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Review: Mauna Lani is a must-play in Hawaii



The Mauna Lani Bay Resort sits on the Kohala Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii, the largest and youngest of the Hawaiian islands. When most people think of Hawaii they think of beaches and tropical rain forests. The western side of the island, however, is one of the driest in the state with the Kohala Coast averaging just 10 inches of rain per year. By contrast, the Hilo area, on the east side of the island, is one of the wettest major cities in the U.S. averaging over 140 inches of rain per year. The diverse island features eight of the world’s 13 climate zones, all on an island that is 4,028 square miles (roughly the same size as Los Angeles County) and is home to 175,000 people.

The Mauna Lani resort features two 18-hole golf courses, the Francis H. I’i Brown South Course and the North Course. The two courses are the current home of the Hawaii State Open tournament and the South Course hosted the PGA Senior Skins game for 11 years. The original golf course opened in 1981 and was made up of nine holes on the current South Course and nine on the North. In 1991, nine holes were added to each course.

There is a great view of the ocean behind the 15th green. Photo by Matt Kartozian.

There is a great view of the ocean behind the 15th green. Photo by Matt Kartozian.

The South Course is all about scenery and the ocean with stellar views on Nos. 7, 13 and 15. The North Course is more of a tournament course that winds its way through Kiawe (mesquite) forests. During the state tournament, two rounds are played on the North Course and one round on the South Course.

When you pick up your cart, you are greeted with a massive putting green and views of the Pacific Ocean. The South Course features lush tropical plants, ocean views all over the place and lava. Lots and lots of lava. The resort was built smack dab in the middle of a lava field and most holes are lined with it. Several even feature lava as hazards close to or in the fairways.

Lava mound sit in the middle of the fairways on several holes. Photo by Matt Kartozian.

Lava mounds sit in the middle of the fairways on several holes. Photo by Matt Kartozian.

While on the Big Island, I ventured out to play the Mauna Lani’s South course, as I am a sucker for ocean views while golfing. I am not a great golfer; I consider myself to be average. My current handicap is 18 and on good days I shoot around 90, some days a little more, some a bit less. I’m used to playing in the dry desert air at 1,300 feet. Playing at sea level took its toll on my distance, so when I showed up to the Mauna Lani I elected to play the white tees. At 6,025 yards, it made a decent score possible while the 68.3 rating and 124 slope would still make it challenging for me. For golfers of differing abilities, both courses feature four sets of tees. The South Course plays 6,938 yards from the tips with a 72.8 rating and 133 slope. The North Course is 6,913 yards from the tips with a 73.2 rating and 136 slope.

I played as a single and was paired with three other singles for my round. Oddly, we were each given our own cart. The first thing I noticed and liked about the course was the wide fairways. At times I tend to hit boomerangs that start out straight, then rapidly turn to the right off the tee. The wide fairways turned out to be fortuitous on the 492-yard, par-5 first hole as I hit a boomerang that landed on the right sight of a massive mound of jagged black lava, but still on the fairway. I finished the hole with a bogey, leading me to have high hopes of a decent round. Most of the front nine winds through the inland areas of the resort and a few of the holes have nice ocean views. No. 7 is a spectacular 163-yard par 3 with the ocean on your left below lava cliffs, but it’s only a teaser for what’s to come.

Water is a consistent theme on the South course. Photo by Matt Kartozian.

Water is a consistent theme on the South course. Photo by Matt Kartozian.

The back nine is where the Mauna Lani South Course really shines, and it’s a true delight to play for a golfer from a land-locked state. Nos. 11 and 12 wrap around one of the many lakes that are everywhere around the resort. No. 13 sends you back to the ocean on a short par-4 (300 yards from the whites). The lava theme continues, as the cliffs border the entire hole on the left.

The 15th hole is the gem of the resort, a hole so pretty you want to drop your clubs and pull out a beer and beach chair and just watch the waves roll in. The hole is a medium-length par-3 (131 yards from the whites and 196 yards from the tips) that has you hitting over a bay full of sharp lava jutting out of the ocean. A drop zone is provided for those who get distracted by the scenery and put a ball in the ocean as I did. The green sits above the water and is ringed with bunkers and a few palm trees. I have been lucky enough to play some great scenic courses, but this hole alone makes the Mauna Lani worth the trip.

