The Top-10 Announcers in Golf
By Chris Hibler
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.
Chris Hibler is a contributor for GolfWRX.com. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the GolfWRX.