In Depth: watching golf on free-to-air TV

YOU might want to watch The Masters this April as it may be the only major you get to watch on free-to-air TV this year.

YOU might want to watch The Masters this April as it may be the only major you get to watch this year.

You could be forgiven for getting a little too excited about the upcoming US Masters. When Adam Scott became the first Australian to win a green jacket in 2013 the monkey was off the back and all previous ghosts of Masters’ past were exorcised.

There is a now a genuine expectation that if an Aussie gets into contention on Masters Sunday, they’re as good a chance as anybody.

Now just three weeks away from the 2016 Masters the expectations are as high as they’ve ever been with five Australians currently in the field including Adam Scott who is playing like a man possessed and Jason Day arriving as the last man to win a major - the 2015 US PGA Championship.

Thankfully, all Australian golf fans will be able to watch the action on TV with the first major of the year being broadcast both on free-­to-­air and pay­ TV.

But if you only have access to free­-to-­air television, you’d better make the most of it as The Masters is the only major golf tournament you’ll be able to watch this year.

The Masters is one of three golf tournaments on Australia’s anti­-siphoning list (the other two are the Australian Open and the Australian Masters), meaning pay­ TV cannot get first rights to broadcast the event. In effect, the free­-to-­air networks get first pick.

And because live golf coverage doesn’t rate the way commercial television networks would like, you’re unlikely to see them broadcasting any other major any time soon.

The Open Championship is conspicuous by its absence from the anti-­siphoning list despite being at least on even par with The Masters for interest in Australia, especially given our past successes. It’s now been seven years since Channel Nine secured the rights to The Open and elected not to show it. No commercial network has picked it up ever since.



It’s tough to think that a generation of young Australians will only be exposed to a major tournament golf once a year. Not to mention a whole bunch of Australian golfers raising their “golf course conditioning” bar to an almost unachievable level after seeing the lush fairways and blooming azaleas at Augusta National.

And for golf fans who subscribe to pay­ TV and don’t think it this affects them, perhaps think again.

The lack of free­-to-­air TV is sure to have a detrimental impact on the game of golf in Australia. You would expect it will impact the rates of participation, club memberships and attendances at Australian golf tournaments (and therefore sponsors), if they haven’t already.

While watching the professionals play doesn’t always translate to a desire to play the game, less exposure to the game in any form will lead to less golfers and higher green fees in order to maintain golf clubs. And possibly less golf courses.

Golf on free­-to-­air TV has been dying a slow death for some time and it’s hard not to think the flow-­on effect hasn’t already had a negative impact when you consider the dire financial state of some Australian golf clubs.

The best thing you can do for golf in Australia is to make sure you’re up watching The Masters this April, and then get out and play. Better still, get someone else to do it with you.

There is a good chance they may see an Australian wearing a green jacket once more and have a burning desire to get out and try the game for themselves. It may also keep the of the major golf championships on free­-to-air TV for some time to come. 




Michael Green

Michael Green founded AussieGolfer.com.au - Australia's #1 golf blog - in 2007, is a member of The Australian Golf Writers Association and has covered some of Australia's biggest golf tournaments, including the Australian Open, the Presidents Cup and World Cup of Golf.

Michael began playing golf as a 10-year-old in Adelaide where his father introduced him to the game.

He has managed to maintain a single-figure handicap while studying, living and working abroad and keeping a close eye on his three children.

Michael has a PhD in Physics and when not writing about golf, he continues to work in medical research in Sydney.

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