How to make TV golf more interesting

Reading Time: 6 minutes

The 148th Edition of the British Open is being played this week in Portrush, Northern Ireland. As I write this, American JB Holmes is currently leading the second round on -8, with Englishman Tommy Fleetwood and Irishman Shane Lowry close behind on -7. But I don’t really care. Why? Golf is widely regarded, among everyone except golf fans, as one of the least interesting sports it’s possible to find on your TV. This has even got to the point where the boring dad who falls asleep watching golf is a common, even overused, cliche. There are many reasons for this, so let’s get straight to the point:

It’s incredibly slow

Because golf requires so much walking between shots, the TV spectator would have to spend the vast majority of their time waiting. Many golf fans would presumably counter this argument by saying that this isn’t true for the fans that actually attend the competitions – they get to walk around the course following their favourite players, so the wait doesn’t feel like a wait. But those fans aren’t who golf broadcasters need to be appealing to; they would watch golf regardless, and they’re not even watching the broadcasting because they’re at the course. Television spectators would just have to watch their players slowly ambling along the fairway most of the time, and commentators would have nothing to talk about. Thankfully, golf broadcasters have attempted to solve this problem: they have cameras following all the players, so that the TV shows whoever happens to be taking a shot at that time. But that causes a whole different problem…

It’s very difficult to keep track

Rather than watching one or two players, you’re watching everyone at once. This is great in terms of watching more actual golf rather than watching walking, but how can you stay on top of everything that’s going on? Unless you’ve been watching from the start, or you’ve watched a lot of golf before, it’s nearly impossible to know whether a shot was a good one for that player or not. You can’t gauge the form of the players, so you have to rely on the commentators, which gets confusing as two near-identical shots have different reactions. One shot, onto the edge of the green, is a great shot, but another player after doing the same and landing in the same place has made a disappointing shot for only being on the edge of the green. Huh? Of course, this makes sense based on some players being better than others, but you can’t see that for yourself, you have to rely on the commentators – so you might as well just listen to it on the radio.

How difficult is it?

Like all top sportspeople, golfers make golf look very easy. But this is confused by the way TV spectators can’t actually tell how difficult a shot, especially a drive, is supposed to be. We can’t see how long each hole is, the shape, the bunker locations, we can only see the players and what’s behind them. This is something in which following a player walking around the course would actually have an advantage – the hole could be shown in between strokes as a TV graphic so we can see what the player is actually trying to do. As it is, the coverage zooms between different players, on different holes, so unless you have the entire course memorised, you can’t understand whether something is challenging.

So what would make it better?

I had a quick google for golf variations that I could recommend instead. It came up with a few goodies and a few rubbish ones.

The first few were variations in the way you keep score, which isn’t helpful. It wouldn’t make it more exciting to watch. The next few are variant rules you can use for playing golf for betting. Again, they don’t seem to change the way golf is actually played, although they sound intriguing anyway and have very strange names. In Bingo Bango Bongo (I’m serious), points are awarded for getting on the green first and being closer to the hole than your opponent, and in Extreme Battle Piff Paff Poof (I’m not joking about these names, look), it appears to be pretty much the same as BBB except you can remove some of your opponent’s clubs.

Speed Golf

But there were some more radical variations which are apparently quite popular. Speed Golf mixes golf with running: you compete not just on how few strokes you take, but also on how fast you can complete the course. Every minute you take is added to your final stroke total to give you your final score. If you find sports like long-distance running or cycling appealing, it might look quite fun:

Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhFLF3G-ebg

It’s easy to imagine golf carts with cameras following these players around the course, like motorcycles following cyclists around the Tour de France. The coverage would be similar, and you can have a graphic on the side of the screen showing the players’ scores increasing with time and shots live. It wouldn’t be a race, because it would be difficult to all be playing the same hole at the same time, but it would make the overall scores easier to follow and it would look a lot more intense. Clearly, this is the golf variant that should be in the Olympics, not regular slow golf.

