A remarkable part of Netflix’s Full Swing golf docuseries is how it unexpectedly wound up covering the LIV Golf saga. The series, from Box to Box Films (also behind F1 series Formula 1: Drive To Survive, tennis series Break Point, and more) and Vox Media in partnership with Netflix and the PGA Tour, was initially supposed to just follow PGA Tour golfers. But during its first season, LIV Golf was formed, and several of the players Full Swing was following went over to that series, including Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka.
That obviously forced the series to make some decisions on whether to keep following those players or to stick to the players who had remained with the PGA Tour. They chose the former course, interesting for a documentary done in partnership with the Tour. And in a recent interview with Scott Stinson for Canada’s The National Post, Box to Box co-founder Paul Martin (no, not the former Canadian prime minister) had some notable comments on how that played out:
“When we started that show, there were some rumours about this kind of (rebel) league,” Martin says. “But people would say, ‘Look, this kind of disruption, people talk about it every five or six years but it’s not going to come to much.’ And then suddenly we’re waking up every morning and it’s like, ‘Oh, Dustin’s gone. Oh, ****, Brooks is going to go.’”
…Full Swing ended up providing a better explanation for the LIV defections than was ever provided at tightly controlled press conferences — more money, less golf, Johnson said plainly — while also showing that defectors, in their beautiful homes, were already plenty wealthy to begin with.
“These were characters that we had chosen to follow,” Martin says. “LIV was part of their story and we had to see it through.”
The PGA Tour, he says, understood why the rebels couldn’t just be disappeared from the show once they had left.
That’s a smart move from the Tour. The players involved in Full Swing were announced before the LIV Golf news, with that list announced last January, Johnson first listed in a LIV Golf field last May and Koepka joining him last June. (And even if they hadn’t been previously announced, it likely would have come out in reporting that the series had pulled them following their moves to the rival league.) So it would have been highly awkward if the show had focused only on PGA Tour players. As it was, the show still took some criticism for its positive presentation of the PGA Tour, and that definitely would have been elevated if it hadn’t shown the LIV Golf players.
And the rival leagues issue is maybe somewhat solved for S2 of Full Swing. Those leagues have come together (although there are still questions about how that will work and if it will actually happen), and Martin told Stinson (with a smile) “Everyone’s friends now, so it’s fine.” And around that shocking announcement, Full Swing was in the right place at the right time to film players’ reactions (again without advance notice). But it’s interesting to read about how things went down in S1, and why the show kept featuring LIV Golf players after their defections.