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Solid 5: Golf on YouTube

From black and white archive footage to the latest drone-enabled course reviews, our social media guru Charlie Lemay digs out some golfing gems from YouTube to help you through the last few weeks of lockdown.

Solid 5: Golf on YouTube

Golf YouTube is loud, overbearing and dominated by shock-jocks and charlatans. Everyone’s favourite golfer is Tiger Woods, wearing a hoodie makes you a Che Guevara figure, and, in the slightly altered words of the Wu Tang Clan, Distance Rules Everything Around Me (DREAM).  

A lot of cringy catchphrases, ill-fitting flat-brim caps and hauntingly shite background music. “BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING, IF YOU’RE NEW HERE DON’T FORGET TO LIKE AND SUBSCRIBE!!!!” Personally, I’d rather get trapped in a lift with Sir Nick Faldo.

Worst of all, we all know (I’m really sorry if you didn’t) that they’ll say anything for some free gear or a trip somewhere. Most likely Dubai. Even the best-intentioned seem to sell their soul at some point. But whatever you do, don’t accuse them of selling out, or dare to call them a ‘Youtuber’. They’re ‘content creators’ and they’re doing this for us. Stupid, un-branded ‘us’.

Thankfully, there are alternatives - and reasons to use the platform for golf-related content. With contributions from the Sounder Clubhouse, here’s five of our favourite golf channels on YouTube. 

1) No Laying Up

No Laying Up has grown into a golf media behemoth, spearheaded by their podcast. They were the first to talk about golf the way we talk about other sports, poking fun at players and not taking the travelling circus too seriously. Grantland (RIP) does golf, if you will.

Eyebrows were raised and daggers sharpened when their Tourist Sauce travel series rolled up on our shores, but the fear was unwarranted. Justice was done. They played spectacular courses, mixing the renowned and revered with lesser-known layouts.

The episodes expertly strike a measure between educational and fun, a balance I presumed impossible while trapped in educational institutions. They are a crew of young Americans based in Florida, and while they respect the game’s history, they present the game through clear eyes and with a strong sense of humour.

I’ve never understood why people watch 45-minute videos of average golfers playing average courses, but NLU have laid the blueprint of how to do the voyeuristic ‘course vlog’. Relatable characters, minimal use of wiffy banter, thorough research and informative content woven in. Also, they steer clear of taking themselves seriously or thinking people care about their golf ability.

2) Erik Anders Lang

Another American, but from the other side of the continent, EAL is based in California. And he is really, really, ‘Cali’. In a good way. It’s nice to see that golden sun and feel that searing West Coast optimism while we soak ourselves in rain and self-loathing throughout these winter months. 

Erik Anders Lang’s ‘Adventures in Golf’ Series is utterly brilliant. He trots around the world finding stories you want to hear, one episode playing the Old Course and the next Slum Golf in Mumbai. 

The serious parts are done right, but he doesn’t slip into pretentiousness too often. Frequently philosophical, it isn’t all navel gazing – heck, there’s an episode about nude golf in Florida.  

Those early episodes remain his best, before the brands got their suckers on him, and may be the best golf series out there. I said it. Don’t @ me.

3) Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf

Ok, so this isn’t strictly a YouTube channel, more a term that you need to bash into the search bar. But in doing so, you’ll find a treasure trove of content from across the ages.

For many reasons – most of which point towards money – professional golf in 2021 is an anaemic imitation of what came before. It’s Bieber to Bob Dylan. Bomb and gauge is the winning formula, rendering many of the most characterful and historic courses obsolete, forcing the major tours onto modern ‘Championship’ golf courses. 

The old boys and girls were artists, forced to play every club in their bag in every conceivable way. There was a world before 460cc drivers, 64-degree wedges and monolithic mallet putters. And this particular golf fan would take this version of the game over the pale, dumbed down and de-skilled version that gets rammed down our throats. 

But let’s not get bogged down. Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf is the most perfect title for a golf show. The world of golf is so very wonderful, but often it prostitutes itself to monstrous, climate-destroying mega corporations such as Shell in order to line a few pockets. Sorry, I’m getting bogged down again.

Starting in the halcyon days of the 1960s, SWWOG pitted the best players on some excellent golf courses. There’s Gary Player v Peter Thomson at Royal Melbourne, Gene Littler v Byron Nelson at Pine Valley, Gene Sarazen v Henry Cotton on the Old Course, Jack Nicklaus v Sam Snead at Pebble Beach, Snead v Ben Hogan at Houston CC. It’s a glittering treasure chest, so rammed full you can’t even begin to shut the lid. 

To get your fix of flushed 2-irons, pumped persimmons and nostalgic attire, spend a few hours watching some episodes. We suggest putting it on when the opposite of this glorious era is on television – The Saudi Arabia International, for example. 

4. The Open

The Open. The British Open. Whatever you call it, there’s no better event in golf. The oldest golf tournament in existence, starting in 1860, means it’s accrued reels of footage from the heady days described above.

It’s still played on classic golf courses that we know so well we can play every hole in our dreams. We’ve seen epic tussles – the Duel in the Sun, Seve in ’84, Watson (*weep*) at Turnberry, Lowry at Portrush – many of which are collated on the Open’s official channel.

Alongside this, the ‘Chronicles of a Champion Golfer’ series gives an insight into various players’ history with the Open, how they often struggled and disliked the major before falling in love and winning it. It’s full of so much goodness.

It would also be remiss of us not to mention the Masters and USGA channels. Listen to Bobby Jones wax lyrical on Augusta, watch Johnny Miller’s magical outing at Oakmont on ’63, or Billy Casper take the Green Jacket in ’70. (Peter Alliss voice: “ah, splendid”).

5) British Pathe

British Pathe produced pioneering video journalism to be shown in cinemas before the time of television. Most of these videos capture seismic events in world history, but some are more important – such as Open Qualifying in 1955 or Walter Hagen playing in an exhibition match in 1928.

It’s an Aladdin’s Cave of golfing confectionary. The flickering pictures are a portal to a lost world, one of pipe-smoking golfers with gilded patinas in plus fours. These are golfers you’ve read, heard and passed on stories about, but probably not seen hit a ball. The first time I went down the rabbit hole I felt like Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris, teleported to meet my heroes, without having to leave my sofa or listen to Hemmingway drone on. Instead, it’s the plummy BBC voiceovers doing the discourse.

It’s the time before our time, and it’s mind blowing to watch. It makes the hours I’ve had to spend wading through golf YouTube worthwhile, which is really saying something.

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