Golf Channel Joins The Meaningless Sports Graphic Parade

It’s official, the PGA TOUR and Golf Channel don’t have a lot of respect for your intelligence. The all golf network just revealed a “brand new” graphic that gives viewers details about putts PGA TOUR players hit, make, and miss during a tournament broadcast.

Golf writer Martin Kaufmann at Golfweek wrote about this “breakthrough”, complete with quotes from folks at GC touting its merit. You can read his excellent, as always, column at http://www.golfweek.com The bottom line is thanks to various computer algorithms and other machinations the viewer is treated to the exact length, as well as the amount and direction each particular putt will break. But BEST of all is the complete fantasy, and direct insult to every golfer’s intelligence, of the third part of the “new” graphic, the “make percentage”. The likelihood that the various, most accomplished players in the world will MAKE the putt.

Nice to know the distance and I’m willing to accept the computers reliability on figuring out the amount and direction of break. After all I was part of the team at The Golf Channel that devised and utilized what has always been the best and most accurate computerized “green reader” in TV golf, Aimpoint. Thanks to some really smart people we generated an actual, superimposed, line on the green that illustrated where the player had to hit the ball to have the best chance of making any putt on the greens we mapped . The viewer could follow the putt along the computer generated line live and know immediately if the ball was going in or not. That was 2007 and it worked, it won what is still the channel’s only EMMY, and they stopped using it. It its place they have now instituted the most irrelevant and unnecessary graphic in the history of televised golf, the “make percentage”. It’s a number for numbers sake and as an informative tool to help advance a story it is useless. It is Golf Channel’s dive into the ever expanding pool of meaningless graphics on sports broadcasts joining, among others, the “unforced” error in tennis and the number of balls and strikes thrown by a pitcher in baseball. Stats that are worse than meaning”less” they, in fact, mean nothing at all.

I have so many questions, dear reader, where to begin? How about here… Do you play golf? Have you ever had the EXACT same putt, more than once, on a green in your entire life? Some 15 foot putts are uphill, some side hill, some downhill. Some are struck early in the morning on dew covered surfaces, some struck late in the afternoon on grass that has grown, even ever so slightly, during the course of the day. Some putts roll on surfaces dotted with spike marks between the origination point and the hole while others are treated to surfaces smooth as glass. Some are hit on bermuda grass, others bent grass and still others on tif dwarf or fescue. Some players employ a cut stroke, some a pop stroke, some an outside in stroke… By now I hope you get the point.

But despite ALL these variables, and so many more, the PGA TOUR in cahoots with Golf Channel expect you educated, golf loving, golf playing men, women, girls and boys to believe that EVERY SINGLE 15 foot putt is exactly the same so they can peddle you a completely phony “make percentage” on a graphic. The greens at Silverado are not the same as the ones at Bay Hill which are not the same as the ones at TPC Deere Run. Jordan Spieth is not the same kind of putter that Jason Day or Matt Kuchar or Brandt Snedeker or Ernie Els or Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or Tom Gillis is. Stop insulting our intelligence.

In fact, in Kaufmann’s piece, a Golf Channel spokesperson went so far as to admit how superfluous this latest graphic is by calling it “eye candy”. I don’t know about you but the last thing I want cluttering up my 60 inch, HD screen is words and numbers that don’t do anything to advance the narrative. It was so innovative they hardly ever used it.

Keep the length of the putt and stay with the amount and direction of the break if you like but to keep any semblance of credibility lose the “make percentage”. I, for one, expect more of 2015/2016 technology and I hope you all do too.

About Keith Hirshland

My name is Keith Hirshland and I am a four decades television veteran who has spent time both in front of and behind the camera. During nearly forty years in broadcasting my path has crossed in front of, behind and alongside some of the best in the business... And some of the worst. Many of those people I count as friends while others wouldn't make the effort to spit on me if I was on fire. This television life started early watching my Mom and Dad found, fund and run a local affiliate TV station in Reno, Nevada. As a teenager approaching adulthood I worked for them, first as an on-air sports reporter/anchor and later as a director and producer. Jobs in the industry took me across the country and then to many places around the world. Sports is my passion and putting it on TV has been my business. Production credits include auto racing, baseball, basketball, bowling, college football, field hockey, soccer, volleyball and water polo but the majority of my time "in the chair" since 1990 has been invested in the game of golf with both ESPN and The Golf. Channel ( I was one of the first forty people hired by TGC in 1994 ). I am a fan and I watch TV sports as a fan but I also have hundreds of thousands of hours watching from inside a production truck. I think that makes me qualified to comment, my hope is you agree. I have written two books, Cover Me Boys, I'm Going In (Tales of the Tube from a Broadcast Brat), a memoir that is a tribute to my parents, the hard working, creative people who started ESPN2 and The Golf Channel and a look back at my life in television. My second book is a novel, Big Flies, and is a mystery that tells the story of a father and a son with four of the world's most notorious unsolved robberies as a backdrop. I look forward to sharing new thoughts about golf, golf television, sports in general and the broadcast industry with you. The views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They are not connected to nor endorsed by any other person, association, company or organization.
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