Royal Liverpool Golf Club’s motto is one of the most fitting in sports. In two nouns and a conjunction, it encapsulates the way members should strive to play. But it also speaks to the way a championship course should present itself, and continuing further, maybe even to the way one should live life.
It led me to consider what my own motto should be. From a work perspective with my role on the NBC Sports golf team, these were the first three words that came to mind: “Prepare and Create.”
Those are the two actions that, more than anything else, lay the groundwork for good live television.
Prepare for every eventuality, because anything – and I do mean anything – can happen.
Prepare for every eventuality, because anything – and I do mean anything – can happen. Create content that is creative and imaginative and stands out in the most indelible way possible.
NBC has been The Open’s live rights-holder in the United States since 2016. Our main crew is fortunate enough to be the broadcaster for some of the sport’s greatest events such as the U.S. Open, The Players Championship, and the Ryder Cup.
Live action always comes first on our shows. We are there to document the competition; however, golf shots don’t happen in a vacuum. Providing context and insight is imperative for the viewer. For The Open, with its unique history and storied rota of legendary links, that is amplified, and our production takes on a whole different level.
Before each championship, I travel to the host club and spend up to a week visiting each site and exploring the area.
Before each championship, I travel to the host club and spend up to a week visiting each site and exploring the area. I conducted my journey to Royal Liverpool last October. My mission is always to absorb as much as possible about the club – its course, history, and members. It’s a task best accomplished by walking and playing the links, perusing displays and archives, and being intensely curious. Still, even in this technological age, meeting people face-to-face remains the best source of content.
From Simon Newland I learned that members at Hoylake are invested in the club unlike almost anywhere else in the United Kingdom. There is a recognition of the club’s position in the world of golf and an embracing of its responsibility. Nowhere have I found members as warm or engaging and also eager to learn about you and share the stories of their love of the club.
From James Bledge I learned about sandscapes, rebuilding bunkers, Virginia Creeper Ivy, and Siouxsie and Sandy.
From Bruce Taylor I learned that a handicap index is just a number.
And from Blyth Bell I learned that my daily limit on cups of tea should be 10. In between the pots of Yorkshire Tea, Dr. Bell taught me something else: the history of this place is alive.
It’s on the walls of the iconic clubhouse. It’s around the internal out-of-bounds on the links. It’s in the original scrapbooks in the library. And it’s in the hearts of its members.
I doubt there is another private club where as many books have been written about it by its own members. From Guy Farrar to Joe Pinnington, these writings form a foundation for my research. Dr. Bell and Roger Greenway’s A Hoylake Celebration is one of the best club history books I have ever read.
Although I do have selfish motives, I can’t stress enough the importance of preserving and sharing documents and artifacts. This extends to the club’s archive committee, where work by those such as Mr. Taylor and archivist Erin Shields is vital in continuing that mission.
Hoylake has made my job easy and difficult at the same time. There are so many important stories to be told.
Hoylake has made my job easy and difficult at the same time. There are so many important stories to be told. Even though our NBC crew will be on the air for approximately 30 hours over the four scheduled days of competition, it will be a monumental challenge to tell all of the stories I’d like.
Our initial content plan came together at the start of the year with me and our lead producer Tommy Roy. It will be revised and amended all the way up until the final putt drops on July 23. The information and ideas from my trip and subsequent research are broken down and divided into a variety of production elements:
A Saturday tease: a cinematic-like creation to pull viewers into our weekend shows.
Bumpers: 30-second vignettes, usually historical in nature (A perfect spot to tell the story of Hoylake and the Haskell ball.).
Features: subject matter that deserves more than a passing mention (One on Matthew Jordan would be nice. We hope he qualifies.).
Custom graphics: taking advantage of our visual medium (All the rounds of 64 and lower in Opens at Hoylake. Wink, wink.).
LiveU: a camera that can go anywhere there is a cell phone signal (Should we have a live shot inside Anfield or Goodison? Oh the decision!).
What’s not created as a production element becomes information for our commentators. If there’s a player left of the green on “Far”, we’ll know about the final round of the 1930 Open. If a camera pans to Grainger Hill, we’ll know the names of the monuments and, most importantly, which is which.
From the club’s amateur ethos to Hilbre Island, the Royal Hotel to the Village Play, Ball to Hilton, Bobby Jones to the Natterjack Toads, we’ll try to cover it all, or at least be prepared to.
That includes Little Eye. The divide among the membership was noticeable on my visit. Some love the new par 3; others not so much. From architectural and historical standpoints, it’s a debate I’m sure won’t end after The Open. But television producers will love it, even more so if the wind is up. There will be drama to that tee shot no matter the actor.
At the end, the Champion Golfer of the Year will receive the claret jug, but Royal Liverpool Golf Club deserves to be the star that week. With a little preparation and creativity, I hope it will be for our American audience.