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Netflix's 'Full Swing' looks at the world of pro golf and life on the PGA Tour


A new show on Netflix, "Full Swing," takes you behind the scenes for an inside look at the range of pro golfers. It shows the mental toughness it takes to survive on the PGA Tour, and "Full Swing" happened to film on the eve of golf's largest fracture. NPR's Gus Contreras reports.

GUS CONTRERAS, BYLINE: The show takes you inside the ropes, clubhouses, families and, yes, private jets for a close-up look at some of the world's best golfers and what makes them tick.


TONY FINAU: I'm traveling with my family this season pretty much every week.

JRAICE FINAU: Yeah, served.

ALAYNA GALEA'I-FINAU: It's nice because, like, I have a husband that comes home, like, after every day.

FINAU: I think we're pretty normal people living a normal life - just happen to know how to swing a golf club and put the ball in the hole faster than most.

CONTRERAS: For Tony Finau, participating in the show was a chance to share his family's unique story. Finau says it was kind of therapeutic to open up about his humble beginnings.

FINAU: I came from not a lot of money and playing a sport that is predominantly white. And the stigma around golf is country club - you have to be rich, all those things. And so breaking those barriers are really extremely difficult. But as I look back, that's what makes the story. That's what makes - that's what made me who I am.

CONTRERAS: The series creators are banking that "Full Swing" will cater to a wide audience, from those who are coming in fresh and not exactly sure what par means down to the hardcore golfer. Being a hardcore golfer myself, who grew up playing public courses in Texas, I was excited about getting a peek inside hyperprivate courses and major events that I've heard so much about. "Full Swing" producer Chad Mumm says the game was ready for sharing their world.

CHAD MUMM: We had cameras in places that no one's ever had cameras before. We had access to these players in a very deep way. It's going to give you a whole new look at your favorite players.

CHRIS SOLOMON: Golf is astonishingly behind the times. "Hard Knocks" came into our lives in the NFL and HBO in 2001. It's been 22 years since we got an inside-the-locker-room look, with microphones and players actually being cut and traded, trying to make the roster. And it's an immersive experience. And 22 years it's been around, and this is the first real inside look at golf that we've gotten.

CONTRERAS: Chris Solomon is co-founder of No Laying Up, a popular media outpost for golf nerds like myself. Solomon says he's been waiting for this type of show for a long, long time.

SOLOMON: Hopefully, this kind of opens that gap up to say, like, hey, guys, this worked for so-and-so. Come do it. Like, we need your help. If we want to make this thing successful - if we want to make your sport successful and more people interested, you got to let us in. You got to let us follow you into the locker room. You got to let us catch some conversations. You got to have some trust in us that we're not going to make you look horrible. We're going to make you look like you.

CONTRERAS: The show's creators couldn't have picked a better year to follow the sport. In 2022, golf was one of the most talked-about sports thanks to a controversial rival league starting up. The emergence of the Saudi-backed LIV tour meant some PGA golfers were being poached away with big bucks. And it just so happened that the show is following Ian Poulter, one of the players who saw the appeal of LIV's guaranteed money to finish out his career.


IAN POULTER: This is the right decision for myself. It's the right decision for my family. So deep down inside, I feel comfortable with my decision.

CONTRERAS: LIV Golf is financed by Saudi Arabia's public investment fund. They've been accused of using LIV to downplay the Saudi authoritarian government and improve its global image through golf. Again, the show's producer, Chad Mumm.

MUMM: It was a fascinating year to be just thrust into the middle of it. And certainly, like, there's never been a disruption like this in pro sports that happened in the middle of the season.

CONTRERAS: Golf is a game of consistency, and it can be hard for players to hold onto that form. The show closely followed Brooks Koepka, who at one time was the best golfer in the world, and he was concerned if he could ever win again.


BROOKS KOEPKA: I've had these question marks for, like, the last year and a half. Are you going to be the same golfer. Am I ever going to be the same? And I still don't know where I'm at.

CONTRERAS: Koepka eventually jumped to LIV for a big payday. Season two hasn't been confirmed yet, but I'm hoping that hearing from more players like Tony Finau opens up golf to more fans.

Gus Contreras, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Gus Contreras
[Copyright 2024 NPR]

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