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The Top-10 Announcers in Golf

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By Chris Hibler

GolfWRX Contributor

I’m an American, born and bred. I needed to mention that right off the bat. As I sat here reviewing my list of the top-10 golf announcers in the game, I realized that it has a decidedly international flavor, as it were. I’m not sure if I am sucker for a foreign accent or stodgy in my ways.  Whatever the reason, I tended to go “Euro” (or Kiwi) as my list wears on.

My top-10 list is not designed to say who has called the most majors, or who has the best catch phrase, or who has the greatest golf resume (although it doesn’t hurt either). I didn’t do this based on popular opinion, who I liked best five years ago, or anything scientific.

The way I arrived at this list was based on nothing more analytical than personal opinion. I watch nothing but golf and other sports on TV. I use my DVR to record golf from Europe to Asia to the good ol’ US of A. I watch when I get home and when I go to sleep. On the whole, I am very satisfied with current crop of announcers and commentators. It seems that we have arrived at a good state of golf announcing right now as there is a healthy mix guys who are established as well as both women and men who are up-and-coming.

This list is written in reverse order, meaning my favorite is at the bottom of the list (No. 1). So, without further adieu, I present my top-10 list of golf announcers in the game. Feel free to add your comments and share your perspectives of why I’m wrong and/or who I forgot.

10. Jim Nantz 

The sole reason Jim Nantz makes the list is the Masters. I can’t remember a thing he has said and I can’t recall a specific insight or magical moment. But, Nantz does possess a good quality of voice and is, at this stage of his career, synonymous with the Masters, which is undoubtedly my favorite golf viewing tournamentt year in and year out. There are many other announcers better than him. But I put him up on the list solely as being the guy in the right place (Augusta, Georgia) at the right time (The Masters each year).

9. Stephanie Sparks

This is an odd add to my list, I have to admit. I was combing through my mind for announcers and commentators that have made an impression on me. Stephanie Sparks is one of those. I know she covers the LPGA, which I don’t watch as much as I would like. But, I actually put her on this list for her other commentary work, most notably “Playing Lessons with the Pros.” I think the first “Playing Lessons” episode that I watched was with her and Ian Poulter. I realized right then and there that she had a certain flair as an announcer and gained the

respect of not only Mr. Poulter but many of the other notable PGA Tour pros that she interviewed as she played alongside them. She’s got game, too. She also gets an “honorable mention” as being the 50 percent part of the announcing team on the “Big Break” that is actually tolerable!

8. Ken Venturi

My list, my rules. Yes, Ken Venturi retired as a golf announcer. But, after watching him in an extensive interview earlier in 2012 (which was an extremely enjoyable hour); I realized that he could still call golf if given the opportunity right now. He was one of the best ever, was the voice of the Masters and had an incredible resume as both a golfer AND announcer. He also was, and still is,

comfortable both praising and criticizing, which I believe are critical to success as a commentator. Yes, the retired Ken Venturi deserves a spot on any list of current golf announcers, in my opinion!

7. Roger Maltbie

I feel that Roger is one of the best in the business as an on-course reporter. He reminds me of a favorite uncle. He is both likable and engaging. He describes the situation, has the right balance of humor combined with keen insight, and he seems to be at every tournament every week. He has the respect of the players and does a solid job at interviewing them right as they walk off the green in good times and not-so-good times. He does not rely on any kind of gag. He does a solid job and deserves recognition as being the less outrageous of the on-course duo between Gary McCord and Uncle Maltbie.

6. Gary McCord

His frenetic, manic style combined with his own unique look at the world around him, thrown in with an inimitable way of describing things on the golf course lands him squarely on this list. Yes, I imagine that some of you are rolling your eyes and feeling that he is passé, but it is fun to see how hopped up he can be when his mic is on. You never know what he’s going to say.

I have to add that I feel like I got a better sense of who he is when I saw him interviewed on Feherty’s show earlier this year. Okay, I recognize that it is nearly impossible to NOT commentate on him and bring the Masters into the mix when discussing his career as a golf commentator. Personally, I feel that Augusta National has taken it too far with the “McCord ban.” If they can let women into the clubhouse (as they should have long ago), then it’s time to let McCord back on the grounds and let it finally be said that he has served his sentence in full for the notorious “bikini wax” and “body bags” comments. Let’s not forget that Fuzzy Zoeller went further than McCord ever did with offensive comments at The Masters and was never punished with as much force and venom as Mr. McCord was for his attempt at humor. Yes, Zoeller paid a step price in PR, but McCord has been shamed annually for over a decade for an innocent attempt at humor. Oh, Gary’s line about the greens at Augusta was funny, by the way!

