From the bland and downright annoying to informative and fun, golf’s on air personalities entertain and sometimes irritate viewers.
Here’s a review of the best and worst of golf’s more notable announcers, analysts and commentators:
Tom Abbott (Golf Channel)–Although he tends to get a bit wordy at times, it doesn’t really annoy me because of his melodic English accent. A native of London, England, Abbott likes to incorporate an entertainment flair with his golf telecast performances. Known primarily for his work on the LPGA, he’s also been the co-host of the Golf Channel’s “Big Break” since 2010 and has been showing up on some PGA Tour telecasts recently. Paul Azinger (FOX)—“The Zinger” is opinionated and he draws his opinions, analysis and assumptions from a career that included a major championship and captain of a Ryder Cup team. I liked him better when he was teamed with Nick Faldo on ABC, but I still enjoy his game whenever he shows up on golf telecasts.
Ian Baker-Finch (CBS)—“Finchy” as he’s often called on broadcasts, has one of the greatest accents ever.The Aussie, who also does golf for TNT, is knowledgeable and can certainly turn a phrase. Just like Henry Longhurst and Peter Aliss, I can’t get enough of Finchy’s accent.
Notah Begay (Golf Channel)–He’s a buddy of Tiger’s going back to their days at Stanford, so Begay is, not surprisingly, a Woods apologist. That said, he offers up some interesting takes on playing between the ropes. Begay’s PGA Tour career was disappointing, but with some seasoning and enough T.V. reps he could turn out to be better analyst. Just, please, don’t ask this guy any Tiger questions because he’ll never bum kick his friend.
Brandel Chamblee (Golf Channel)—He comes off as somewhat of a know-it-all frat boy with his dapper outfits and Prince Valiant haircut, but Chamblee knows golf. He can break down a swing as well as anyone on T.V. and he’s not afraid to criticize golf’s biggest stars. Jane Crafter (ESPN)–She’s the female answer to Ian Baker-Finch with her soothing Aussie accent. A pharmacist before she bean playing professional golf, Crafter may not have a marquee name, but she knows the game and works diligently to explain the nuances to viewers.
Nick Faldo (CBS)—It’s hard to believe Faldo was so mum with the media when he played. Sir Nick can talk endlessly about golf. He seemingly has a well thought out opinion on just about every aspect of the professional game. Faldo is at the top of his broadcasting game because he’s superb at telling the viewer exactly what’s it’s like to play between the ropes.Nobody gets inside the minds of superstar players like Faldo.
David Feherty (CBS/Golf Channel)—He’s just not that funny. Feherty always seems more interested in desperately trying to come up with zany one-liners than actually analyzing the golf action around him. It’s sad, most of his jokes crash and burn. I cringe every time the announcer says, “Let’s go to Feherty.”
Terry Gannon (Golf Channel)–A smooth talker who typically works on LPGA telecasts, Gannon is one of the best set-up men in the business. No matter who he’s working with, Gannon asks pertinent questions to the analyst and moves the coverage along effortlessly.
Dan Hicks (NBC)—He’s a solid announcer that never seems to say anything too offensive or annoying. Hicks does a great job of setting up Johnny Miller and making the broadcast flow effortlessly.
Gary Koch (NBC)–The analyst who coined the phrase, “Better than Most” tends to agree with Johnny Miller too much rather than expressing his own opinion. That said, you can’t deny Koch’s knowlege of the game as he has was a star junior and college player, middle-of-the-pack guy on the PGA Tour and a Champions Tour player.
Peter Kostis (CBS)—He gets a bit technical on his swing analysis and I’m not a big fan of his interviewing, but Kostis is extremely knowledgeable and adds a lot to a broadcast. A member of Golf Digest’s teaching staff, Kostis has worked with Bernhard Langer, Steve Elkington and Mark Calcavecchia, so he knows the ins and outs of the PGA Tour game.
Rich Lerner (Golf Channel)–A smooth talker, adept at reading a teleprompter and well versed in statistics, Lerner is a thorough professional who rarely makes a mistake. He’s very comfortable in front of the camera and never seems to get rattled.
