They introduced a shot clock, like the ones in basketball and baseball. No more dreamy pantomimes where players line up a putt, consult with a caddie, walk to the hole, dust away nano-clumps of grass, line up the putt again, stand over the ball, pull back, and start the whole thing over … I’m falling asleep just writing this! In McCarley Ball, if you don’t slam the drive or hit the putt in 40 seconds, your team will be penalized a stroke. With the help of some professional and amateur golfers, Castro did some test matches. They found that 18 holes was too many to jam into two hours, so they ditched three of them. The first nine holes will feature team play, with teams alternating turns and working through a three-player lineup (one player sits out each week). The final six holes will be one-on-one square-offs between individual opponents. The season will run 15 matches, after which a two-week playoff will determine a champion. So far TGL has announced five owners, including the New York franchise’s Steve Cohen (billionaire, owns the Mets), Atlanta’s Arthur Blank (owns the Falcons), the Fenway Sports Group (Boston Red Sox), a San Francisco group with Steph Curry, and in LA, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian, his wife Serena Williams, and Venus Williams.
There’s always been an artificiality to sports, where local fans cheer for mercenary athletes solely because of the jerseys they wear. TGL stretches that to the edge of credulity. With only a single stadium, there’s no such thing as a home game. Ohanian says the key will be building “connective tissue” in the local community to the distant warriors—promoting golf to young people and organizing watch parties for the game. He compares it to the IRL meetups in the early days of Reddit. “Geography is a weird hangover from back when sports teams existed before mass communications,” he says. Esports, he insists, has changed the dynamic. (Tell that to the millions of people who attend rowdy parades to hail Super Bowl heroes.)
Ohanian says he has never blasted a drive in his life, but the tech behind TGL instantly excited him. “This sport has never spoken to me, and a lot of people also feel that way,” he says. Here, “all that negative energy becomes an advantage, because we’re delighting people in a way they never expected.”
is this golf? McCarley insists it is, and that it’s not an esport—he blanches at the word. “The golfers are making the exact same physical moves with the same clubs, the same balls, in basically the same environment,” he says.
Well, not exactly. As viewers will see when play begins in January, TGL is venturing well into the video game realm.