The course is not just kept in great condition; it is immaculate! The greens were quick, smooth and consistent. The sand in the bunkers is soft and fluffy, and the grass in the rough is lush. The fairways are perfect.

Teeing off on the South course at the Mauna Lani.  Photo by Matt Kartozian.

Teeing off on the South Course at the Mauna Lani. Photo by Matt Kartozian.

While I played the white tees and did alright, shooting a 92 with six pars, the course is very challenging for great golfers when playing the blue or black tees.

“When we have the Hawaii State Open, we have the best golfers in Hawaii and quite a few from California and the West Coast,” said Tom Sursely, director of golf for the Mauna Lani. “I think the lowest we have seen over three rounds in the State Open have been 6- or 7-under par. From the back tees, the South Course is very difficult, particularly the par 3s. The North is more undulating and a design where the trees are along the fairways and sometimes in the fairways. You have to place the ball. It’s not like one is a resort course and one is a championship course; they are both very difficult from the back tees. Our two courses have completely different looks and completely different styles. The South Course gets the most play with its spectacular ocean views; people really enjoy playing it. The fairways are wide because we do get some wind. The North is through an old Kiawe forest; it doesn’t look at all like the South. It’s all old Kiawe growth. When people stay at the resort they will play four or five rounds.”

The Mauna Lani also has a comprehensive teaching program with a golf academy, four teaching pros and a third nine-hole kids course that is also used for teaching. The longest hole is 130 yards, with most in the 60-to-70-yard range. The course has regulation greens and bunkers that are ideal for teaching players of all ages.

For an average or great golfer, the Mauna Lani is indeed a bucket list golf course. The resort is pretty swanky as well. The hotel was built in the 80s, but does not have that dated 80s look or feel to it. It has four restaurants, a great beach and pool to watch the sunset. There’s a shuttle to take you over to the golf course or spa, and a pond next to the valet that is seemingly stocked with hundreds of large, well trained Koi fish. As you approach, they will see you, surface and open and close their mouths as if to say, “Feed me!”

Salt water ponds are located throughout the property, including two with sea turtles and one with hammerhead sharks. Austin Powers fans, I was disappointed to learn the sharks are not equipped with “laser beams.” Unless you came for that, you won’t be left wanting if you book your next golf vacation at the Mauna Lani Bay Resort

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Matt Kartozian is an amateur golfer, professional photographer and journalist based in Phoenix, Arizona. He can often be found on the sidelines at NFL, NHL and MLB games, as well as racetracks around the world. Matt specializes in off-road racing and events like the Baja 1000. When not dodging racecars and linebackers, Matt likes to spend time on the golf course.



  1. Big Mike

    May 23, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    Both are great. Played each 2 times while there on vacation 2 years ago. The review is spot on!

  2. tlmck

    May 3, 2016 at 1:46 am

    Lani is great, but you have to try Mauna Kea. Just awesome.

  3. Luis Carrion (Boricua Golf)

    May 2, 2016 at 7:34 am

    Live in Hawaii for the last 6 years and was able to play at Mauna Lani a few times, definitely a must if you are visiting the islands, I miss Hawaii so much, wish I was there now…Aloha!!!

  4. Golfgirlrobin

    Apr 30, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    The resort has a great Unlimited golf package that makes a stay there a pretty decent deal. First class resort that’s still very low key; much more enjoyable week there than another trip where we stayed at The Fairmont Orchid up the beach where I felt underdressed the whole trip.

    Courses are both fun and challenging. Lots of lava but very little of it is really in play if you can hit the ball at all.

  5. Brian

    Apr 30, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Going to the Big Island later in May. Really want to try the South course…but I’m afraid it’s just too much $$. Great review though!

    • David

      May 2, 2016 at 11:25 am

      Played the North course a couple years back and had a great time. They typically have a couple discounted tee times each day online. Waikoloa Village is also a solid option if you’re on a budget.

      • Brian

        May 3, 2016 at 12:26 pm

        Is the Village course a good one? They don’t seem to have much of a presence online, and for the low cost of the round, I wasn’t expecting much. Currently planning to play Hapuna, Big Island CC, and Makalei, with an eye out for a deal on Mauna Lani North or South.

