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Netflix captures where golf and politics clash


Netflix came out with a new series Feb. 15 entitled “Full Swing,” and it may have done the unthinkable — it made the sport of golf fun. The series followed a collection of six golfers all trying to make it on the PGA tour which is the biggest professional golf tour, essentially like what the NBA would be to basketball. The docuseries focused on the personal life of the golfers, as well as the caliber of their play on the course. Like most sports shows there was drama surrounding injuries, low confidence, and bad coaching. However the real drama of the series was political. 

When the show was filmed in the 2021-22 season, a new golf league was being advertised, LIV, a tour run by Saudi Arabia. As many perceived in the docuseries, this new league was a way for Saudi Arabia to use the spectacle of sports to cover up the international condemnation of their human rights policies and abuses. In one scene of the series a reporter asks a golfer, “Would you play for Vladimir Putin if he paid you enough?” To an outside eye would make a pretty compelling case for golfers to avoid the league, however there’s one more component — money. LIV was offering big name professional PGA golfers millions of guaranteed dollars to play for them. 

To understand the impact of this, it’s important to know that PGA golfers only get paid if they do well. During a golf tournament there is a pot and the winner gets most of it, but the money is distributed to all of the players who make “the cut” which happens halfway through the tournament and gets rid of half the competition for the remaining holes. This means that really good golfers probably have at least some money they will earn at each tournament, but the amount varies greatly. For mediocre players, or aging stars, one mistake means you can’t even recoup your travel fees. Therefore, Saudi Arabia offering guaranteed millions is a big deal. 

The drama of the series continues with the response of the PGA: Any golfer who takes a deal with LIV can’t participate in any of the PGA tournaments. This means all the majors in golf, the tournaments that we typically hear about like the masters, would ban LIV players from entering. The choice then becomes about money and status for the players. 

Netflix has had quite a few sports docuseries in the past few years. From their hit show “Cheer” about collegiate cheerleading to their popular F1 series on racing, they are no strangers to the genre of sports reality. However, this series’ political implications may allow it to transcend just sports fans, although there are plenty of dramatic sports moments too. For anyone interested in any of these topics, “Full Swing” is worth the shot. 

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