The landscape of professional golf was altered dramatically in 2022 with the debut of the LIV Golf League. Decades of golf supremacy by the PGA Tour for players instantly changed at the inaugural LIV Golf League event held in London. The particulars about the League including the source of its financial backing are details I will not outline here as they are fully on record, yet for the community regardless of which position one takes there needs to be an understanding of “What is LIV Golf?”
To start with The LIV Golf League is evolving. I attended The LIV Golf League event held at Cedar Ridge GC, in Tulsa Ok and a central theme from players and staff is that the current product is by no means complete in its structure. It’s true that the League has tagged itself as “Golf but Louder”, yet LIV still hasn’t decided exactly what it is going to say. It has become clear that the public wants more professional golf when one evaluates the attendance at regular PGA Tour stops along with the Tulsa event becoming the highest-attended LIV Golf League event in the six events held on U.S. soil.
Actual numbers from Tulsa had crowds on Friday and Saturday in excess of 11,000 and Sunday’s final round had 14,000 spectators enjoy Dustin Johnson winning in a playoff while Harold Varner III flirted scoring a 59. The space that the LIV Golf League today intends to occupy is quickly becoming mainstream for those who are willing to discover what the league is all about. The following areas once experienced live provide the context for what the LIV Golf League is as it continues season two.
The LIV Golf League fully understands that golf tournaments are EVENTS. Professional sports in the U.S. have become the fabric of our society. Certain marquee events like the Super Bowl, NBA All-Star weekend and the MLB All-Star game take over cities with multiple events over several days culminating with the actual game. Where the LIV Golf League excels is in creating a similar atmosphere along with the three days of competition. Concerts after each round is completed generate fan interest that builds as fans file into the site for the day.
The initial impression of the LIV Golf League is based on music playing over loudspeakers throughout the course, yet after the initial countdown to the shotgun start the music actually becomes background noise in the same manner of crowds around the course cheering for a player who has just stuck one tight to a pin. The electricity that engulfs a golf course when a player goes on a birdie binge includes the sounds of the gallery, so the idea that music being a constant background component at a LIV Golf League event is not re-writing the game of golf, but more about creating an event atmosphere.
The access to viewing the 48 players either working on their games, warming up, or putting is a definite plus because getting the opportunity to watch professionals up close while also being able to overhear them ‘talk the game’ is what those of us who love this game crave. The LIV Golf League also offers the opportunity to watch several young professionals early in their careers playing side by side with established major champion golfers as the shotgun start means that all golfers are out on the course at the same time.
Having attended multiple Tour events, including Major Championships, I was used to the structure of the morning and afternoon waves of players, which required me to ‘plan’ who and how I would follow them on the course. When all 48 players are on the course at the same time you cannot help but follow multiple players or find holes that offer risk/reward opportunities. While making a point to speak with attendees, a central theme became clear that golf fans KNOW venues just as much as they know players.
There is a lot to be said that any of us can play some of the same venues as the professionals when we visit Harbour Town, The Snake Pit, or Pebble Beach and it makes the game special because there aren’t pickup basketball games in MSG or getting a game of flag football going in Jerry’s World. LIV Golf is introducing some new golf courses to the public, that may not offer the ability for the public to play, however, the courses currently in use have ensured a true test of golf for the players.
Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, and Harold Varner III provide the star power any fan of golf can appreciate, and it goes without saying that every man on the current 48 team roster can flat-out play. What really matters is the LIV Golf League has a level of SWAG that is normally not a part of professional golf tournaments.
Pat Perez has a level of cool just walking to the putting green but add on which pair of Jordan’s he has decided to incorporate into his outfit is a ‘must see’ moment. Eugenio Chacarra hasn’t found a pair of socks he doesn’t like, so he wears ALL of them, and then there is Matthew Wolff who is the dictionary definition of “If it works don’t change it.” As a collective, the 48 current players are a tight-knit group that at their core LIKE TO PLAY GOLF AND GET PAID FOR DOING SO.
It’s become clear that the current group can play the game at a high level in Major Championships, with Brooks Koepka winning the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Golf Club, however, the deeper connections between the players become visible as guys are practicing or on the range preparing for play. In an era when athletes’ mental health and wellness are finally considered just as much as physical fitness, the league offers competitive professional golf that does not subscribe to ‘the grind’. Talor Gooch mentioned during his media availability that LIV Golf allows him to focus on being a golfer instead of working to take care of his own schedule off the course. If the last year has taught us anything about the arena of professional golf, these guys have relationships with each other, while also enjoying the competition of beating a friend—and talking trash about it.
LIV "THE FORMAT"
LIV Golf takes pride in the changes to professional golf events, and the team aspect brought forward is the primary example of change. Twelve 4-man teams have been created, and this concept is under more evolution than any other aspect of LIV Golf. Teams are based on a myriad of factors, and nothing is lost in the development of team chemistry. As previously stated, league players like playing the game of golf, and the bonds that many players have formed create natural partnerships in an environment that offers financial incentives for team performance.
To take the team concept further, there are discussions of additional events being added to the league schedule that actually become ‘HOME’ venues for teams. Imagine a course somewhere in the Southeastern U.S. that becomes the home venue for Bubba Watson and his RangeGoats GC. The team and venue aspect in golf now takes on an entirely different feel as an entire community gets to become vested in their local professional golf squad. Team names, color schemes, and logos provide LIV Golf with a truly different approach to fan commitment, while also having the dramatic season-long question of relegation and trades based on event play and a pipeline for new players to join the league.
I cannot describe the LIV Golf League without mentioning the merchandising. This area may be the untapped gold mine that brings the larger golf community to the league. Who amongst us golfers doesn’t pay close attention to what the players wear? With that being said the team component of LIV Golf provides a very unique opportunity for the golf public to ‘wear what the professionals wear’. Watching DJ or any member of the 4Aces GC you cannot help but get a New York Yankees vibe, and we all know the popularity of wearing a NY lid.
Other teams like the Crushers GC and its Captain Bryson DeChambeau have a persona based on what happens off the tee, whereas the pink color combo of Bubba Watson and his RangeGoats GC naturally catches the eye. The endless possibilities that these team ‘uniform’ combinations provide the players are enticing as these are golf shirts and short combinations, and to the golf community at large there definitely is an opportunity for the most fashion-forward in our 4somes to step on the first tee representing to the fullest. Golf fans flock to on-site merchandise tents, and the experience is the same while attending a LIV Golf League tournament, so a piece of advice, get to the tent early!
The LIV Golf League and its evolution most certainly have created curiosity amongst the Black golf community. As I walked the course in Tulsa, I made a point to ask attendees what brought them out, and the response was generally the same, however, the curiosity is more about the different atmosphere, not the golf. The game of golf is recognizing that there may not be enough professional golf for the consumer and missing out on the opportunity to capitalize could be the basis to draw the line about the LIV Golf League.
What is apparent is that LIV Golf tournaments are the perfect centerpiece to build a golf trip around. Getting a group together to visit a city hosting an event, playing a few rounds of golf, and enjoying a couple of days attending a LIV Golf tournament either by walking the course or within the tents strategically set near certain greens is an experience that will not disappoint. I make this suggestion because we enjoy our golf trips, and who hasn’t had the conversation about where to go, and what to do when friends aren’t on the course? The destination/event idea may also increase the number of African Americans attending LIV Golf League events as tournament sites continue to evolve across the US and sites globally. I encourage the community to ask itself if a new vibe brings them closer to the game, because that is what LIV Golf is.
Follow Byron Perry @BPerry918 on X (formerly Twitter) or @Byron Perry on Instagram for more content and interviews.