Sport’s ability to unite people under one shared game; or one team; or one individual; or one nation, gives it an ability to bring people together like no other form of social activity. Even more so over the past 18 months, sports such as golf have played a crucial role in lifting the spirits, raising hopes and providing stay-at-home entertainment for millions of people throughout the world.
This demand has been heightened even more recently with a string of major sporting events such as the European Football Championships and the Olympics in Tokyo. The BBC recorded a record-breaking 104-million online viewing requests to watch the Olympics, up from 74.4 million in 2016. It highlights an increase in viewership but also demonstrates the evolving nature of viewing behaviour and the online types of media now being consumed by fans.
The conclusion? Major sporting events have the power to attract significant swathes of the population to watch their favourite athletes and teams. Sports viewership has also inevitably become one of the few benefactors of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With two of the biggest events in golf taking place over the next few weeks in the Ryder Cup and the Solheim Cup, golf has one of its biggest opportunities to continue this trend – something that both events have historically been exceptional at. The Solheim Cup in 2019 and the Ryder Cup in 2018 attracted attendances of over 90,000 and 270,000 respectively. The Ryder Cup generated 22 billion social media impressions and 11.1 million minutes of coverage; US broadcaster NBC reported an average of 2.7 million viewers during the final round alone. With these sorts of numbers there is no wonder team golf in the women’s and men’s games continues to punch above the rest when trying to engage wider, harder-to-reach audiences.
A possible explanation for this is in the very nature of team sports. The likes of football, baseball, cricket, rugby and hockey satisfy people’s craving for affiliation and belonging. In other words, they provide that platform for people to connect and interact with others through their support of a particular outfit. For some, a team has such an influence on their identity and behaviour that it actually becomes a part of who they are. The result from all of this is an unrivalled and unmatched level of engagement and fan loyalty.
For most weeks of the year, golf’s individualistic nature as a sport creates less opportunity for people to truly connect to one athlete, and they often opt to support and wager on a number of players instead. Whilst viewership remains popular week-in week-out during these events, they don’t have the same effect that Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup have.
Team golf also elevates the athletes to levels of stardom they do not usually attain. The matches give them the chance to become a hero. Some inevitably do – you only have to look at the likes of Suzanne Pettersen, Ian Poulter and Seve Ballesteros to recognise that fact. For golfers of all ages and abilities, watching them create history for a team they are backing stirs the senses and elevates their emotions to levels unmatched by regular strokeplay tournaments (with the exception of the majors and the Olympics).
So, when you mix increased viewing figures with the spine-tingling, hair-raising and enthralling moments that unfold during these two events, team golf inevitably creates a cocktail of opportunities for the game’s lasting sustainability and prosperity. They provide a chance to capture the imagination of millions of young people; to showcase the sport in a different light; to create genuine enthusiasm to learn and play the game. For golfers and fans alike, there will always be a huge appetite for team competition in golf.
As golf prepares to stage two of its biggest occasions in its calendar over the space of just a few weeks, one can only imagine the levels of excitement, passion and nervous energy that will be on show for all to witness and experience. It begs the question: should team golf become a more permanent fixture?
What is The Solheim Cup?
The Solheim Cup combines the game’s traditions with passion for one’s country and continent. This biennial, transatlantic team match-play competition features the 12 best European players from the Ladies European Tour (LET) and the 12 best US players from the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour. Since 1990, both teams have come together over three days of competition to provide audiences with a mix of fierce rivalry, shot-making skills and significant exposure for the women’s game.
Through its relationship with the event, it is perhaps one of PING’s most significant contributions to the women’s game – it was named in honour of Karsten and Louise Solheim, the founders of Karsten Manufacturing Corporation, which makes PING equipment. Off the back of the success of The Solheim Cup, the PING Junior Solheim Cup was also formed, an event that sees twelve of the best European amateurs go up against their American counterparts.