The PGA Tour just doesn’t get it. Plain and simple.
During the waning stages of the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif., members of the media were sent the following release/threat from Executive Vice President of Communications & International Affairs and Executive Director of the International Golf Federation, Ty Votaw:
As you know, our media regulations prohibit the use of real-time, play-by-play transmission in digital outlets. In order to enforce these regulations, beginning this year, we will revoke the on-site credentials of all journalists affiliated with outlets that post play-by-play coverage, whether those posts are originating from tournament site or otherwise.
Thanks for your cooperation.
Basically what the PGA Tour is trying to do with this measure is make certain that they control all dissemination of tournament information.
For different people, this release means different things. The first thing that pops into most peoples’ heads is the use of the Golf Channel’s Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker). The Tiger Tracker is the definition of a play-by-play transmitter, tweeting out every shot of every round. But it may come with a caveat.
As Sports Illustrated’s David Dusek pointed out, Golf Channel is a paying partner of the PGA Tour, so it’s likely that the GC people play by a different set of rules.
For others, this is a First Amendment issue, which seems to fall directly under the protection of said amendment. However, this is the PGA Tour we’re talking about. They haven’t exactly been on the vanguard of the digital and social media age.
This proclamation from on high has a lot of people scratching their heads. Does the PGA Tour not understand that embracing social media — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, et al — is doing a lot to grow the game and, in turn, giving them more exposure?
As one of the most stigmatized games played in the world today, social media as a whole and Twitter especially, has led to tremendous gains as far as fan interaction and interest in the players is concerned.
The notion that the guys on the course are non-feeling robots has been somewhat debunked as a result of their use of social media.
We’ve gotten to know nearly everyone on Tour better as a result of their willingness to jump into social media headfirst.
And now the PGA Tour wants to nip that “problem” in the bud?
With this threat, the PGA Tour once again shows how behind the times they actually are. The first piece of evidence behind this is that when you see a problem, you address it posthaste. That’s not the case here. The use of “play-by-play digital transmission,” as the Tour calls it, has been used to the Tour’s advantage for years now. The usage by media officials on the ground is what makes for a fuller experience for the fans of the game.
Golf’s reach has never been larger and most of that has social media to thank. The media’s acceptance of the changing news cycle and the enthusiasm for which they can relay the games’ happenings is beneficial not only to the PGA Tour, but also to the game of golf as a whole.
With the backlash that has already been drummed up by Thursday’s announcement, it will be interesting to see how the Tour responds to the outcry for on-the-ground coverage as well as to see how they take action (if they do) against violators of their policy.
If you want your voice to be heard, just like with government, you can contact the guys making the rules. Email the PGA Tour or tweet at @PGATour or @PGATourMedia and tell them how live tweeting is helping your enjoyment of the game.
An email to Ty Votaw was not immediately responded to and this post will be updated if/when he chooses to respond.
UPDATE: Friday, Jan. 25, 2013 at 2 p.m.
According to a tweet from FoxSports.com’s Robert Lusetich, the PGA Tour has clarified that their threat to revoke credentials wasn’t as stringent as some were led to believe.
Got clarification on Tour’s live tweet threat. They want to shut down play-by-play, defined as more than 1 tweet/hole. I can live with that
— Robert Lusetich (@RobertLusetich) January 25, 2013
While it’s not unlikely that the Tour heard the complaints coming from both media members and fans and backed off their original statement, that’s something that we will never know. And for the most part, the threat has become empty and the media are able to carry on just as they had been. Turns out, it was a lot of fuss about nothing.