5. David Feherty

This was another name that was tough to not only put this high on the list — but on the list at all. Yes, his act has grown a bit tired over the years. Yes, he may have stepped over the line announcing Els at the Tavistock Cup when Els subsequently unloaded on him in print (lighten up, Ernie!). Yes, Feherty rehearses funny lines and then pops them out when the occasion arises. Yes, he can even be a bit awkward at times in his interviews on his own show (although many have been terrific). But, he does still drop the perfect line with a touch of humor every now and then.

I think back to this year’s 2012 Masters when Phil Mickelson flopped a near-impossible shot from behind the 15th green. Feherty then said with a perfect delivery in his Iris brogue, “This is gonna land like a sack of flour.” What a line and what a delivery — and earns him a spot at No. 5. Here’s a link to the “Sack of Flour” flop shot. 

4. Johnny Miller

Had I written a top 10 list of announcers two years ago, Johnny would have certainly been at the top of the list: Numero Uno, the big cheese, the cream of the crop. I am still very high on him, thus I have placed him at No. 4. But, times do change and just like all of us, there are sometimes those that come along that are just a little bit better. We can all lose our edge regardless of what we do. Now, I’m not saying he has lost his edge, but I do feel at times that his criticisms can be a little stronger or seem a little more personal at times. They may even be called for, but they need to come off as constructive rather than destructive.

Just by listening to bits and pieces, I can tell that he wants to be out there playing against the guys. I like that as he still has a player’s cockiness. I don’t know who would win in a match between Johnny Miller 1973 v. Bubba Watson 2012. But, I do know that as an announcer they need to toe the line of staying humble and let us draw the conclusions of who the greatest players of all time were and are. Comparing players between eras is a tricky business in any sport. Johnny is certainly at the top of the list as both player and announcer. But, I would prefer if we were the ones to conclusion and not have it come from the source.

3. Frank Nobilo

Frank Nobilo is kind of like a song that becomes a part of my regular rotation. It goes like this: when I first listened, it was unfamiliar and just kind of there. Then, as I heard more and more, it became catchy. Then, after a period where I am accustomed to it, it is a standard in my library. I think Nobilo is rock solid as an announcer. He doesn’t rely on shtick or take too many shots at humor. But, what

he does do is provide smart insight combined with a strong golf resume all  rapped in a pleasant voice with respect from his co-workers and the pros he works around. His New Zealand accent combined with a sharp mind have made him a cornerstone of golf coverage on the Golf Channel — and an announcer that makes him No. 3 on my list. 

2. Peter Alliss

If you are unfamiliar with this name on the list, Peter Alliss is the voice of the European Tour and has dabbled in announcing over the years on ABC. I highly recommend that you watch his induction speech at the PGA Hall of Fame in 2012. It is an enjoyable 16 minutes, and more specifically, the last three are absolutely classic. Hopefully, you will recognize the voice and a have a window into possibly the best golf announcer ever to live. He combines a dry sense of humor with a quick wit, keen insight, a love of golf, and an accomplished career as bothprofessional golfer and announcer. Here’s a link to his induction speech.

1. Nick Faldo

I have him at No. 1 for a reason. He possesses all of the attributes that make for the perfect announcer: he has a clear and soothing voice, he has the right balance of sense of humor combined with the appropriate level of seriousness when needed, he has the resume from his days on tour and he possesses the right balance to know when to criticize and/or praise and when to back off a bit. That’s the recipe for perfection as a golf announcer and only a few on this list have ever achieved it (or can still achieve it). I also feel that Sir Nick is underrated. I hear a lot of people talk about Johnny Miller, David Feherty and Jim Nance. But, for me, Nick Faldo is the cream of the crop and seems to be only getting better.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

Chris Hibler is a contributor for GolfWRX.com. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the GolfWRX.

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Chris Hibler is an avid golfer, writer and golf gear junkie. If he's not practicing his game with his kids, he's scouring the GolfWRX classifieds looking for a score.

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21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Bill J

    Sep 10, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    Who us the substitute/temp/fill-in TV announcer on PGA Tour broadcasts who handles play by play commentary when the A team is taking breaks? I’ve seRched high and low for his identity but can’t find him.

