Future Golf Broadcasts Should Learn From 1986 Masters Replay

Jack Nicklaus, 16th hole, 1986 Masters.
Jack Nicklaus, 16th hole, 1986 Masters.

Whenever golf returns, the people who broadcast it could learn a thing or two from the replay of the 1986 Masters tournament aired on ESPN this week.

That's not to say broadcasts haven't improved since that fateful afternoon at Augusta National when the bear, Jack Nicklaus, came out of hibernation and shocked the world to win his sixth green jacket at 46-years-old. It's to say there were elements within this broadcast that stood out and should be replicated moving forward.

I'll start with a simple request: Bring back the double box showing the player and the shot simultaneously.

Double box at the Masters.
Double box at the Masters.

Seeing a player's reaction to the shot they hit as the ball is still in motion was fascinating. Of course, the most famous shot to come from it is Nicklaus walking in his tee shot at the par-3, 16th (cover photo of this story). But there were some other really cool moments, like Sandy Lyle laughing when he got an unbelievably lucky bounce on the 12th hole after his ball bounced off the flower bed 10-yards long of the hole and nearly ended up on the green.

The second thing that stood out, especially for the Masters, was Gary Player providing some colorful commentary from Butler Cabin while the leaders were still on the front nine. Not only did he give us some interesting golf terms (he said someone had to be a "locksmith" to get out of trouble), but his course knowledge was more insightful than anyone who hasn't been in that situation could offer.

Gary Player.
Gary Player.

Therefore, the second request is to have legendary champions discussing the tournament as it's being played. They do that with current champions after their rounds. But why not have Nicklaus on the broadcast from Butler Cabin talking about Tiger on the front nine?

There were other small things I enjoyed about the 1986 broadcast. The commentators were silent for long stretches, allowing the noise from the patrons, or lack thereof, elicit emotions for the viewer. There also weren't cutaways to commentators in a booth for multiple minutes while golf was still being played. They did have them, but they were very quick (less than 15 seconds) and they were right back to the action. A pet-peeve of mine from current broadcasts is that after such cutaways, we're stuck with replays of shots and putts instead of watching them live.

With no sports on the horizon, it's a good chance to look back at some of these old broadcasts and see what they did right and where they can improve. HDTV has made everything a lot better, but there are some elements that could improve by learning from the past.