        If you’ve got great things to say about Waikoloa Village (not Kings or Beach), I’ll have to give it a look. Seems to be a steal at $50 or so a round if it’s good.

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The best golf courses in Ireland



For a tiny island with fewer than 10 million people, Ireland has an abundance of magnificent golf courses.

But which ones are the best?

The best golf courses in Ireland

Pinning down 10 to even 50 of Ireland’s best courses is a thankless task, with a country that boasts so many hidden gems along with world-renowned tracks. The island is split into four provinces—Leinster, Munster, Connacht, and Ulster—and here I’ll highlight some courses you must visit in each region for anyone heading to the Emerald Isle.

Mount Juliet Golf Course, Kilkenny

C/o: @golfmountjuliet

Host of the 2021 Irish Open, the Jack Nicklaus designed golf course is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in all of the country. With five lakes and over 80 bunkers, the challenging course measures over 7,200 yards and features a unique ‘bunker walled green’ protecting the pin on the 16th hole.

C/o: @golfmountjuliet

Speaking on the course while playing the 2002 WGC-American Express Championship, Tiger Woods said

“I think the golf course is absolutely gorgeous, the fairways are perfect, the greens are the best greens we’ve putter on all year, including the majors. These things are absolute pure.”

Druids Glen Golf Course, Wicklow

C/o: @brendanboyle79

You don’t get the nickname the ‘Augusta of Europe’ without being a little bit special, and Druids Glen is undoubtedly that. The perfectly manicured inland course boasts some of the most picturesque holes with each hole offering stunning backdrops.

C/o: @breandanboyle79

The course also offers up an incredible challenge. It helps to be a high-quality ball-striker, with the likes of Colin Montgomerie and Sergio Garcia winning titles when the course hosted professional events.

Ballybunion Golf Club, Kerry

C/o: @evanschiller

Founded in 1883, the Ballybunion Old Course lives up to its tag as ‘One of a kind’. Measuring 6,739 yards from the tips, the wonderful dunescape sets the scene for a true links challenge, with the golf course often touted as possessing the best back nine in the country.

C/o: @womensgolf

President Bill Clinton on Ballybunion

“I love Ballybunion. It’s perfectly Irish: beautiful, rough, and a lot like life — you get breaks you don’t deserve both ways. You just have to keep swinging and know it will all even out.”

Waterville Golf Links, Kerry

C/o: @kevinmarkham

The remote Waterville Golf Links is situated on a promontory surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. With undulating fairways, the course sets out relatively flat on the front 9 with tall dunes welcoming players home for the back 9.

C/o: @greagolfholes

One of the most impressive and picturesque links courses that you will set your sights on that will instantly provide you with a mystic feel that only Ireland can provide.

Sam Snead on Waterville:

”The beautiful monster – one of the golfing wonders of the world.”

Rosappena Old Tom Morris Links, Donegal


An incredible setting for a course that offers up a wonderful mix of a traditional and modern links feel. Measuring over 6,900 yards from the back tees, the course only offers up relief on the three par-fives.

C/o: @eigtravel

The course runs along Tramore beach overlooking Sheephaven Bay and offers up sensational views no matter what hole you are on during your round. Blustery conditions can turn this into a brutal links test.

Royal County Down

C/o: @eigtravel

Often cited as the best golf course in the country and even the world. Royal County Down offers up monstrous blind shots, several bunkers and glorious views. The ultimate links golf test.

C/o: @eigtravel

Rickie Fowler on Royal County Down:

”Royal County Down is my all-time favourite.”

Lahinch Golf Club, Clare

C/o: @greatgolfholes

Lahinch Golf Club is a step back in time golf course often compared to the Old Course of St. Andrews. The course offers up a quirky test wth a classic out and back layout, while providing stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.

C/o: @vinnyfiorino

Phil Mickelson on Lahinch:

“Some of my fondest memories of great golfing holes in the world include the number four and five holes at Lahinch.”

Sligo Golf Club, Rosses Point, Sligo

C/o: @jmgolfcoach

Co. Sligo Golf Course features traditional links layout, designed by Harry Colt. The dune-covered landscape sets the scene for a course packed with undulations, elevated tees, and raised plateau greens for a stunning test of golf. The golf course is famed for its tremendous par 3s.

