Is LIV Golf ruining the game?

Golf Wednesday November 29, 2023 By: Duncan Hughes

Golf is a game filled with tradition and history. However, in the last few years a so-called ‘imposter’ version of the game has been sprouting and with it has brought fallouts, controversy and many questions. LIV Golf was launched last year as a new innovative format of the sport as an alternative to the PGA Tour and other big competitions.

Funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund it is designed to modernise the world of golf attracting the best players, with big paychecks as well as a team format. As a result of it’s Saudi Arabian links there is much controversy around the possible sportswashing nature of the format, making it not quite as popular as first predicted.

LIV Golf has been described as an innovative version of golf. A way to revitalise and reinvigorate the sport attracting new audiences while getting fans even closer to the action. With 14 events across the league season, the league will incorporate both an individual competition and a team competition.

For the individual competition, the best score on 54 holes will decide where you rank whereas for the team competition the scores for each team’s top three players for the round, all count towards the total team’s score. In a game where every shot counts, there is little margin for error.

With some of the best players in the world taking part such as Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Sergio Garcia to name a few you would think it would have plenty of attention. However, this has not been quite the case.

According to reported viewing figures for the first broadcast event, in Sunday’s final round it gained a disappointing 291,000 viewers. Compared to the Honda Classic on the same date which gained a reported 2.4 million viewers for the final round, it was a pretty poor showing. And according to further reports it has seen further dips in viewing figures as the season went on with the second event averaging almost 2 million viewers less than the PGA Tour average.

So what is the reason for this decrease in viewership? Well, many of the traditionalists are not keen on this new format of the sport. Coupled with the links to Saudi Arabia and sports washing, the bad press it has gained has been obvious.

Vast amounts of cash invested by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund does raise the question of sports washing and how LIV Golf is yet another possible way to cover up for the questionable human rights record. Many will have questioned the morality of players competing in the league for essentially the big paychecks, making golf fans less inclined to watch it.

According to GolfShake, viewers of LIV Golf tended to be younger, were more likely to have a lower handicap and watch golf on the TV every week; further reiterating the fact that the golf traditionalists do not like this newly imposed change.

So is LIV Golf a bad thing and what does the future hold for the competition? Well there are many divided opinions on LIV Golf amongst professionals with Rory McIlroy claiming he ‘would rather retire than play the format’.

After players such as Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson have made the move to LIV Golf it has cost them entry into Majors and team selection for the Ryder Cup. Should there be a way for LIV golfers to qualify for other events or once they have made the decision to move, should they be kept away?

With the first LIV Golf event of 2024 on the horizon in February, low viewing figures along with speculation around players not being picked for Major Championships, it’s hard to see how it can continue. With that said, the immense amount of wealth from investors will keep the new format going, money certainly won’t be a cause for concern.

A new era for golf but perhaps one that won’t affect the love for the Major Championship events anytime soon. More of a traditional golf fan? Watch some of the biggest golfing events the sport has to offer with Engage Hospitality.

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