewers. The viewing effect of slow motion photography is captivating when its about just about anything, especially a golf swing and club/ball dynamics. Wouldn't it be great if they showed more of these during the telecast for different players and different clubs. Wouldn't it be great if the networks could show similar effects for some of the legends of the game when they were in their prime. Slow motion works for viewers. Its a real benefit for us and I vote for more, more, more.

Overall I really do enjoy the Masters Tournament telecast by CBS. The tradition is there, the golf is there, and CBS puts its very best foot forward with their best talent, but very, very carefully. Thank you Augusta National members! I really do appreciate it. And, next spring, I get to walk the grounds on Tuesday of Masters week. Something I have waited so long to do and that I will always remember and tell my children and grandchildren.

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