Good news, golf fans: You’re about to see professional golf from a whole bunch of new angles.
The PGA Tour has struck a deal with Netflix on an all-new episodic documentary series, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation. The show will aim to provide unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to some of the best golfers in the world as they play the 2021-22 PGA Tour season, with production and filming set to begin early next season.
Vox Media, whose Netflix collaborations include the popular “Explained” series, and Box to Box Films, the media company behind Netflix’s Formula 1 show “Drive to Survive,” will each be involved with production as well. And Main Event Productions, the company created by Rickie Fowler (which produced a docuseries for Netflix in 2019), was involved in early development of the show.
The cast is still being finalized, but those who have already agreed to participate include several of the Tour’s top players.
When reached by GOLF, Netflix, the PGA Tour and Vox Media declined to comment on the specifics of the series, its cast or the show’s upcoming production. Box to Box Films did not respond to a request for comment.
But here’s what we do know:
According to sources familiar with the program, the new PGA Tour series will be modeled on Netflix’s success with “Drive to Survive,” the Formula 1 docu-series currently in production on its fourth season.
Upon its initial release in 2019, “Drive to Survive” promised to deliver “unparalleled and exclusive access to the world’s fastest drivers” as well as their teams and Formula 1 management. The formula has produced a smash hit, synthesizing the drama of the racing season with personalities and stories away from the track. It has been a virtuous cycle, where fans of the show and its characters become fans of the sport, thus further fueling the success of the show.
The racers and owners have bought in, too: Eight of the 10 Formula 1 teams participated in the first season, but by the beginning of Season 2, the two holdouts — Ferrari and Mercedes — joined as well.
The PGA Tour series would essentially follow the same model, filming with its cast members at tournaments, at home and during all the in-between times, showcasing a full behind-the-scenes experience.
If golf can capture any of the magic of its racing predecessor, it’s a win-win for both the Tour and Netflix. “Drive to Survive” has contributed to a significant uptick in F1 interest and viewership across the United States since its launch.
The CEO of McLaren Racing told reporters that the Netflix show was “the single most important impact for Formula 1 in North America.” And the average F1 TV audience in the United States has risen from 547,000 in 2018 to 928,000 in 2021, according to the New York Times.
Production for the PGA Tour’s series is set to begin in the 2021-22 season, pending the cast’s finalization. One source close to the show anticipated that filming won’t begin in earnest until the beginning of 2022, based on limited cast participation in fall events.
With “Drive to Survive,” Netflix has filmed throughout a season and then released the series ahead of the start of the next season, which could be a model replicated by the Tour.
Both Netflix and the PGA Tour declined to elaborate on the series’ anticipated rollout.
The PGA Tour series will focus on a cast of roughly a dozen players, tracking their progress inside and outside the ropes, taking viewers from Tour sites to life at home.
While several “big names” are already on board, sources close to the show have been unwilling to officially confirm a player list based on several ongoing negotiations.
Still, the players under consideration are a high-powered bunch. The cast includes major champions, Ryder Cuppers and some half-dozen of the top 20 in the current World Ranking.
The success of the series will hinge on access and authenticity. Access will hinge on the final list of participants as well as their willingness to open up on the Tour’s weekly goings-on. Authenticity will depend on all parties allowing the sport’s most interesting subplots to play out on screen.
The PGA Tour, Tour players and their management teams are notoriously protective of their images. But players are also keenly aware of brand-building, both to attract sponsors and to compete in the Player Impact Program, which pays out $40 million to the Tour’s highest-profile golfers at the end of the season.
A few big questions remain: Which top players will sign on? How much off-course access will they grant film crews? Just how “real” will this reality television get?
We can’t wait to find out.