The documentary promises unprecedented access to the PGA Tour as it faces an existential crisis from LIV Golf.
The hyper-competitive world of the PGA tour takes center stage in “Full Swing,” a new Netflix documentary series about the biggest names in professional golf. The project hails from the same creative team that turned Formula 1 racing into one of the biggest shows on television with “F1: Drive to Survive,” and features participation from golf superstars like Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, and Brooks Koepka. Much like “Drive to Survive,” it follows the human drama that unfolds over the course of each golf season as players travel the world to compete in various tournaments.
If “Full Swing” generates a fraction of the interest for the PGA that “Drive to Survive” did for F1, it would be a massive boost to a league that definitely needs one. In addition to pre-existing problems like an aging audience and the massive ratings drop that will inevitably come when Tiger Woods retires, the PGA is facing an existential threat from LIV Golf. The upstart league has elicited outrage for being funded by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, but that hasn’t stopped it from poaching many of the biggest golfers from the PGA Tour with guaranteed nine figure contracts. The result has essentially severed the sport of televised golf into two leagues — one that has tradition but lacks star power, and one that has all the star power you can ask for but benefits a murderous regime and isn’t associated with the best-known tournaments in the game such as The Open, The Masters, and the U.S. Open. It’s a challenging inflection point for the sport that the “Drive to Survive” team is uniquely positioned to capture.
It’s easy to forget that a decade ago, F1 was a largely ignored legacy brand that primarily catered to older racing fans. Its rapid transition into one of the world’s most popular sports is largely the result of new ownership willing to make changes to accommodate the new ways fans consume entertainment. Allowing Netflix to produce a weekly show about F1 — in addition to lifting outdated rules like prohibiting drivers from using personal social media accounts — allowed the larger than life personalities who dominate the sport and the picturesque competition locations to take center stage. It’s a model that golf would be wise to follow, and it looks like “Full Swing” could be a serious attempt to do just that.
“Full Swing” begins streaming on Netflix on February 15. Watch the trailer below.
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