GolfSixes

Alternatively, the European Tour’s attempt at spectator-friendly golf is GolfSixes. It also has some good ideas:

Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMkN27jP2sI

The GolfSixes tournament is a straightforward 16-team competition, with a group stage and then straight knockouts. Countries are represented by a pair of players, who hit shots alternately against another country, with the winner being who can win the most holes after 6 holes.

This solves a lot of problems. Firstly, it’s obvious what a player needs to do to proceed to the next stage: it depends on their and their opponents’ performance, not on the performance of 60 other players we can’t see. Secondly, it is much faster – 6 holes obviously only taking 1/3 of the time it would take to complete 18. Thirdly, though, having 6-hole games would theoretically make golf far easier to follow for TV spectators. I have never watched it (I only found out about it through this research) but I suppose a GolfSixes tournament could have 3 games on at a time, one played at holes 1-6, one at 7-12, and one at 13-18. If they’re coordinated effectively, there would always be someone taking a shot at any one time. Although this would still mean there’s a bit of flipping around between 3 games, that’s a lot easier than the flipping around on regular golf coverage, and GolfSixes can be accompanied by better onscreen scoreboards.

Finally, although this wouldn’t apply in other GolfSixes tournaments, having just one pair represent each country helps to dilute the massively American-heavy leaderboards in most golf tournaments and the knockout format produces more surprising winners. The 2019 edition held in Portugal was won by Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee and Phachara Khongwatmai, who are ranked 433rd and 338th in the world respectively.

T. Jaidee (left) and P. Khongwatmai (right).
Image retrieved from https://www.golfbladet.com/cirkus-golfsixes/

Conclusion

So, as far as I can see, Speed Golf and GolfSixes would both be much more exciting than regular golf. I could see myself becoming interested while watching one of those competitions, and I can see it being possible to start watching halfway through and understand what’s going on. Both of these variations need to be amplified and given more coverage to propel them to the mainstream, and one of them should definitely replace or at least go alongside traditional golf in the Olympics.

The natural evolution of Speed Golf and GolfSixes would, I suppose, be SpeedGolfSixes, which would probably involve even more teamwork than GolfSixes and would be even quicker than Speed Golf due to a shorter course. And a shorter course would make it more accessible to regular golfers, rather than just the long distance runners who would be able to play Speed Golf. An interesting idea. But one step at a time – for now, the two need to be encouraged individually.

Things to do in Winchester?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

A few days ago, my first article was published on the Travelista Club! It’s a travel guide about things you can do in the historical city of Winchester, Hampshire, UK. Here’s a sneak peak…

Anyone interested in English history would be a mere amateur if they haven’t yet visited Winchester. Filled with historically significant buildings and statues, Winchester is the ancient former capital city of England, at least, before William the Conqueror was crowned in London in 1066. Though now resigned to being a mere county town, much less important in terms of its influence, Winchester will always remain an interesting and enlightening visit for any English history enthusiast, with many activities too for those not only visiting for its history. This article will outline my picks for the best sights to see in Winchester.


Winchester Cathedral


If you travelled to Winchester without intending on seeing the cathedral, then you would be the only one. Built over 900 years ago, replacing another cathedral built 500 years before that, this impressive building is one of the largest cathedrals in the UK. It is home to the tombs of many pre-Norman kings of England and Wessex, and also that of William the Conqueror’s son William II. The cathedral also hosted the second coronation of King Richard I in 1194, and the marriage between Queen Mary I of England and King Philip II of Spain in 1554. It is full of impressive architecture.

Retrieved from: https://travelista.club/guides/sights-to-see-in-winchester-uk/ (which retrieved that picture from my phone when I wrote the article)

But that’s barely the start – there’s plenty more facts and activities to read about in the article! You can read the rest here: Sights to See in Winchester, UK

There’s plenty more on the Travelista Club too: hundreds of articles by travel enthusiasts about places all around the globe. And the best bit? Unlike almost every other article website, they aren’t filled with sponsored content and adverts. They’re genuine accounts from genuine travellers, who describe what real people enjoy doing in these places. Hopefully that was clear enough from my own article – I can’t imagine many other online travel guides for Winchester bigging up St Giles’ Hill!

