Listen Up – Golf’s New Media

Written by Scott Cruickshank

Podcast producers, from the eager to the established, say the same thing.

Golf fans deserve more.

They should know what makes their favorite players tick. They should be taken behind the scenes, inside the ropes.

They should get insight about the rivalries and friendships, the quips and put-downs – but, especially, the characters.

“People really want to hear the stories,” says Calgary’s Emmett Oh, who, with chum Vincent Martino, started a podcast called Over The Top. “Some people may want to hear how that 8-iron felt on Hole 6, but I really care about all these random stories.”

“A great way to put it – the 19th hole. You’re sitting there throwing stories around and hanging out.”

Oh and Martino, roommates during their time on the University of Houston golf team, are podcast newcomers. They pumped out four episodes in October 2017.

At the other end of the spectrum is No Laying Up, one of golf’s most popular podcasts, which has posted more than a hundred episodes, many featuring A-list stars.

No Laying Up co-founder Chris Solomon echoes Oh’s sentiment – the sport’s enthusiasts are hungry for content.

Podcasts are a solution.

“That was always our point of emphasis, ‘As a fan, what would I want to hear?'” says Solomon, on the phone from Dublin, Ohio. “We entertain. We’re not that worried about the business model of it.”

That appears to be taking care of itself.

Because podcasts, which can be streamed or downloaded, are flourishing.

According to one survey, 10 million Canadians listened to podcasts in the past year – in other words, 34 per cent of the adult population. The audience is expanding annually by 10 to 20 per cent.

Golf, explains Solomon, is only now catching up to this booming medium. And the sport, with its massive following, lends itself to all kinds of niches.

Physical conditioning and mental fine-tuning. History and architecture. Tips and technology.

Amateurs and professionals. Beginners and experts.

For keen ears, there is no end of variety. At a glance – The Fried Egg, Fore Play, Mindside, ShackHouse, 18 Strong, On the Mark, A Good Talk Spoiled – with dozens of others available.

“I just love hearing good interviews, good in-depth questions,” says Oh. “Right now, in the golf world, you have the Golf Channel and they just pound Brandel Chamblee down your throat for 24 hours. Like, constantly, right? They don’t have any comedic relief.”

“Podcasts are an escape for these players to go into an environment that’s not a press room – a place where they can talk about their hobbies, talk about their family, talk about their friends. Those kinds of podcasts are doing the best right now.”

Hard to argue.

No Laying Up, in 2017 alone, boasted seven digits’ worth of downloads. And it’s only growing. Solomon recently quit his day job to oversee the operation.

“It’s a crazy, weird, organic story of how it all started.”

In 2013, Solomon and three like-minded golf fanatics started using Twitter to offer wisecracks, in real time, during PGA Tour events. Their sense of humour struck a chord. Players began to follow them on Twitter, and, suddenly, Solomon & Co. had profile.

They discovered they could attract top pros for podcast sit-downs. (Justin Thomas was the first victim.)

“It’s evolved into a place where players have felt safe to come on and have a free-flowing conversation,” says Solomon. “We saw an opportunity to say, ‘Look, the way the media covers golf directly, through the press conferences, the players don’t really get to say what’s on their mind. It’s not really indicative of what fans are interested in.’ It had become this corporate mess of click-bait and trying to sell ads.”

As their podcast’s popularity soared, so did its credibility.

Meaning they could wrangle a who’s-who of guests, including Rory McIlroy. Solomon credits the two-part interview with the Irish superstar in September 2017 for their brand’s explosion – five times more downloads this past year than the first three years combined.

“People do get inspired – and should be inspired – that we were nobodies,” says Solomon. “We were just dudes that started a website and it got to be the No. 1 downloaded golf podcast probably in the world.”

None of which had been lost on Oh and Martino who dropped $70 on a microphone and a subscription to a podcast-posting website.

Over The Top was born.

The first episode featured Conrad Shindler. Topics included everything from college football to freak injuries to fast food.

“I have no idea what the end game is,” says Oh, who, last winter, began graduate studies in Houston. “We just wanted to start it for fun. And it’s been a whole lot of fun so far.”

Listen Up

This article was originally published in the 2018 edition of The Alberta Golfer Magazine. To view the full magazine, click here.

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