Can golf learn from Darts? January 03 2017
Okay so lets be honest here very few old club secretaries are going to read this and be supportive. In fact a few may spill their gunners on their lambswool - but I think golf can learn from the PDC. PDC is the Professional Darts Corporation and every year puts on a smorgasbord of drama, excitement, high thrills and exceptional sporting ability in the World Championship of darts.
If you look down your nose at Darts as easy, or not a proper sport go and give it a try. Promise me you won't leave the board until you hit a 180. Get comfy you could be there for some time. Then you should realise the players in the final did that 40 times between them in about 95 minutes.
It's a highly skilled discipline that requires dedicated practice and the ability to perform under pressure. That's not where the similarities end either. The combatant throws at a board which his opponent cannot move or influence in anyway. In fact if he plays well it really doesn't matter what his opponent does. The top players talk about playing the board and blocking out what others are doing. Advice Jack Nicklaus give the world 30 years ago.
But where the sports diverge is on the coverage. Darts players perform with crowds literally baying, chanting, drinking and having an absolutely great time. This years crowds included none other than Danny Willet and 'Beef' Andrew Johnson. Stewards don't walk around trying to get silence and players enter the arena to a boxing style walk on. In all my time watching it no player has ever growled because he got "put off by a camera clicking". Last night a man (idiot) ran on to the stage right in front of the players. Gary Anderson's response when he had been captured was to throw a 140.
As a result of the atmosphere the crowds are younger and much more diverse. As a result this is a sport that continues to grow and engage youngsters.
Barry Hearn owns and runs the PDC and obviously his flair for entertainment cannot be questioned. His company Matchroom actually runs a golf tour - the EuroPro Tour - and to a man the players love this mini tour but until he and his team get to advise and help grow the bigger tours all of this is in vain. But he should consulted and given two weeks of the season.
The darts recognise the following so well:-
1. Fans love player v player match ups. Jason Day v Henrik Stenson would get me tuning in. In the early rounds Day v Daly would be intriguing.
2. In the early rounds the format is much shorter. Means a bigger field but also a much greater risk of an upset. Fans love an underdog. Daly toppling the world number one seems crazy to us but why?
3. Virtually none of the commentators talk about technique. They talk constantly about the battle - what the player needs to do. The closest we have to that in golf is Claude Harmon or Wayne Riley. At least they give us an idea of where the player is trying to get the ball to.
4. In darts as players have got better they haven't moved the board further away. Fans love to see excellence that they can directly compare. In our sport we read the stats from tour and think - oh that's not so much better than me. And then someone points out the courses are setup so we couldn't even break 90.
It's unlikely that anyone will ever seriously change our formats and for the traditionalist thats a comforting thought as we hurtle toward more course closures and fewer and fewer players teeing it up. Sometimes it seems we are actually happy to run a game that's slowly falling off the nations conscience