The view from St Giles’ Hill I photographed for my article.

Now…I just need to find a way to squeeze in something about Winchester sightseeing into a university essay so that I can reference myself in an act of the most shameless self-promotion on the planet… but this might be too much of a stretch, even for my own bibliographic contortions stuffing as many references as I can into essays.

Meanwhile, I’m gonna force back some motivation to write more on this blog. You can check out my arguments in favour of a tax on sugar here!

Bibliography:

Johns, A. (2019) Sights To See In Winchester, UK. Travelista Club. Available at: https://travelista.club/guides/sights-to-see-in-winchester-uk/. [Accessed 19 Jul 2019].

The Case for a Sugar Tax

Reading Time: 5 minutes

In the light of Boris Johnson’s recent criticism of sugar tax (or the ‘soft drinks industry levy’ as it’s officially called) and his promise to review its effectiveness, I have decided to weigh up the pros and cons and explain why I think it’s a good and necessary idea.

What is the sugar tax?

At the moment, the only thing the sugar tax actually affects is soft drinks. Drinks with more than 8g of sugar per 100ml have an added tax of £0.24 per litre. Hence, a 500ml regular Coca Cola will include a £0.12 tax on top of its original price. Not a particularly huge additional cost, but in its first 6 months, the sugar tax raised £154,000,000 nationwide. Its intention is to help curb the rising obesity crisis we face in the UK – with more than 65% of adults classified as overweight and 28% clinically obese. However, it has faced some criticism. Many critics say that people should be able to make their own decisions without government direction, and some, including Johnson, claim that there is no evidence that the tax actually reduces obesity.

Pro: It raises money for the government

The most obvious point in favour of any tax, it gives money to the Treasury which can be used for the good of the country. £154m in 6 months is a significant sum of money, and currently it is supposed to go toward sport in primary schools. The basic idea of this is that when parents buy their children soft drinks and make them overweight, they’re also helping their school to exercise the weight off of them again. This makes sense, although admittedly it has some problems in practice. At least from my point of view, primary school sport funds don’t benefit overweight children anywhere near as much as they’d like to – the money always seems to skew toward making already sporty children even better, because you know, school sports departments want their school to win and teaching PE to unenthusiastic children can be very frustrating.

So, as the tax raises more money, it would make more sense to me for most of the money to go to the NHS because they’re the ones who really have to bear the brunt of us all living on a diet of fizzy drinks. This way, when you buy your fizzy drink, you’re also giving £0.12 each time to the care you’ll get for the health problems it’s going to contribute to.

Con: it unfairly affects those on a low income

Critics of the sugar tax, including Johnson, claim that it unfairly affects those on a lower income. A £0.12 increase in price won’t make any difference to someone with a large savings, but to someone living payday to payday it would, especially if it’s stacked up. So it’s another thing where the rich can do what they like while the poor can’t.

This makes sense in theory, but the whole point of the sugar tax is that it doesn’t stack up. If people can’t afford to buy so much Coke, they won’t buy so much Coke, and therefore they’ll be healthier.

But you know what else unfairly affects those on a low income? Cheap unhealthy food and drink. Unhealthy food is often much cheaper than the healthier options and this is one of the things people conveniently forget about when they’re criticising people on low incomes for being overweight. Imagine you’re going into a supermarket for lunch, and you only have £2 in your pocket. Do you buy the £1.50 salad and £1 bottle of water? No, obviously you can’t. And that’s quite cheap compared to most supermarket lunch salads. You can’t afford the salad and water, but you can afford two 80p bags of 5 custard doughnuts each and a 35p Boost energy drink. HOW does that make sense?!

Making the sugar more expensive doesn’t really solve that problem, admittedly, but if sugar prices increase along with salad price decreases, then you’d surely see a sudden shift in the kind of food many with no money are eating.

