It's been quite a year for Golf Channel, and it could be quite a weekend for golf.
The 17-year old former Comcast property which became part of the NBC Sports Group in January with the merger of the two companies has posted six straight months of "best ever" ratings, making it television’s fastest-growing network among those servicing more than 80 million homes.
The combination of their flagship show Golf Central, live tournament coverage, original programming such the Big Break series, Feherty and The Haney Project, as well as on-site analysis of Major Championships and other tournaments they're not covering live has been immensely successful.
It isn't a stretch to say that the success of its AM show Morning Drive which touts to cover "sports, politics and entertainment with the world's most intriguing personalities" has inspired other networks to attempt similar programming, such as the recently launched NFL AM on NFL Network and the recently announced The Lights, which will debut on NBC Sports Network on August 13th.
While other networks and outlets might be scaling back their golf coverage, Golf Channel is taking advantage of that to add to their deep roster, recently announcing the hiring for former Sports Illustrated golf writer Damon Hack (GREAT name for a golf writer) and former ESPN host Ryan Burr.
With the PGA Championship taking place this week at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, Golf Channel is on location for the event.
Typical of the style of the network is what Analyst Brandel Chamblee had to say about the course heading into the event: “This is as close as golf is going to get to bull riding. You go to bull riding not so much to watch the bull, but to watch these great athletes and see if they can control their bodies when they are scared to death. Guys are going to be scared to death out here. You get the sense, like bull riding, it is going to end bad for a lot of people. Somebody always rides the bull, and someone always wins. I can’t wait to watch it…
Eight seconds on a bull’s back, I promise you, is the equivalent to four days at a Pete Dye golf course.”
In a conference call this week about the PGA Championship, fellow analyst Frank Nobilo was also asked if it would be over-the-top to suggest that this might be on the hardest majors ever - rivaling the Winged Foot "massacre" during the 1974 U.S. Open.
Nobilo answered "No, I don't think it's over the top. The problem is it's American links. And what I say by that is, it's played on links land, but it's played ‑‑ it gets 90, 100 degrees. So you can't have bent or fescue. There's only three greens that allow you to run the ball up.
So for example when the wind blows at an Open Championship, you can always go to ground. But a Pete Dye golf course, so many greens are built up that they have to be flown. And, of course, if that wind was to get 30‑mile‑an‑hour plus, the greens seem to be the same, so that's not the issue. But if you miss some of these greens, the ball doesn't just finish off the green by a couple of yards. It could be repelled 15 or 20 yards, and then you're chipping downbreeze.
You could easily get a run of bogeys. You could get on a bogey train there with 30‑mile‑an‑hour wind that you'll never get off, and then you still have to finish out the golf course with 17 and 18.
The tournament itself airs on TNT and CBS this weekend, and based on the comments about the course from these two analysts, it might well be worth flipping over from Olympic coverage to check some of it out, especially if the win is blowing.