The golf announcer voice is almost as ubiquitous as the golf clap. We’ve all done both, sometimes mockingly imitating the voice.
But there are real reasons that on-course golf announcers speak in a quiet, subtle tone.
So why do golf announcers whisper?
Golf announcers whisper to respect the golfers who are about to take their shot. By whispering, announcers are not distracting the golfers who are trying to focus.
- Do announcers whisper in other professional sports?
- Why can’t golfers handle the noise like other professional athletes?
- What does all this mean? Don’t they want to simply hit it straight?
- But still, why do golf announcers whisper?
- How do golf announcers call play by play while whispering?
- And that’s why golf announcers whisper
Do announcers whisper in other professional sports?
It’s both true and obvious that crowd noise as the action is happening is much different in golf than it is in most other professional sports.
Actually, the crowd noise is – or at least should be – non-existent in the moments leading up to and during a golfer’s swing.
Basketball players contend with hecklers in the floor seats and countless distractions at the free throw line, even as they’re mid-shot.
The same goes for baseball players who are often close to fans while they’re batting or playing certain defensive positions.
If you’ve ever sat behind home plate or in the bleachers, you know what they deal with. Deciphering a pitch coming at you at 90-something miles an hour is no easy task, I’m sure.
In some NFL stadiums, the crowd noise gets so loud when opposing teams have the ball that the offense needs to work out a system of silent counts and play calls that don’t rely on players’ ability to hear or understand each other.
Now, that’s loud.
Why can’t golfers handle the noise like other professional athletes?
As a lifelong golfer myself, I’ve had this discussion about why golf announcers whisper dozens of times over the years, especially in the years before golf was mainstream and casual.
Maybe understandably so, non-golfers couldn’t understand
Hitting a golf ball, making a free throw, hitting a baseball, and completing a pass all take a certain level of skill and concentration.
And those who do it at the highest levels are extraordinarily skilled, despite what may be written and said about them.
However, there’s so much packed into the second or so that it takes to swing a golf club. There are dozens of major and minor movements, placements, angles, and speeds among the variables that impact how a golf ball will react after the millisecond of contact with the clubface.
And that’s not even accounting for the many variables that are out of a golfer’s control – the lie (the specific position of the ball – uphill, downhill, and sidehill lies can all impact ball flight and distance differently), the wind, the weather, and course conditions just to name a few.
Better golfers who have more control over their shot type and distance will calculate all of this in their pre-shot routine and make adjustments both before and during the swing to, hopefully, get the anticipated result.
What does all this mean? Don’t they want to simply hit it straight?
Yes and no. While “hitting it straight” in the most general sense is what we all aspire to be able to do in golf, there’s a lot more that goes into it, especially for better golfers.
Top-tier golfers, those considered scratch golfers (zero handicap) or better, have considerably more control over their golf ball.
They may sometimes opt to hit a draw, fade, or a high or low shot depending on variables like pin position (where the pin is placed on the green), bunkers and other trouble surrounding the green, and the wind among other factors.
A draw is a shot that, for right-handed players, starts to the right of the target and curves to the left.
Conversely, a fade begins to the left of the target and curves to the right. The more undesirable and extreme versions of these shots are hooks and slices, respectively.
High or low-trajectory shots can come in handy depending on all those situational factors we’ve outlined.
Again, the most skilled golfers have such control over the golf ball that they can flight their ball down or up as needed.
It is unlikely you will hear someone yell fore at a professional golf tournament, but it does happen.
But still, why do golf announcers whisper?
Maybe it’s a result of how the game has always been and how we learned to play, but always having that silence during our swing has made golfers very sensitive to unwelcomed sounds during our swing.
As I mentioned above, there are dozens of considerations that go into every swing. And that’s not to mention the individual swing thoughts that we all have.
Swing thoughts are our inner monologue during the swing: “take it back on plane, control your arm, rotate the shoulders, bring the club to parallel, hold that angle for the downswing, stay behind the ball, transfer weight to the front foot.”
All of that in a matter of 1.2 seconds, which trufitclubs.com deems as the average duration of a swing. “Roughly 75% is in the back swing and 25% in the forward swing,” they estimate.
We hear everything as we’re standing over the ball and as we take the club back. Everything.
As he is with so many other aspects of the game, Tiger Woods is arguably the best when it comes to a golfer stopping their swing midway because of a distracting sound. Take a look.
Pretty impressive right? Also check out our article on what putter Tiger Woods uses.
Having the mental strength to recognize a distraction, realize it’s disruptive to your swing, and stop your swing is otherworldly, especially to be able to do it during competition.
How do golf announcers call play by play while whispering?
Short answer? It’s a skill, like any other live broadcast position. And like other broadcast positions, the best make it look easy.
Whether they’re working for CBS, NBC, or ESPN, those calling the round from inside the ropes are held to high standards in terms of doing their jobs without being a distraction. It takes a lot to make that happen.
First and most importantly, they have a deeper knowledge of the game than most of us will ever have.
Many are former professional players, so they’re extremely familiar with the rules and etiquette that govern the game. They know where to be and where not to be at all times.
As former players or mainstays in the golf industry, many are friends with the players and caddies they’re covering every week.
Most famously, Notah Begay’s friendship with Tiger Woods goes back to their college days. They remain close friends today.
The relationship with the caddies is actually more important than you might think. If you’ve ever wondered how David Feherty or Dottie Pepper know what club the players they’re following are hitting on each shot, the answer is that this info comes from the caddies.
There’s an unspoken agreement between most players, golf caddies, and on-course analysts. Caddies use hand signals from afar to let the analyst know what club their player is hitting.
“I quickly learned you sign with one hand: three fingers for a three-iron, four for a four-iron, five for a five-iron, one for a six-iron, two for a seven-iron, three for an eight-iron, four for a nine-iron, closed fist for a pitching wedge,” explains Golf.com’s Dylan Dethier.”
When their player hits a tee shot, the analyst will often get to the ball first to take a look at the lie and get the distance.
Then, they get out of the way to avoid being a distraction. From a distance, they use that fine-tuned golf announcer voice to speak closely and softly into their microphone.
“It doesn’t do you any good to be 20 or 30 feet from a guy when he’s hitting a shot because you can’t say anything,” he said. “You need to be up ahead where you can see, have a sense of where they’re going and what kind of shot they need to be playing,” says ESPN’s Andy North.
“You’ve walked by their ball, you’ve looked at the yardage, you’ve looked at the lie, you’ve done all that,” he said. “So then to move 100 yards forward, you can actually see it better sometimes and you can talk loud enough that the viewer at home can hear and understand you.”
And that’s why golf announcers whisper
For all of the reasons above, it’s crucial that golf announcers whisper in that hushed volume while they’re following players on the course.
All of the best on-course announcers lean on their knowledge as exceptional golfers and have honed their broadcast skills over time.
So, next time you’re on the course, do your best Andy North impression when your friends and playing partners are hitting.