Pro: it changes the actual drinks

In response to the sugar tax being introduced, many soft drinks companies altered their recipes so that they’d have less sugar than the threshold. Then they wouldn’t have to put the tax on it, and then they would get more sales than rivals whose prices were being increased. This is great, because it means the drinks aren’t quite as unhealthy as they were before.

Image retrieved from coca-cola.ca

A great example of this still lies with Coca Cola. Have you noticed the huge increase in the popularity and availability of Coke Zero in the last couple of years? It ain’t a coincidence. You don’t pay sugar tax on Coke Zero, so Coca Cola have made it more widely available to grab back the customers who may have turned away at the price increase on normal Coke. Zero isn’t actually much less unhealthy than regular Coke but you know, one step at a time.

Con: the Nanny State con…

Boris Johnson’s biggest argument against the sugar tax is that it is “the continuing creep of the nanny state”. To find out what he means by this, let’s hear from our Unjustified Public Outrage correspondent Bruce Lockhead…

Thanks, Bruce. First off, you can choose what you drink, because otherwise you wouldn’t be able to buy sugary drinks at all. The only difference is, you have to pay for the damage it causes.

The nanny state is what opponents call government interventions in people’s daily lives aimed at making them healthier and happier. This offends people who feel patronised by being helped by the state and would like to feel more independent. Often, you also find the roots of why people support this argument to be ‘I don’t want to think about the fact that what I’m doing isn’t good for me’.

Thirdly…can you make your own decisions? It’s been improving in recent years (thanks to the ‘nanny state’) but look at the adverts around you. There are far more for fast food, sweets, and soft drinks than there are for anything that’s considered healthy, and the ones that are healthy are aimed at people who would ordinarily avoid fast food anyway. Happy families at McDonald’s, eating their burgers and drinking their huge Cokes and smiling and laughing and lovin’ it. Millions of pounds put behind these campaigns to persuade you to buy their junk. Is there anywhere near as much spent on adverts to persuade you to buy healthy food? These adverts will influence your decisions. They wouldn’t spend so much on these campaigns if they didn’t work. The playing field could definitely be levelled out though, if some of the money raised with the sugar tax went toward skilled marketing for healthy food.

Conclusion

So, as I’m sure you’ve worked out, I don’t agree with Boris Johnson. Funnily enough, neither does he. It turns out that in 2016 as Mayor of London, before the sugar tax was introduced, he added a 10p charge on sugary drinks sold at City Hall. But Boris Johnson’s opinions doing a complete u-turn, I’ve never heard of such a thing! Except for, well, pretty much everything he says. I wholly support the sugar tax and I hope it can be extended to more types of unhealthy food and drink in future.

Journey to journalism…

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Right. I’m re-starting, and re-purposing my blog. I know it’s now inconsistent, but it’s better inconsistent than empty. I’m escaping teaching…finally…and now I’m going to have a crack at this.

Of course, getting into journalism isn’t easy. Everywhere you read about how to do it says the first step is to get an article published in a magazine or newspaper and that’s a pretty massive leap for a first step. I can’t think of anything to write about, because I have no experience, and I don’t know anyone to ask about it. So until I find one of those things, I’m going to write my thoughts here on a much broader range of subjects than creativity (as I attempted with theexpressionexpress.com), and hopefully hone my skills so that when I can see more of an opportunity, and hopefully that isn’t so far away, I can grab it with a firmer grip.

That’s not to say, however, that I haven’t been trying to think of some way in. I’ve had a read through the Basingstoke Gazette and the New Milton Advertiser to get a feel for how newspapers are structured and how the stories are formatted, and I’m also surprised at how few writers these newspapers actually have – the vast majority of stories are just the same writers over and over again. But I’ll keep an eye on this to see if I can see any opportunities.

I just have to try to forget the amount of trees that all these newspapers had felled. Poor guys.

I’ve also joined the Writers Academy for the Travelista Club – and hopefully I’ll be able to start contributing there soon too. This looks like a great way to get experience and exposure.

So I’ll use this blog to supplement that. I’ll talk about myself, and most likely my thoughts on current events, and practise writing and sharing.