  2. Al Russell

    May 21, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    How can a spectator have another spectator removed from the golf course, such as the Reed deal at the US Open?? I know some GO IN THE HOLE DUDES should be gone. Thanks Al

  3. Pingback: Ranking the 10 Best Golf Announcers and Commentators | NanSports

  4. kay swift

    Nov 16, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Who is the announcer on the European tour the takes deep breaths like
    a smoker. He is always out of breath. He is very hard to listen to.
    take that mike away from him

  5. kay swift

    Nov 16, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    who is the announcer right now that is hard to listen to because he sounds like he out of breath? get him off the mike.

  6. PJM

    Aug 31, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Generally agree, but feel Renton Laidlaw should certainly be on your list. Preferably replacing McCord. He defines insipid, trite, boring, clumsy, sophomoric to name just a few of his distasteful attributes. What a bozo. Any chance of him ever retiring. When his is on we mute the coverage.

    PJM

  7. Anne Moore

    Jun 14, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    induction cooker(modern)How it heats food without heating the vessel,
    is it harmful for health?

  8. Pingback: GolfWRX.com – The Top-10 Announcers in Golf | Golf Products Reviews

  9. Tom

    Nov 15, 2012 at 3:29 am

    I think you pretty much nailed it. “Your article, your rules”, on listing Ken Venturi, again you nailed it. I STILL miss him. He had his “Venturisims” (Jimmy, now he’s bring 6 & 7 into the picture”), for sure, but they were great. The guys I place with STILL use those when someone is trying to hit that “highlight reel” shot. McCord & Feherty, & Nantz, come from Chirkanian’s “don’t talk over the moment” school, the best advice ever. I don’t necessarily agree with the order, (Faldo is good, but I don’t know if #1, Allis I think is higher), but Johnny Miller, like him or not, he’s good. Nobilo may not have won everything, but he knows his stuff. Remember Verne Lundquist only gets rolled out for the Masters & specials, but again from the Chirkanian team, holds some of the best calls ever.

  10. Jonathan

    Nov 14, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    I feel like Peter Kostis should be on that list. At least his swing analysis is particularly insightful.

  11. Simon

    Nov 14, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    How good was Nobilo ? which Majors did he win ? When I listen to him I can only assume he did it all and won it all. I will go and research all his wins and then make another comment.

  12. Simon

    Nov 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Nick Faldo better than Peter Alliss ??? Come on you must be joking. I remind you of the speech Faldo gave when he captained the Ryder Cup (embarrassing) and the speech Alliss gave when he was inducted into Hall of fame (superb). Alliss has graced our airwaves for many years and is a joy to listen to. Faldo only tells us what he Finks and Fort of when he played and is actually boring beyond belief.

  13. JD

    Nov 13, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    JIM NANTZE !?! Thanks to his Love of his own voice I use the mute and fast forward buttons when he is in the booth. Frank Nobilo no.2 to Nick Faldo.

  14. JonMurdy

    Nov 13, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    Miller, Nablo, FALDO, COME ON. All there 3 do is talk about when they used to be able to play! They are about as usfully as a QUITE sign at the Waste Management 16th Hole!

    • Blanco

      Nov 15, 2012 at 2:42 am

      ^This.

      Those crusty European tour guys at least offer a soothing experience with a fair and balanced call of play. Faldo is the drama king and infuses his own ego into EVERYthing. He’s the royal prissy version of Greg Norman.

    • realfan

      Mar 30, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      Don’t forget to add “with arrogance, self importance and deliveries that MANY of us golf fans refuse to tune into when they are announcing.

  15. Peedeecue

    Nov 13, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    What no Chris Mortensen?

  16. Chris Hibler

    Nov 12, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    Chamblee is a good call — I missed on that one!

  17. killerbgolfer

    Nov 12, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    no chamblee?

  18. Courtney Capps

    Nov 12, 2012 at 11:32 am

    HANG on hang on hang on. I know Johnny Miller is popular (mostly among people who think professional wrestling is a real sport and that insulting players is good analysis), but a top 10 list that doesn’t include Renton Laidlaw from the European Tour ? How about Dougie Donnelly ? Miller and Nantz can both go, IMHO.

    Very impressed that you included Stephanie Sparks – she and Steve Sands are easily the best interviewers on the golf channel. Sadly, for the LPGA, they get the bottom of the barrel from TGC’s “talent” pool. Jerry Foltz and Sparks are the two bright spots.

