SBJ/20090202/SBJ In-Depth

Golf coverage slow to spread in blogdom

Blogs have changed the way sports media is consumed, but the professional golf tours have not benefited from the same scale of grassroots coverage enjoyed by team sports.

“It always sort of amazes me,” said Geoff Shackelford, who operates a blog widely read in golf industry circles. “I’m not sure if that’s a statement about the health of the sport or if it has to do with golf’s conservative nature.”

Ty Votaw, executive vice president of communications and international affairs for the PGA Tour, believes the slow growth of golf blogs is due to the lack of debate inherent to the sport.

“Most other sports you have ‘a manager should be fired,’ ‘the coach should be fired’ or ‘a player should be benched,’” Votaw said. “You don’t have that in golf. You don’t bench Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson; it’s just ‘did he play well or not?’ (Golf) doesn’t lend itself to a lot of back-and-forth debate.”

Furthermore, mainstream blogs like Deadspin and Sports by Brooks virtually ignore competitive golf outside of the four majors, the Ryder Cup, and the occasional incident involving John Daly.

“The motor of online sports fandom is passion, and it’s hard to get passionate about individual participants,” said Will Leitch, founding editor of Deadspin. “This is also why tennis, swimming, NASCAR, so on, aren’t hugely popular online.”

Stories involving female golfers have been more popular online than those with the men. “Women’s golf, for obvious reasons, plays much, much better on the Internet,” said Jason McIntyre, editor at The Big Lead.

The top 100 posts on Sports By Brooks includes two golf stories: one about the love life of Michelle Wie and another with the purported cell phone number of Australian golfer Anna Rawson.

GeoffShackelford.com and
GolfObserver.com are two of
the more popular golf blogs.

Blogs operated by players and golf executives have also failed to gain traction.

The biggest stars on the men’s and women’s circuit, Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam, update their sites intermittently. Rookie blogs on LPGA.com offer some insight on adapting to the tour. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem started a blog last January that was updated only four times in 2008.

Absent an independent blog on the scale of the popular Pro Football Talk, most golf executives frequent two blogs for news and commentary about the state of the tours and associations.

GolfObserver.com, run by former ABC Sports production staffer Sal Johnson, provides a daily roundup of links to nearly every golf story written and offers Johnson’s own thoughts on issues facing the game.

GeoffShackelford.com features the commentary of Shackelford, a freelance writer whose controversial opinions have drawn the attention of golf industry executives. In terms of traffic, two of his top three markets are Jacksonville/Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and Far Hills, N.J., home to the PGA Tour and U.S. Golf Association, respectively. The top market is New York City.

One of Shackelford’s more popular shticks involves fake instant message exchanges between Finchem (twfPGATOUR©) and LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens (DaBrandLady).

The golf blogs at SportsBlog Nation and Fanhouse are growing in popularity. SportsBlog Nation’s Waggle Room and a companion podcast, crafted by D.C.-based nonprofit associate Ryan Ballengee, regularly discuss off-the-course issues facing the PGA Tour and LPGA, and feature interviews with golf industry executives and members of the media.

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