The thing that has changed the game of golf fundamentally is television, writes ANDY CAPOSTAGNO.
In the run-up to this year’s Masters, Golf Digest published a series of photographs taken by former editors between about 1957 and 1973. What struck me about the grainy black-and-white images was the absence of branding on the golfers’ attire. One in particular showed a 21-year-old Gary Player in a striped golf shirt without a visible logo of any kind.
In those far-off days woods were made of wood, strange as that may seem today. Caps were few and far between, with some sporting the straw fedora, made famous by Sam Snead, and many more as bare-headed as nature intended. Gloves were also far from a must-have item.
Indeed, in Stephen Potter’s seminal work, The Complete Golf Gamesmanship, first published in 1968, gloves are regarded somewhat dismissively. If you really want to put off your opponent, suggests Potter, take an old gardening glove and cut out a diamond shape on the back. That will put the right amount of doubt into your opponent’s mind about your true ability.
Returning to the photos, the point of all these professional golfers without branding is that they could pass unnoticed in a crowd. A picture of Arnold Palmer talking to golf writer Bob Drum at his desk during the 1963 Masters is exactly what it seems to be: a couple of buddies chatting about life and sharing a cigarette.
Perhaps the most astonishing are two pictures of Australian great Peter Thomson. In the first he is walking the fairways with his caddie; in the second he is hunched over a typewriter in the press room. Thomson would play The Masters in the morning and file copy back to Australia in the afternoon. It’s hard to imagine Adam Scott or Jason Day doing that.
The thing that has changed the game of golf fundamentally is television. That was the reason branding appeared on clothing in the first place. And today’s HD broadcasting has enabled the marketers to move to the next level.
Players are plastered from head to foot with logos because the camera can see them and bring them into the home. As for clubs and balls, HD has changed the marketplace fundamentally. When Sergio Garcia beat Justin Rose in a playoff to win the 2017 Masters, both men were using TaylorMade’s Spider Tour putter. The distinctive red head became that year’s must-have and the putter quickly established itself as the industry sales leader.
That could not have happened in the days before HD, because TV did not broadcast the now-familiar low-angle close-ups of the putterhead striking the ball. Back in the day the flatstick was exactly that; a stick with a flat bit on the end.
And ultimately, the job of advertising is to convince you that your stick with a flat bit is not as good as the one we have for sale at this never-to-be-repeated price.
Furthermore, it’s going to knock 10 shots off your score, so why worry about the digits it’s going to knock off your bank account?
– Andy Capostagno writes for Compleat Golfer’s corner dedicated to the triers