    • sean_miller

      Nov 12, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      In his defense maybe he was pressed for page space and didn’t want to spend 1/2 of it explaining to the casual major network golf audience who those people are. If it wasn’t for thegolfchannel.com I’d have no idea who Stephanie Sparks is either.

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Courses

Coming Up: A Big Golf Adventure

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My name is Jacob Sjöman, and I’m a 35-year-old golf photographer who also enjoys the game we all love. I will be sharing some experiences here on a big golf trip that we are doing. With me I’ve got my friend Johan. I will introduce him properly later, but he is quite a funny character. According to Johan, he is the best golf photo assistant in the world, and we will see about that since this is probably his biggest test yet doing this trip. Previously on our trips, Johan almost got us killed in Dubai with a lack of driving skills. He also missed a recent evening photo shoot in Bulgaria while having a few beers to many… and that’s not all.

Anyway, the last couple of days I’ve been packing my bags over and over. I came home from the Canary Islands this Sunday and I’ve been constantly checking and rechecking that we’ve got all the required equipment, batteries, and that the cameras are 100 percent functional and good to go for this golf trip. I’m still not sure, but in a couple of minutes I will be sitting in a taxi to the airport and there will be no turning back.

Where are we going then? We are going to visit some of the very best golf courses in New Zealand and Australia. There will be breathtaking golf on cliffsides, jaw-dropping scenic courses, and some hidden gems. And probably a big amount of lost balls with a lot of material produced in the end.

I couldn’t be more excited for a golf journey like this one. Flying around the globe to these special golf courses I’ve only dreamed about visiting before gives me a big kick and I feel almost feel like a Indiana Jones. The only thing we’ve got in common, though, is that we don’t like snakes. Australia seems to be one of the worst destinations to visit in that purpose, but all the upsides are massive in this.

First, we will take off from a cold Stockholm (it’s raining heavily outside at the moment) and then we will do our first stop at Doha in Quatar. Then after two more hours, we are finally heading off to Auckland on the north island of New Zealand, a mega-flight of 16 hours. I believe that could very well be one of the longest flights available for a ordinary airplane. I need to check that.

Flights for me usually mean work, editing photos from different golf courses I’ve visited, writing some texts, editing some films, and planning for the future. Last time, though, I finally managed to sleep a little, which is a welcome progress for a guy that was deadly scared of flying until 2008.

Now, I am perfectly fine with flying. A few rocky flights over the Atlantic Sea to Detroit helped me a lot, and my motto is now, “If those flights got me down on the ground safely, it takes a lot of failures to bring down a plane.”

Anyway, I hope you will join me on this golf trip. Stay tuned!

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Opinion & Analysis

Be Curious, Not Critical, of Tour Player Swings

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After a foul ball by a tour player, the talking heads on TV are often quick to analyze the “problem” with that swing. Fair enough, I suppose. Even the best players are human and our game has more failure than success. But I’d like to offer a different take on swings of the best players in the world.

First, let’s remember how good these guys and gals really are. If you met up with the lowest ranked player on any professional tour at a public course one day, I’ll bet that golfer would be the best golfer most of you have ever played with. You’d be telling your buddies in the 19th hole about him or her for a very long time. These players have reached a level of ball striking most people only dream about. That’s why I’m more curious than critical when it comes to a tour player’s swing. I’m not thinking about what he/she needs to do better; I’m thinking, “How do they do it so well?” In other words, I want to know how they put their successful move together. What part goes with the other parts? How did their pattern evolve? What are the compatible components of their swing?

Let’s use Jim Furyk as an example. Furyk has what we might call an “unconventional” move. It’s also a swing that has won nearly $70 million and shot 58 one day. But I’ll offer him as an example because his swing illustrates the point I’m making. From a double-overlapping grip, Furyk picks the golf club up to what might be the most vertical position one would ever see from a professional. Then in transition, he flattens the club and drops it well behind him. Now the club is so flat and inside, he has to open his body as quickly as he can to keep the club from getting “stuck.” Let’s call it an “up-and-under loop.”

Let’s take Matt Kuchar as a counter example. Kuchar’s signature hands-in, flat and very deep takeaway is pretty much the total opposite of Furyk. But he comes over that takeaway and gets the club back into a great position into impact. We’ll call that an “in-and-over” loop.

Both are two of the best and most consistent golfers in the world. Is one right and the other wrong? Of course not. They do have one thing in common, however, and it’s that they both balanced their golf swing equation.

