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What It's Like to Cover a Golf Tournament

By: | Mon 17 Oct 2022

GOLF has been my passion for as long as I care to remember and I have been fortunate enough to have covered many tournaments in my role as a sports journalist. 

Many friends tell me how lucky I am to be able to rub shoulders with the world’s best golfers - and writers.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to cover a golf tournament? Wonder no longer….

You don’t book your own accommodation - it’s done by a secretary in the office. If you are the chief sports writer of a national newspaper the chances are that you will have first-class travel to your five-star hotel. And, probably, a driver to take you to and from the hotel to the course.

But if you are “just” a run-of-the-mill reporter you may not be quite as fortunate. Your flight will be cattle-class, with a budget airline, and you will probably end up staying in a hotel that is miles from the course. 

And that means that, in order to beat the traffic every day, you have to set off at some ungodly hour to make sure you arrive in plenty of time.

I have to tell you that the media teams who work for the DP World Tour and The R&A, organisers of The Open, are all wonderful people who cannot do enough for you. No matter what your problem is (and there are always plenty), they will find a way to solve it for you.

You are shown to your desk, where you are allocated a space for the duration of the event. An added bonus is that you also have food and water thrown in at no added cost.

There are also copious notes and statistics provided. No stone is left unturned in providing journalists with every possible piece of information you could ever want.

The day before the tournament starts is usually spent walking the course. But your level of access will depend upon the colour of armband you are given. Unrestricted access is a rare thing and for the lucky few who receive them, it provides an opportunity to get inside the ropes and get up close and personal with the players and their caddies.

Sounds like heaven, doesn’t it? 

Tiger Woods

(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

While many top golfers understand the need to talk to the press, there are many for whom media duties are on a par with pulling teeth. These are men (and women) who struggle to give you a monosyllabic answer when they have played well, so you can imagine what it’s like when they are wheeled out after an 80.

It is what makes Rory McIlroy so refreshing. There can’t be many questions he hasn’t heard but he always dig deep for the media and is eminently quotable - and no subject is out of bounds.

As the tournament unfolds, you will discover that there are two types of golf journalists - there are those who spend all four days in the media tent, watching all the action unfold on the TV screens in front of them. And there are those who get out onto the course and pick a group to follow - and that’s the category I have always fallen into. How on earth can you get a feel for the atmosphere at a tournament if you don’t ever get out there and experience it?

Let me tell you right here and now that if you want to experience the full drama then the best view is from the armchair in your lounge. Because as sure as night follows day, you will pick the wrong group to follow.

As you are watching the 54-hole leader frittering strokes away for fun, cheers ring out all over the course as the likes of McIlroy goes on one of those thrilling final-day charges, making putts for fun, splitting fairways and playing miraculous recovery shots. And by the time you have finally caught up with him, the magic has gone and somebody else is burning things up.

And then there is the weather. When the rain comes crashing down and the players are called off the course you spend hours twiddling your thumbs wondering if they will get back out there. 

You are still expected to write something but that is the least of your worries - your accommodation is only booked until close of play so you then have to scramble around trying to find somewhere to stay on the Sunday night if play is held over until Monday. And don’t even ask how complicated it is if you have booked a flight home!

How do you watch in the rain? Players and spectators can carry umbrellas but trust me when I tell you that it is impossible to properly cover tournament golf from under an umbrella. So you just have to accept that you are going to get wet. Very wet. And that makes taking notes an interesting exercise.

Then there are the times when the heat catches you out. You spend all day following the action, get back to the media tent to write up your report and realise you are suffering from sunstroke because you didn’t think to pack any sunscreen.

Oh, and did I tell you what it’s like if you don’t have the “right” armband? You spend the round battling for the best view with all the other spectators, desperately trying to see what’s going on. And in the end, you admit defeat and trudge back to the media tent to see the conclusion on TV.

After the winning putt is holed, the champion will either conduct his TV interview or, in the case of The Open, return to the 18th green for the trophy presentation and speeches. As a journalist, you have to wait for all of this to finish before you get your own chance to ask questions at the obligatory press conference. 

You then work out your angle, write your story and file it before heading for your car and the long journey home or to the airport. By this time, all the spectators will have left the course. Thousands of them. And, almost without fail, you will pretty quickly find yourself stuck in a massive traffic jam when all you want to do is get home.

But, and this is the thing, there is NOTHING to beat being able to say: I was there!

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