I decided to attend one of the LIV golf events. The most convenient one happened to be in Hemel Hempstead, just a short distance away. Initially, my plan was to go alone and observe the event from a professional standpoint. However, as luck would have it, the schools were on strike, so I took my eight-year-old son, Freddy, along for a day out. This unexpected company provided a fresh perspective, unclouded by bias. I made a conscious effort to remain impartial in my observations.
Let me recount the entire experience. Firstly, I must emphasise that it was an exceptional day out, brimming with enjoyment. The ambiance surrounding the golf event was markedly different from the traditional golfing scene we are accustomed to. Nevertheless, the game of golf remained true to its beloved format, which elicited a sense of satisfaction. Now, allow me to delve into the specific aspects of the experience, taking it stage by stage.
Upon arriving at the venue, I was struck by the fact that the gates wouldn't open until 11:30 am. This departure from the early morning starts of conventional golf events meant there was no need to rise with the sun. As I approached the entrance, I was pleased to encounter an efficient and well-organized entry process. The staff exuded a sense of enthusiasm and ensured a smooth beginning to the day. I must add a small caveat here: the weather was simply perfect. With temperatures ranging between 25 to 30 degrees Celsius, accompanied by a perfect blue sky adorned with fluffy clouds, it was truly a fabulous day. It is important to acknowledge that my perception may have been influenced by the exceptional weather conditions.
Once inside the grounds, I was immediately enveloped in the bustling atmosphere of ongoing activities. As I strolled from the parking lot, I couldn't help but notice that the majority of players were already on the putting green, diligently honing their skills. Simultaneously, numerous others were engaged in intense practice sessions on the driving range. I was delighted to witness the high level of interaction between the players and the crowd. One aspect that particularly caught my attention was the strong promotion of the team aspect of the tournament. Banners and advertisements adorned the venue, proudly displaying the names and identities of the competing teams. Admittedly, I had been somewhat skeptical about the concept of teams in golf, believing it to be incongruous. However, I found myself gradually immersing in the spirit of it all. Surprisingly, Freddy took a keen interest in selecting a team to support. This newfound dynamic introduced an intriguing and distinct element, quite unlike anything I had experienced during my typical golfing excursions.
Moving on to the viewing experience at the driving range, I must note that it differed from my expectations. Due to the facility's layout, or by design, it was slightly more challenging to get a close-up view of the players. The spectator viewing platform, while accessible, did not provide an optimal vantage point. I should clarify that my attendance was deliberately as a casual spectator, with limited access to other areas. I suspect that those with upgraded tickets enjoyed enhanced viewing options. Nevertheless, I must express my satisfaction with the overall organisation and professionalism exhibited throughout the event.
In terms of attendance, the venue hosted an estimated 15,000 spectators, creating a vibrant atmosphere reminiscent of a crowd space. Notably, there were no grandstands in sight. Instead, strategically positioned standing platforms allowed spectators to get remarkably close to the players. This proximity provided an excellent opportunity to observe and appreciate the skills of one's favorite golfers. One observation that struck me was the fact that, unlike some tour stops where player line-ups remain uncertain, in this limited-number-of-events format, the field was consistent. The benefit of this was readily apparent, as one could confidently identify and anticipate the participation of top-tier players such as Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Bryson DeChambeau, and Lee Westwood, et al. Every LIV event showcases a full field, offering a level of certainty.
The entire event exuded a slick and professional vibe. Numerous food areas catered to various culinary preferences, ensuring attendees had a wide array of options. Additionally, a well-designed kids' area captivated young visitors, providing a delightful balance between golf watching and engaging in fun-filled activities. Notably, the presence of a "mad scientist" exhibit and the Majesticks children's play area added an extra layer of excitement for the younger audience. The entertainment and hospitality areas exuded a remarkable sense of quality, drawing parallels to the distinguished atmosphere of events like Henley or Wimbledon. It was clear that the LIV Golf London experience aimed to offer a holistic entertainment package, extending beyond the confines of the golf course.
One aspect of the event that has fascinated many was the shotgun start format. Its effectiveness and suitability for television broadcasts have been a subject of debate. While I can understand the challenges in following the action on television, I must admit that the format works well from a logistical perspective. It provided a clear indication of when the event would conclude. It resembled attending an F1 race, where the start time and race duration are predetermined, lending a sense of certainty to the proceedings. Admittedly, some may argue that there was not enough golf on display, but it's possible that such sentiments stem from cultural expectations. Perhaps a shift in perspective is necessary to fully appreciate this unique format.
One of my reasons for going to this particular LIV event is that I don't know if it'll exist next year. Will LIV exist in its current format? Will it be totally taken off the table, and the new partnership replace it? Will it be a similar format rebranded? So, this was an opportunity to see the tournament in its original format. As it stands, and I'm sure it evolved from last year, which was clearly not as well attended as it was fresh. If we hadn't got the partnership or joint venture between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, and the PIF, I might be looking at this in a different way in its own right. Is it sustainable? Is it going to work? How are they going to do it? Because clearly, they've got their 48 players. Are they going to have a league promoting and relegating players? That would certainly be some way that would give a really good angle there. If you're looking at promotion or relegation, that would clearly mean that there would be another layer to the league. Now if we use that as one analogy, you might very well have two events on the same day. You could have the LIV Premier League in the afternoon. You could have the LIV first division in the morning, that would certainly engage your relationship-building with players. Are they going to make it or they're going to be dropped back? Where are they going to be there? And I think certainly looking at Premier League, Championship League, etc., that could definitely be a really exciting and fun element. So again, it's all up in air because no one really knows what format the new one is going to take.
So, elements that were different, clearly logistics, knowing what time it starts and finishes, knowing that you've got about a four and a half-hour window to watch all of your golfers, being able to get closer to the golf is currently because as the audience figures or spectator figures grow, we would see that might be held back a little bit more. But the general atmosphere was quite frankly brilliant. Lots of fun. Very different spectator, age demographic, very different and refreshing to see many younger people involved.
Moving forward in golf, maybe the appreciation of the skill might be a little bit different, but also opening up the view that actually that's not a bad thing. That's enticing, potentially new people coming through different generations, different social circles, different social dynamics, which again is always fascinating. Everything needs to be relevant for the generation of that time. Hopefully, golf has had that all the way through, but certainly, I don't think the game should be complacent. The final real big thought is, was there a place for both LIV and DP World/PGA Tour? My view would be yes. I think there's definitely space for that. I think they could have had two different products. We could have two different leagues going on, pretty much at the same time and meeting in structured events, maybe even just at the end of the year, maybe similar to the NFL where the playoffs happen at the end of the year. I think that would have been a definite way there if there hadn't been the early animosity between all the tours.
In conclusion, the LIV Golf London experience proved to be an exceptional day out, offering a distinct perspective on the sport of golf. It will be fascinating to observe the trajectory of the event in the coming months and witness the evolution resulting from the partnership. The inherent uniqueness and appeal of LIV are undeniable, making it an enjoyable and different experience for spectators.