LIV Golf: A local view

LIV Golf has made quite the splash in the big leagues. But, how has it impacted local golf clubs? Max McVittie takes a look at if LIV has grown the game at a grassroots level.


As the weather finally begins to turn for the better, golf fanatics everyone will be cleaning their clubs of the winter mud and returning to their happy place. A happy place until the first tee shot anyway. Lambing seasonsignals a new golf season is here.


Tom Hodgson, Eden Golf Club’s resident professional, doesn’t forecast a change for local golfers in the upcoming season.


But this isn’t any regular season. In fact, there may never be another ‘regular season’ again. The Premier League’s introduction in 1992 shook up the landscape of English football, the formation of the Indian Super League changed cricket, LIV is golf’s seismic shift. The PGA Tour no longer have a monopoly hold on professional golf as some of the game’s biggest stars have jumped ship to the new Saudi-backed league.


The tension between the players who have left the PGA Tour and the ones who have stayed has caused a visible divide at the highest level.


However, my attention isn’t on the professional game. What I want to know is how does this effect you and I? What effects has LIV had on local courses?


“I don’t see it making a difference,” Hodgson said. We’ve all it from every golfer who has made the switch. The murmuring of those infamous words, ‘grow the game’. The golf professional believes those words are hollow, he told me: “I feel the ‘grow the game’ title has been thrown around a lot by the LIV golfers, but inevitably, they are being paid tens of millions and are without a doubt scripted to a streamlined response. I roll back to Shane Lowry’s comments on the players reciting this line, and truthfully, I don’t really see them doing anything at all.”


Tom Hodgson in action during a putting lesson (credit: thodgsongolf.com)


LIV, although not everyone’s cup of tea, has undoubtedly caught the eye of a younger audience. It’s more relaxed vibe, with music playing during the tournaments, is certainly a switch from the phone free zone that is the Masters held earlier this month. Is this vibe something golf clubs could adopt to help grow the game at an amateur level. Hodgson has his doubts.


“It’s likely a regional thing, but within the UK, I don’t see it making a difference at all at clubs outside the commercial Golf Centres and relaxed pay and play non-member clubs. I know in the US there is a bigger impact to university/college clubs, but again, those who ‘own’ the golf clubs and will do for many years don’t seem to be making any changes at all. Especially at membership focused clubs.”


Coaching the next generation of budding golfer (credit: thodgson.com)


Eden golf club’s general manager, Will Tyson, also hasn’t noticed any changes at the club since LIV’s emergence. He said: “I wouldn’t actually say there’s been improved numbers playing the course, I would actually say there’s more people watching it purely down to it being on YouTube and being excess able that way. But through the golf club I haven’t seen any juniors, or noticed any juniors, taking it up because of LIV. It’s because of the big names like McIlroy and, obviously, other big names, Tiger Woods, that’s why juniors typically take up golf rather than it being a governing body like LIV.”



Despite the seemingly best efforts of LIV’s top dogs, the new golf league doesn’t appear to have grown the game for local golf cubs all that much. However, to throw LIV a lifeline, so to speak, the new competition is in its infant stages. LIV is yet to celebrate its third birthday whilst the PGA Tour is in its 56th year. Tyson believes Eden couple see a growth in memberships in the future for junior golfers as LIV continues to develop.


“I think we will, but obviously it’s on YouTube it’s not anywhere else so at the minute everyone’s still watching the PGA Tour and the DP World tour. If LIV can break through into a mainstream broadcasting, then we will see the difference but right now, no.”


Eden Golf Club’s picturesque last hole


LIV has its supporters and it incorporate new aspects to the game that could attract new players. After all golf doesn’t have the greatest of reputations. Boring is a word often thrown at the game. So, a revamp to the game can’t be all bad, surely.


“I think ultimately yes”, a member at Eden Golf Club and up and coming golfer, Lewis Ransley, said to whether LIV Golf has helped to ‘grow the game’ for golfers.


“Since the emergence of LIV, the number of newcomers to golf has risen significantly, however this could also be due to LIV and Covid-19 coinciding with each other. The “laid back ” and “cool” aspect of LIV has probably grown the game for non-golfers, especially when it comes to watching live golf.


“LIV has definitely had an impact on the talk amongst golfers at my home club. Most keen golfers will watch golf for what it is and therefore won’t care too much on where the Tour is financed from.”


The final round of this year’s Masters saw a viewership decline of 20 per cent from the previous year. That’s telling. People are getting bored of the same narrative around golf, it’s child play, and it’s clearly a detraction for fans. If this were to continue, and filter down to local golf clubs, then forget looking at growing the game we may need LIV and the PGA Tour to save it.


Ultimately, LIV does have aspects that can appeal to younger generations to attract them to their local courses, but it may need to compromise. It’s competitive elements have been questioned. A unified golf is a stronger golf.