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Bikini waxes, body bags and 'perfect' golf shots: golf announcers are a funny, and not so funny breed

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

Golf announcers are strange birds, aren't they? They seem to fall into one of two categories, with varying degrees: Either they're dull, corporate mouthpieces or they're wild, outlandish and outspoken.

Read: Jim Nantz in the first category and Johnny Miller in the latter.

Nantz is so dull he should be nicknamed "Insta-Nap." Pharmaceutical companies should clone his DNA and sell it to psycho wards to calm down the schizophrenics. He should be re-broadcast at kindergartens and high-security prisons, inducing toddlers and inmates into trance-like states that render them sleepy and harmless.

Miller, on the other hand, is the Charles Barkley of golf. He's so brutally candid he was nearly lynched by a group of PGA Tour players at last year's Ford Championship at Doral. He'd criticize his own mother as she was making him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

"What mom, you don't have crunchy?"

Not 'negative,' just 'honest'

That's what sets Miller apart, though. Curtis Strange once told the media it wasn't his job to be "negative." No, Curtis, it isn't. Nor is it your job to be "positive." It's your job to be "honest." Miller is one of the few who actually practices this. This is the guy who said Craig Parry's swing "would make Ben Hogan puke."

Granted, golf announcers have a tough job. Golf is a complex game to begin with, and often the commentators have only seconds to offer analyses on situations they see from afar. There's no filter between what they think and what they say. I can erase something stupid I've written, if I catch it in time. Live TV doesn't have a delete key.

They're criticized when they say a player "should" have done this or that, and criticized again when they fail to take a stand. And there is an institutional bias toward candor and any kind of color. Remember Ben Wright, who said female golfers were handicapped by "having boobs?"

Bikini waxes and body bags

Or Gary McCord, who outraged the staid Augusta National membership, when he pointed out at the 1995 Masters how the greens were so quick it was as if they had been "bikini-waxed," and how the 17th green was playing so tough there must be "body bags" buried in the nearby trees.

Wright and McCord are no longer with us.

Still, in general, they talk too much and say too little. And there is that little matter of golf announcers being more than a little sexist, even more so than other sports announcers, according to a study done by a panel of experts at Clemson and Indiana Universities.

In any case, there are a number of annoying habits viewers bring up time and again. Here are some of them - some of which I disagree with - and some of my own.

'What a perfect golf shot!'

  • Why do they insist on saying a great shot is "perfect?" If it's in the hole, fine, it's perfect. If it isn't, it's not. If it's six inches from the hole, sorry - it's a great shot, but it isn't perfect.

  • Why are they the only commentators who insist on continually reminding you what game you're watching, as in: "Oh, what a great golf shot." You'd never hear a Bears-Vikings announcer saying, "My, what a great football play." Or Vin Scully say, "My, what a great baseball pitch."

  • You can't mistake golf. Golfers wear clothes that only a golfer would wear and they carry long, awkward sticks. They have those unkempt guys with bright vests following them everywhere they go. You think a guy ever awoke from a snooze in an easy chair and said, "oh, man, I thought this was friggin' lacrosse!"

Don't believe those club selections

  • I like it when commentators tell me what club a guy is using from 200 yards out, in the rough, facing a stiff cross breeze. Part of the fun of watching golf is imagining what you'd do in the same situation. A lot of readers don't like this, however.

  • And, truth be told, those yardages and clubs you get from the talking heads aren't always accurate. Caddies sometimes flash wrong signals to the TV guys, sometimes to psyche out opponents. Read more about that here, in Dave Berner's hilarious blog.

  • "Very unique" No such thing, this isn't limited to golf announcers. A thing is either unique or it isn't.

Just say it: He choked

  • I always squirm a little when they slobber all over the game's greats, like during live interviews with people like Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Treat them with respect, sure, but don't bend over and anoint their feet with oil.

  • Nor do I like their reluctance - with the exception of Miller - to come out and say a guy "choked." This happens all the time, even on the PGA Tour. It's one of life's great pleasures to see the pros choke, like we weekend hackers do time and time again, and like I did this past weekend on a three-foot putt with a lousy two dollars riding on it.

  • "He's got to will this putt into the hole." How, exactly, do you do that?

  • "Jim, this putt will move right to left." No it doesn't. It will move left. Or, to be accurate, straight to left.

  • A number of viewers have problems when an announcer says "This just a moment ago," before they play a taped shot. I don't have any problems with that. At least they're telling us it's on tape.

  • Other complaints I have aren't necessarily directed at the announcers, but at the producers. Here's only one of them: Is there anything more useless than a sponsor interview, usually right before the conclusion of the tournament? They never say anything of value. There's already a format for this - it's called a commercial. Why make us suffer through them?

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment

    dz wrote on: Jun 10, 2005



  • golf tv coverage

    bill porteous wrote on: Jun 8, 2005

    Suggest you send most of the US golf commentators, with the exception of Miller, Baker Finch and McCord, to the European Tour to watch and listen to the European coverage. The reason golf tv ratings are dropping are due in part to boring commentators and broken coverage with shots of water, trees and a background commentator who sounds right at home reading obituaries. Bring back Ben Wright and Peter Allis!!


  • Both types are necessary

    EGule wrote on: Jun 8, 2005

    I actually like both Nantz and Miller. I realize they have distinctly different styles, but there is a place for both.
    Miller is the spice since he is a veteran with an opinion. He is right and wrong, but we expect it. I want him to comment on what is going on between the ropes.
    Nantz is the storyteller, he sums it all up. He is not there to broadcast WWF. He provides proper respect to sponsors, players and viewers. We want him to pull it all together, Miller on the other hand, is free to pick it all apart.
    What is sad is when Lanny Wadkins is to provide some counterpoint to Nantz and we don't get it. Maybe Lanny still feels obliged to lay off a bit, but still feel he holds back too much. Come on Lanny start competing for my attention in the booth!


  • Right to left putts

    Clive Scarff wrote on: Jun 7, 2005

    Just to clarify, putts do move right to left (and left to right). A putt that breaks left, must be hit out to the right first, before it can move left. Therefore, right to left. If it is to go in that is! A "straight to left putt" would be one that was misread as straight, and moved left - inevitably missing the "golf hole" :).


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