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The Colonial Experience



Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, is home to the longest-running non-major PGA Tour event held at one location. The course opened in 1936, and it’s been hosting the Invitational at Colonial, now called the Charles Schwab Challenge, every year since 1946.

It was the golfing home of Ben Hogan, five-time winner of the event, and it’s still where most of his trophies and accomplishments are housed. The 1941 U.S. Open was here and won by Craig Wood. The Players Championship was here in 1975 and the U.S. Women’s Open was here in 1991. Colonial, quite simply, is rich golf history in a town that is proud of where it came from. And you can feel the past as soon as you step foot on the grounds.

Walking through the gates towards the course, you are immediately hugged by a “wow” moment. There’s Mr. Hogan, his follow through forever posed, larger than life and overlooking the 18th hole. Also in view is a manually operated leaderboard, permanently tucked away inside the closing hole’s dogleg, reminding you subtly that you are about to play a Tour course. It’s up year-round, and as the tournament nears, Mr. Hogan’s name always appears in the first place position.


18th Hole

Down the steps and around the corner, past the caddie shack and old school bag room, is the starter house and number one tee box. And shadowing over the professional tees is the Wall of Champions, with every winning player’s name and score etched to watch your opening tee shot. Hogan’s name is there five times. Sam Snead. Arnold Palmer. Jack Nicklaus. Ben Crenshaw, Phil Mickelson and Lee Trevino all on there twice. Tom Watson. Sergio. Spieth.

Some courses are second shot courses, with approach shots being more demanding and more important than driving accuracy or distance. Some courses require length. At Colonial, you need both. That’s why the list of past winners is so impressive on the Wall of Champions. You can’t just drive or putt your way to a win at Colonial. You have to be solid in every aspect of the game. You have to earn it and deserve it. You have to be a shotmaker.

Number One Tee

Par 5 1st Hole

Colonial was designed by Texan John Bredemus and well-known architect Perry Maxwell, who also designed Prairie Dunes in Kansas and Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It opened in 1936 and currently plays as a 7,209-yard par 70 that meanders along the banks of the Trinity River. The greens are bent grass, which at one point in time was an unheard of idea for a course in North Texas. Marvin Leonard, the club’s founder, was determined to build a world-class club in the region that could sustain bent grass. And he did it. Just five years after the club opened its doors, the 1941 United States Open was held in Fort Worth. Colonial was on the map and the Marvin Leonard dream had come true.

The course holds only two par 5’s, the first hole being one of them. A 565-yard dogleg right to a slight elevated green, getting home in two isn’t out of the question with a perfectly placed drive. But this introductory hole is the perfect way to start a round. Nothing too demanding. Get warmed up. The second hole, a short par 4, is no different. Start off easy to get some good holes under your belt.

And then you get to the Horrible Horseshoe.

Hole 3 Tee box

The third hole at Colonial is a 483-yard par 4 that plays even longer than that, due to the severe 90-degree dogleg left near your drive’s landing area. A straight 250-yard tee shot will put you in decent position away from trouble, but you still have 230 yards into a multi-tiered green. Longer hitters can try to cut the corner, protected by bunkers at the corner, but the landing area for that shot is so narrow that the reward is often not worth the risk. This is a tough hole.

Hole 4 Teebox

The fourth hole is a 220-yard par 3 from the men’s tees. But it tips out to 247 yards for the pros during tournament week. The green is elevated and often very firm, making it incredibly tough to stop a long iron or hybrid on the dance floor for even the best players in the world. This is a tough tough hole. Short is the safe play, though there is no easy up and down from the front, as the green is elevated to eye level and making most chip shots blind.

Hole 5 Tee box

Hole 5 Approach

Hole 5 Green

The fifth hole, ending the Horrible Horseshoe, is one of the finest and toughest holes in golf. Your tee shot dog legs just enough to the right to require a left-to-right ball flight. Something to make you think about standing over your ball. Anything off the tee that is too straight or has any right to left movement is going to cross through the fairway and into an oak tree-lined ditch with rough high enough to swallow a ball for weeks. If you start in the ditch, you finish in the ditch. So don’t miss left.