What would happen if Kuchar did what Furyk does coming down? Well, he wouldn’t be on TV on the weekend. If he did, he’d be hitting drop kicks several inches behind. That doesn’t win The Players Championship. The point is that the Furyk downswing is incompatible with the Kuchar backswing, and vice versa, but I’m guessing they both know that.

How can this help you? My own personal belief and the basis of my teaching is this: your backswing is an option, but your downswing is a requirement. I had one student today dropping the arms and club well inside and another coming over the top, and they both felt better impact at the end of the lesson. I showed them how to balance their equation.

My job is solving swing puzzles, a new one very hour, and I’m glad it is. It would be mind-numbing boredom if I asked every golfer to do the same thing. It’s the teaching professional’s job to solve your puzzle, and I assure you that with the right guidance you can make your golf swing parts match. Are there universal truths, things that every golfer MUST do?  Yes, they are the following:

  1. Square the club face
  2. Come into the ball at a good angle
  3. Swing in the intended direction
  4. Hit the ball in the center of the face (method be damned!)

But here’s the funny part: Let Kuchar or Furyk get off base and watch every swing critic in the world blame some part of the quirkiness of their move that has led to their greatness. When players at their level get off their game, it’s generally due to poor timing or that they lost the sync/rhythm that connected their individual parts. The same holds true for all of us. We have to find the matching parts and the timing to connect them. You might not need new parts.

After all, weren’t those same parts doing the job when you shot your career low round?

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Opinion & Analysis

The numbers behind “full scholarships” in NCAA men’s college golf

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If you are in the world of junior golf, you’ve probably heard about a young man you know who’s getting that coveted full ride to college, maybe even to a Power-5 school. With all the talk in junior golf about full scholarships, and a lot of rumors about how many are available, we decided to poll coaches and gather some real data about “full scholarships.”

So, what did we find out? In total, we got responses to a voluntary online survey from 61 men’s D1 coaches, 19 men’s D2 coaches and 3 NAIA coaches (83 total). On average, the coaches in the survey had 11.8 years of coaching experience. Of the coaches that responded, 58 of the 83 coaches reported having zero players on full ride. Another 15 coaches surveyed reported having one player on full ride. This means that 69 percent of the coaches surveyed reported zero players on full scholarship and 18 percent reported one player on full scholarship, while another four coaches reported that 20 percent of their team was on full ride and six coaches reported between 2-3 players on full ride.

We then asked coaches, “what percent of golfers in Division 1 do you think have full scholarships based on your best guess?” Here’s what the responses looked like: 25 coaches said 5 percent and 36 coaches said 10 percent. This means that 73 percent of respondents suggested that, in their opinion, in men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA, there are less than 10 percent of players on full ride.

Next, we asked coaches, “what was a fair scholarship percentage to offer a player likely to play in your top 5?” The average of the 83 responses was 62.5 percent scholarship with 38 coaches (46 percent) suggesting they would give 30-50 percent and 43 coaches (52 percent) suggesting 50-75 percent. Only two coaches mentioned full scholarship.

The last question we asked coaches, was “what would you need to do to earn a full scholarship?”

  • Top-100 in NJGS/Top-250 in WAGR – 41 coaches (49 percent)
  • 250-700 in WAGR – 19 coaches (23 percent)
  • Most interesting, 17 coaches (20 percent) noted that they either did not give full rides or did not have the funding to give full rides.

The findings demonstrate that full rides among players at the men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA levels are rare, likely making up less than 10 percent of total players. It also suggests that if you are a junior player looking for a full ride, you need to be exceptional; among the very best in your class.

Please note that the survey has limitations because it does not differentiate between athletic and academic money. The fact is several institutions have a distinct advantage of being able to “stack” academic and athletic aid to create the best financial packages. My intuition suggests that the coaches who responded suggesting they have several players on “full rides” are likely at places where they are easily able to package money. For example, a private institution like Mercer might give a student $12,000 for a certain GPA and SAT. This might amount to approximately 25 percent, but under the NCAA rules it does not count toward the coach’s 4.5 scholarships. Now for 75 percent athletic, the coach can give a player a full ride.

Maybe the most interesting finding of the data collection is the idea that many programs are not funded enough to offer full rides. The NCAA allows fully funded men’s Division 1 programs to have 4.5 scholarships, while Division 2 programs are allowed 3.6. My best guess suggests that a little more than 60 percent of men’s Division 1 programs have this full allotment of scholarship. In Division 2, my guess is that this number is a lot closer to 30 percent.

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