Verne Lundquist (CBS Masters Coverage)—It wouldn’t be the Masters without veteran Verne.He’s been in a tower at the Masters for 28 years. This guy was born to be a sports announcer. He’s one of those golden voices that’s never annoying or grating, and he always adds to the drama, not detract from it.
Roger Maltbie (NBC)–A former PGA Tour player, ol’ “Rodge” is a reliable, venerable, on-the-course reporter who has that comfortable, drinking buddy kind of demeanor that is never irritating. You can easily imagine having a single malt or a pint with Maltbie and listening to his colorful golf stories.
Gary McCord (CBS)—I enjoy McCord, the author of “A Range Ball in a Box of Titleists”. Even though many of his lines seem rehearsed before the broadcast, he’s funny and adds a lot to the production. Too bad, the hierarchy at the Masters doesn’t feel the same way.
Johnny Miller (NBC)—You get the feeling Miller couldn’t care less what anybody on Tour thinks of his commentary. That’s what makes Miller so appealing. He’s the antithesis of a butt kisser. I trust his analysis and opinions because the guy had a serious golf game in his day. He knows what he’s talking about and you never know what he’ll say next. The feelings of anticipation and unpredictability when you’re watching a telecast with Miller make him must watch T.V.
Jim Nantz (CBS)—Nobody in the business does it like Jim Nantz. While you can criticize him for being too mushy or overdramatic when talking about the Masters and Augusta National, Nantz is always well prepared and unruffled on the air. He makes few mistakes and doesn’t impose his personality on the viewer. It’s an art to be on the air for so long and not annoy the heck out of people.
Frank Nobilo (Golf Channel)—With his great New Zealand accent and an ability to talk on every aspect of life on the PGA Tour, Nobilo is one of the best golf analysts on television. He’s not afraid to criticize, but always does it fairly with facts to back up his assertions.
Dottie Pepper (CBS)–A two-time major winner, Pepper is excellent at describing the physical and mental intricacies of playing professional golf at the highest level. She’s also not afraid to ruffle a few feathers once in a while. If you want a strong opinion, she delivers. Although she’s mellowed since her recent return to televised golf last year, who can forget her legendary line calling the 2007 Solheim Cup American team “choking freaking dogs.” Judy Rankin (Golf Channel)–She exudes class and knows both the men’s and women’s game. In fact, she was the first woman to work full-time on broadcasts of men’s events. Rankin know the LPGA better than anybody (after all, she served as the Tour president in 1976-77. Articulate and knowledgeable, Rankin never gets flustered and always puts the viewer in a good mood.
Tom Rinaldi (ESPN)–I used to like Rinaldi’s soft approach and heart-warming human interest pieces and post game interviews. I can’t take it anymore, though. Everything he does now has a certain sameness and predictability. He asks the same old and tired three questions: “How do you feel?”, “What were you thinking?” and “Why did you cry?”
Charlie Rymer (Golf Channel)–He sounds a bit like Gomer Pyle’s long lost cousin with his syrupy southern accent, but Rymer, a former star at Georgia Tech and a PGA Tour player, has some interesting takes and opinions. He doesn’t like to criticize other players much, but that doesn’t stop him from providing spot on analysis with a cornpone flair.
Kelly Tilghman (Golf Channel)—A former college player at Duke, Tilghman’s love for the game comes through as a play-by-play announcer. She’s attractive, knowledgeable and an easy listen. What more do you want?
Lanny Wadkins (Golf Channel)–He’s back. After a hiatus from golf broadcasting (Wadkins served as lead golf analyst for CBS Sports from 2002-2006), Wadkins is now lead analyst for Golf Channel’s Champions Tour coverage. He’s perfect for the job since he knows and played with most of the old geezers he’s covering. While not as caustic as Johnny Miller in his critiques, Wadkins isn’t afraid to express his opinion on questionable strategy, club selection or choking.
Gary Williams (Golf Channel)-You sometimes wonder if this guy gets paid by the word. He rambles on and on in a rapid pace with so many stats and historical references that your head starts to spin. Williams comes off as a guy that seems a little too enamored with himself and his golf knowledge, which, admittedly is vast and impressive.