Don’t miss right either. Anything with too much fade or slice action is going into the Trinity River, which borders this hole on the right all the way to the green. And if you can somehow manage to find the fairway, you’re still a long way from home as this is a 481-yard par 4 leading to a well-bunkered green. This is a tough, tough, tough hole.

If you can get through these three holes, arguably the hardest three-hole stretch on tour, unscathed, you’ve done something.

Hole 6 Teebox

The rest of the front nine is easy, in comparison to the horseshoe, but by no means simple. Six and seven are wonderfully partnered par fours, running parallel in opposite directions. The par 3 8th hole brings the Trinity River back into view, but the water itself is not a real threat. The hole plays 194 yards from the back tees to a three-tiered green. The safe play is always aiming to the middle of the green and letting the putter do the rest of the work. Missing this green completely will not likely result in par, as deep bunkering and wide trees protect on all sides.

The closing hole of the front nine requires a precise tee ball between large bunkers on both sides of the fairway. The green is tucked behind a scenic pond and in front of the starter’s house and number one tee box. Any miss, left or right off the tee, will most likely force a layup in front of the water. But if you do have a shot at the green, make sure you don’t miss short.

From nine green, you can see much of the front, hopefully recalling fond memories of the first half of your round. Thankfully, not much of the horrible horseshoe is in view…let’s keep that in the past.

9th Green and Fairway

That back nine at Colonial is an absolute blast. The two par 3’s on this side are both world-class holes, 13 being the course’s signature. The lone par 5, hole 11, is a straightaway 635-yard-long mammoth with a troublesome creek along the entire right side.

But it all starts with the absolutely tremendous 10th hole. Only 408 yards from the tips, the hole plays tricks on the eyes. From the tee, it looks like you have plenty of room off on the right, but course knowledge can go a long way on this hole. You absolutely have to keep your tee ball hugging the left side of this fairway, which feels like a horrifying proposition while standing over the ball. The tee box falls off into the water, which doubles as approach shot hazard on nearby 18. Driver just isn’t the club here, though it feels like it should be. Any miss slightly right is going to be shielded from the green from overhanging trees and a deceptive angle.

Hole 10 tee box

View of 18 green from 10 fairway

10 green with fairway behind

The back nine has a bit more undulation than the front. The formerly brush-covered Trinity River land still has plenty of mature foliage, mostly oaks, pecans, and cottonwood trees,  to maintain the feel of an old-school course. It is truly a classic layout in every sense of the phrase. The bent grass greens, made famous by Mr. Leonard’s passionate pursuit, are pure most of the year, though fans are erected during the Summer months to keep them cool.

Hole 12 tee box

13 tee, par 3 over the Trinity

The par-3 13th hole is a tournament spectator favorite. 190 yards from the pro tees and 171 from the men’s, this hole is as beautiful as it is treacherous. The further you miss right, the more carry you’ll need to land safely. During tournament week, the professional caddies are in on a long-standing spectator event: the caddie races. Fan’s surrounding the green pick a player’s caddie to root for, then they cheer (and maybe even gamble) for that caddie to reach the green first. I’ve seen all-out sprint races and slow walk dramatic finishes alike. First foot to touch the green wins, and the caddies are hilarious about it. They eat it up.

14 approach

15 green

The home stretch at Colonial is designed for drama. The 16th, a par 3, is another stunner. 185 yards over creeks and ponds to the most difficult green complex on the course. Only two tiers, but a pretty drastic climb from front left to top right. And the Sunday pin placement, top right, has caused more heartburn than any other spot on the track. Miss too far right and you’re out of bounds and in the Colonial parking lot. There is a great patio just beyond the 16th green where members can sit to watch the approach shots.

Par 3 16th

17 green with fairway behind

17 is a strategic short par 4, where iron is the safe play off the tee. A dogleg right, the tee shot is more about angles and accuracy than length. Miss too far right and your approach into the green is dead, blocked by trees. A proper drive on the left middle of this fairway sets up a great chance for birdie. And at Colonial, you need to take advantage of these holes. Especially with 18 coming up.

