September 2, 2021
Good news, golf fans: you will see professional golf from a whole new perspective.
The PGA Tour, with knowledge of the situation, has closed a deal with Netflix for a brand new episodic documentary series, according to multiple sources. The show will aim to give some of the best golfers in the world unprecedented behind-the-scenes access during the 2021-22 PGA Tour season, with production and filming scheduled to begin early next season. Vox Media, whose Netflix collaborations include the popular series “Explained”, and Box to Box Films, the media company behind the Netflix Formula 1 show “Drive to Survive”, will each be involved in the production.
The cast is yet to be determined, but among those who have already approved it will include some of the tour’s top players.
When reached by GOLF, Netflix, the PGA Tour, and Vox Media, they declined to comment on the specifics of the series, its cast, or the show’s upcoming production. Box to Box Films did not respond to a request for comment.
But here’s what we know:
THE BLUE BREAK
According to sources known to the program, the new PGA tour series is said to be modeled on the success of Netflix with “Drive to Survive”, the Formula 1 documentary series that is currently being produced in its fourth season.
When it was first published in 2019, “Drive to Survive” promised “unprecedented and exclusive access to the fastest drivers in the world” as well as their teams and Formula 1 management. The formula produced a huge hit, combining the drama of the racing season with personalities and off-track stories. It’s been a virtuous cycle in which fans of the show and its characters become fans of the sport, which further fueled the show’s success.
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The racing drivers and owners also bought their way: eight of the 10 Formula 1 teams took part in the first season, but at the beginning of the second season, the two refusers – Ferrari and Mercedes – also joined them.
The PGA Tour series would essentially follow the same model, filming with its cast members at tournaments, at home and in the meantime, providing a full behind-the-scenes experience.
If golf can capture the magic of its racing predecessor, it will be a win-win for both the Tour and Netflix. “Drive to Survive” has contributed to a significant increase in F1 interest and viewership in the US since its inception.
The CEO of McLaren Racing told reporters that the Netflix show was “the single most important effect for Formula 1 in North America”. And the average F1 TV audience in the US has grown from 547,000 in 2018 to 928,000 in 2021, according to the New York Times.
Production for the PGA Tour series is slated to begin in the 2021-22 season until the cast is complete. A source close to the show suggested filming won’t begin in earnest until the beginning of 2022, based on the cast’s limited participation in fall events.
Netflix shot “Drive to Survive” for an entire season and then released the series before the start of the next season, which could be a model replicated by the tour.
Both Netflix and the PGA Tour declined to elaborate on the expected launch of the series.
The PGA Tour series focuses on a cast of about a dozen players who track their progress on and off the ropes, and take tour site viewers into home life.
While several “big names” are already on board, sources close to the show have been unwilling to officially confirm a roster based on several ongoing negotiations.
Still, the players in question are a high-performing bunch. The cast includes Major Champions, Ryder Cuppers and half a dozen of the top 20 in the current world rankings.
The success of the series will depend on access and authenticity. Access depends on the final list of participants and their willingness to open up to the weekly action of the tour. Authenticity depends on all parties having the sport’s most interesting subplots played on screen.
The PGA Tour, Tour players and their management teams are notorious for their image protection. However, players are also aware of branding, both to attract sponsors and to participate in the Player Impact Program, which will pay out $ 40 million to the most high-profile golfers on the tour at the end of the season.
A few big questions remain: Which top players will sign up? How much off-course access will you give the film crews? How “real” will this reality television be?
We can’t wait to find out.
Dylan Dethier is Senior Writer for GOLF Magazine / GOLF.com. A native of Williamstown, Mass. joined GOLF in 2017 after fiddling around on the mini tours for two years. A graduate of Williams College in 2014 where he majored in English, Dethier is the author of 18 in America describing the year he lived off his car when he was 18 and in each state played a round of golf.