Netflix’s breakthrough F1 series Drive to Survive has captured audiences in a way no one could have predicted. Since its release, TV broadcaster ESPN has reported almost a doubling in F1 viewership. Therefore, it was no surprise when Netflix announced they had commissioned a follow-up show covering golf’s PGA Tour: Full Swing.
The announcement was greeted with excitement from golf fans, while critics wondered whether golf’s irregular schedule would encapsulate fans in the same way. Luckily, as English golfer Ian Poulter says in the show’s third episode, Netflix “could not have picked a better year to start following the PGA Tour.”
Although the PGA Tour season runs from September to August, Full Swing does not maintain a chronological order. As with Drive to Survive, each episode follows one or two golfers’ main stories from the season. Some episodes focus on outspoken household names while others showcase rookies thrust into the limelight to keep personalities fresh. The major source of drama came from the emergence of LIV golf, a Saudi-backed league set up to compete with the PGA tour, forcing golfers to choose between money and morals.
As a result of this approach, there were some big winners and losers from the Full Swing’s coverage. LIV golf pioneers Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson both struggled to repair their bruised reputations. Their claims that leaving the PGA for LIV was best for their families often fell on deaf ears. Koepka, Johnson, and eccentric Ian Poulter all admitted money had played its part in their decisions.
The LIV participants and their desire for more money was deftly contrasted against fan-favourite Tony Finau. The Tongan-American played with the viewer’s heartstrings in the sixth episode of the series. Despite the financial pressures, Finau chose to take his wife and five children with him to every event following his father-in-law’s death. Finau winning back-to-back titles while his family watched on was Full Swing’s crowning moment.
Full Swing was at its strongest toward the end of the first series, showing that it could compete with Drive to Survive. While both F1 and golf have reputations of snobbiness and privilege, the PGA Tour’s field has significantly more economic diversity. Unlike F1, golf has the ability to create careers in a moment. While on the racetrack only a handful of drivers are in a position to win the race, in golf, all 150 players feel they can take home the week’s trophy. The raw episode displayed by rookies like Mito Pereira and Sahith Theegala demonstrated this opportunity – and heartbreak – effectively.
In comparison to its predecessor, Full Swing might be seen as lacking true drama. There’s no shouting, no cheating allegations, no alliance switching of drivers and no real hatred as we see between Christian Horner and Toto Wolf. If the show can integrate more controversial figures and explore the rift between LIV and PGA golfers in its second series, fans of Drive to Survive might be happier.
Overall, Full Swing accomplishes what it sets out to do, allowing fans to see behind-the-scenes and pick a new favourite, or least favourite, golfer. Only time will tell if the show can inspire young fans in the same way Drive to Survive has, but an immediate season two renewal announcement bodes well for its future prospects.
Image “The Masters Leaderboard” by Ryan Schreiber is licensed under CC-BY-2.0.