The closing hole is a classic. Now you need a long draw off the tee to this 441-yard dogleg left. The fairway slopes right to left as well, so a shot on the right side here usually ends up in a wonderful position. The green is slightly elevated and guarded by incredibly deep bunkers short and on both sides. With that sloping fairway, the approach is generally a side-hill lie that works the ball left. And remember, that pond we saw on the 10th fairway is very much in play here. Any miss left and you are wet.

18 tee

18 approach

As if the water left isn’t enough pressure, the clubhouse is right there watching, typically bustling with activity and eyes on your shot. Plus, there is Mr. Hogan’s statue, always there to intimidate golfers as they walk off the green to end their round. The house that Hogan built.

Which is a perfect reminder to head inside the clubhouse for cocktail and tour around the Hogan Room. Located upstairs near the main entrance, this small room could take an hour or two of your time if you aren’t careful. Major championship trophies, scorecards, Mr. Hogan’s locker, the famous Merion flagpin, the Ryder Cup. It is a genuine thrill to walk through.

Downstairs, connected to the pro shop, is another Hogan tribute…the man’s personal office sits untouched and exactly how he kept it. It’s a bit like looking into the Oval office for golf nerds.



The rest of the clubhouse is a tribute to not only Mr. Hogan, but the history of the tournament itself. Every past champion is recognized with a photo of him holding the trophy, proudly wearing the Colonial plaid jacket, and displayed next to a golf club they used to accomplish the win, donated to Colonial. Clubs pulled from the bag of every past champion…walking the halls of Colonial is like walking through the Golf Hall of Fame. History around every corner.

There is also a special tribute to Dan Jenkins. The Fort Worth native and original wild-man golf writer was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2012. Jenkins played golf at nearby TCU and was a beloved member at Colonial. He was also close friends with Mr. Hogan. The display holds all of Jenkins’ wonderful books, including Dead Solid Perfect, as well as his typewriter. A hero of mine, it’s hard not to walk by the Jenkins Tribute and stop to admire. Every time.

Playing a round at Colonial is a special experience. Still one of the finest golf courses in Texas, it remains the home of golf history in the Lone Star State. Golf Mecca for Hogan fans, the course has withstood the test of time. And the clubhouse itself, with all its history and charm, is worth the price of admission. I feel better about the future of golf knowing clubs like Colonial are out there, working hard to keep the past alive.

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What GolfWRXers are saying about Seminole and TaylorMade’s Charity Relief skins match




In our forums, our members have been discussing Seminole and TaylorMade’s Charity Relief skins match. The course has received plenty of praise from our members, and WRXers have been sharing their thoughts on the event as a whole in our forums.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • tw_focus: “Amazing event all around, golf is back baby. RF played well, but he missed badly on the last shot while Rors was clutch, as always. As good as this event was, it’s just the undercard for next week The Match II. Can’t wait to see TW back!”
  • RainShadow: “Seminole looked beautiful. A course designed for strategy and nuance. Anyone know the individual scores? Rickie 66 maybe, Rory 69, DJ 69, Wolff 70? The players all looked a little rusty, Rory and Rickie looked like they’d played a bit recently though. Need to do more of these after this thing is over. More of carrying their own bags and reading their own putts………..Side note….DJ, go back to a blade putter.”
  • dcfas: “I enjoyed it. Thought it was interesting to see and hear some of the discussion on shots and breaks. Thought it was also interesting to see their performances without caddies, and while carrying bags. Also fascinated to have a “close up” look at Seminole. Added it to my bucket list of courses extremely unlikely I’ll ever get to play. Good cause. Thumbs up.”
  • Lark: “If they do this again, they should have two matches at the same time to avoid so much dead airtime. Have the winners play a one hole playoff for a final prize.”
  • Dave230: “Good concept and some good bits but to be nit-picking: Far too many ads, I know Americans are used to more ads than Europeans, but they hit their drives…ads….hit their second shots….ads. It’s just hard to watch. Too much intervention from the commentators, if the players have microphones on then let them speak and just leave it there, you don’t need to talk over everything. I prefer commentary that’s not afraid of dead space. The phone calls…the less said the better.. Just let it play, even if they’re walking, let us see them talking and the surroundings sometimes. Still manage to overproduce even in a restricted setting. Apart from that, grateful for golf to be on television again and well done to those involved.”

Entire Thread: “Seminole and TaylorMade’s Charity Relief skins match”


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