Golf fan Dan Butler reflects on this year's Ryder Cup and the lessons to be learned about entertaining golf
In the wake of this year’s exhilarating Ryder Cup it is hard for us as golf fans to deal with the inevitable come down that follows. The Ryder Cup once again proved itself to be the most entertaining event in the biennial golfing calendar. But what makes it so? Is it the exhibition of world-class golf? Is it the dramatic match play format? Or is it the behind-the-scenes gossip?
The answer is a combination of all of these aspects but what stands out most is the emergence of individual characters. Under the pressures of playing for team and continent, we see the men behind the (birdie-making) machines.
Take Patrick Reed who responded to a boisterous European crowd with both great golf and provocative gestures, or Jamie Donaldson who gave a ‘spirited’ interview after a celebratory night on the booze. The Ryder Cup provides a welcome antidote to the pristine, marketing-board approved presentation of golf we have recently come to expect.
The ability of players is so high these days that there isn’t that much between them, relatively speaking. There is no doubt an abundance of stellar golf is always on display but is that enough for golf fans today? Should we, as fans, expect more – not in terms of talent but entertainment?
We could find entertainment at the other end of the scale – the amateurs, the eager celebrities, the common man hacking away like the average golf fan does of a weekend. Players like Miguel Angel Jimenez, Darren Clarke and John Daly, who – although exceptionally talented players – seem to encompass more of the recreational golfer who enjoys their golf with a giggle and a couple of beers afterwards. Their popularity among golf fans is a testament to this.
There is a danger of golf becoming a stoic sport of power and peak physical fitness, which could potentially alienate audiences. When in reality the average club golfer could tee it up with the world number 1 and still enjoy a competitive game together – a reality not afforded to most other sports and one that should be celebrated.
Golf benefits from a unique relationship between professional and amateur and often incorporates this relationship into successful tour events such as the recent Alfred Dunhill Links Pro-Am. Could this be said for most other mainstream sports? The answer is no, although I would have a morbid interest in watching a Rugby Pro-Am.
Golf, like most sports, is always in danger of taking itself too seriously but thankfully events such as the Ryder Cup help to remind us that it is ultimately there to be enjoyed.