Golf Digest’s TV Survey is Oddly Interesting While Being Downright Odd

I recently came across and read Golf Digest magazine’s poll on golf television coverage and came away realizing now, more than ever before, what little I have in common with the people who pay attention to this particular publication AND claim to watch golf on TV.

This year’s version of the clickbait can be accessed at and is titled Change of Thrones: Golf Digest’s New TV Survey. It features the expected favorite/least favorite questions as well as some off the wall queries including “Would you be more likely to watch and event if you could PLACE A BET (the capitalization is the magazine’s not mine) on the players? and Which celebrity would you most like to see doing a golf telecast? But the backbone of the survey are the questions about viewers/readers favorite and least favorite network, hosts/play-by-play folks, analysts, on course announcers and interviewers and the answers struck me as curious and interesting if not enlightening.

The survey begins with the question, “How many different televised golf tournaments have you watched in the past year (either live or recorded)?” Apparently, by looking at the results, the minimum number was 10 (a choice of 15%) with an overwhelming majority (52%) selecting 20 or more. That number is not entirely unexpected from the readership of a golf-centric publication but as I read on some of the answers to other questions seem to fly in the face of conventional thinking. Before I give my opinion on some of those let me share with you a couple of responses that didn’t surprise me at all:

1) Nick Faldo supplants Johnny Miller as Favorite Analyst

Sir Nick claimed the top spot with 58% while Johnny slipped to second for the first time in two decades while still garnering 53% of the vote. Makes sense to me since Nick Faldo, in my opinion, is getting better while Johnny hasn’t improved or declined over the same period of time. Faldo, I believe, also benefitted from a couple of other developments that were different from the last time this survey was conducted… CBS (for whom Faldo works) added Frank Nobilo as a hole announcer giving Nick a new and interesting broadcaster with which to work AND for the first time in decades Johnny Miller was not involved in the televising of any of the events which historically account for the most eyeballs, golf’s four major championships. Faldo worked on two (The Masters and The PGA Championship) while Johnny got shut out. Alex Myers of Golf Digest also sites this as a reason for Miller’s runner up finish.

2) Golf Channel is Cited as the Best Network for Televised Golf

38% of those who took the survey picked the all golf network as the BEST, beating CBS (29%) by nine percentage points. You might be surprised to note that NBC came in third with a relatively measly 11% unless you read between the lines and suppose that the majority of respondents can’t, or don’t, distinguish between Golf Channel and Golf Channel on NBC (which is how the over the air network brands its coverage). Combining the two gives the Comcast owned brothers-in-arms a whopping 49% which, if you ask me, is exactly how NBC golf producer Tommy Roy sees it.

3) Nobody Watches Morning Drive

Again no surprise but the curious thing to me is why the magazine decided to even ask the question, How often do you watch “Morning Drive” on Golf Channel?” According to the publication nearly 2,000 people responded to the survey and a not so shocking 75% answered either Rarely or Never to this question. Three quarters of survey takers who claim to be avid golfers and/or watchers of golf on television rarely or never watch an all golf network’s so called “signature” program. 21% did say they watch multiple times a week while only 5% say they watch it daily, figures that are born out by weekly ratings that you can find at

There were other answers to questions that came as no surprise including 41% still want to watch Tiger Woods even if he is out of contention and 81% would still rather play golf than watch golf on TV (15%) but there were also responses to questions that I found baffling:

1) Viewers Dislike ESPN’s Coverage but They LOVE the Network’s Announcers

The numbers show ESPN is the fourth Best (3% like the network) and second Worst (13% don’t, second only to TNT) but Mike Tirico, Peter Allis, Paul Azinger and Curtis Strange ALL land near the top of the favorites list in their specific categories and it’s all based on the network’s coverage of ONE, count it, ONE event, The British Open. I know ESPN also carries Thursday/Friday coverage of The Masters but that is a CBS production.

2) Jimmy Roberts is the Top Choice for a Job He No Longer Does

This is a prime example of what elicits my confusion about the survey and its respondents in the first place. How can anybody who claims to watch 20 or more televised golf tournaments a year pick Jimmy Roberts (32%) as their favorite interviewer? The man lost that job to Steve Sands (who is excellent by the way and gets 19% of the vote).

That curious response goes hand in hand with other odd responses and here are a couple… Judy Rankin is the survey takers fourth favorite on course reporter (39%) but she spends 99% of her time in the booth as an analyst. Vince Cellini is the respondents least favorite on course reporter but to my knowledge the man doesn’t cover TNT’s action from “on course”.

The U. S. Women’s Open (51%) is far and away the one event people would watch if they could only watch one women’s event. On the other side of the gender spectrum the U. S. Open is an even bigger winner grabbing 66% of the vote. So which events did the survey takers pick as their next favorite? The Solheim Cup (22%) and The Ryder Cup (12%) is the answer. “Mudball!” I cry. You CAN’T include events that are played every other year in a question that asks what event you would watch if you could only watch one a year.

And finally Fox is well represented in the announcer columns. Joe Buck gets the most votes (39%) for least favorite play-by-play/host, his partner Greg Norman leads the way (25%) as the least favorite analyst, Steve Flesch (15%) is tied for third as least favorite hole announcer and Shane Bacon, Charles Davis, Robert Lusetich and Holly Sonders are all in the top five of least favorite reporters/interviewers (to be fair Holly is also listed at third on the favorite side of tis issue) but for some inexplicable reason FOX was not an option included in the best/worst network question answered by respondents.

Bottom line is that this survey can be an enjoyable read but if you’re in search of meaningful information you might want to seek out other sources. As Vin Scully said, “statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support not illumination.”


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 four 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. Cover Me Boys was awarded the “Memoir of the Year” in 2017 by Book Talk Radio Club. In February of 2019 it was released anew by Beacon Publishing Group. 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. Big Flies was named “Solo Medalist” in the True Crime category by New Apple Awards. My third book, another mystery titled The Flower Girl Murder, was published in 2018. Book number four might be the most fun I ever had on a writing project. Murphy Murphy and the Case of Serious Crisis is a mystery, a love story, and an homage to good grammar. It is both the Book Talk Radio Club BOOK OF THE YEAR for 202 and a TopShelf Awards first prize winner in the mystery category. All four are available at Amazon. Book five is in the capable hands of the good people at Beacon Publishing Group and should be available soon. 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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