Gosh, do you remember 2015? These were simpler times in the world of golf podcasts. 2016 has seen an explosion in the number of broadcasts out there. But which are the 'must listen' ones and which will send you to sleep? Read on....
This is one which has just appeared this year but has already made it right to the top of the tree. Geoff Shackleford is no stranger to the genre, having honed his craft in the excellent 'State of the Game'. Shackleford is the doyen of the fantastic geoffshackleford.com and has teamed up here with an American chap called House (I don't really know anything more about him) who plays the 'superfan' to Shack's 'expert'. They do occasionally stray into slightly forced jokey banter but I can excuse them for that given the quality of the show.
The thing which is really nice about this podcast is they sound genuinely interested in what they are talking about and it isn't just 'who won last week and who's going to win next week'. Golf architecture, real insider insight and a healthy dose of opinion all serve to make this a must listen. Shackleford can talk from a position of authority yet you never feel he is part of either the establishment or the slightly forced 'hey, golf should be crazy fun for everyone' gang.
He often mentions on Twitter that they have been contracted to a set number of broadcasts this year which is a bit of a shame as they aren't on every week but we have had 8 in 11 weeks so far which is pretty good.
This is very definitely a commercial enterprise though and the promotion of Callaway gear, razors and gentleman's lingerie is a bit of a pain but it is a price worth paying. These guys are good.
When they started up in Summer 2014 the duo of Lawrence Donegan and John Huggan were pioneers - fearless and irreverent with a healthy dose of sardony.
Now, I have to confess to having a little bit of a man-crush on Donegan. Years ago, when he was golf correspondent of the Guardian, he wrote one of the first blogs I ever read. What was great about that was that he actually interacted with his readers. This was in a pre-Twitter era where any response was unusual unless you put pen to paper and wrote to the editor of Golf Monthly in the hope of getting 6 Top Flite for Letter of the Month.
I was 'Gullaneman' in a comment I left on his blog back in 2009 which led him to write a post entitled 'Tiger and Phil. Where does the Guardian golf blog stand?'. Gosh, he had read my comment and decided to write a whole article on the back of it. This truly was democracy in action.
With Donegan you felt like you are getting a little inside track on the world of golf that you won't get from the puff pieces in magazines or the official version of the truth. I also really loved both Four Iron in the Soul and California Dreaming - 2 books I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone thinking of becoming a caddie or used card salesman in California. Oh, and did I mention he used to be a pop star.
As for Huggan, well previously I could take him or leave him to be honest. He blocked me on Twitter for no reason and seemed a bit of a miserable old bastard, having said that I always enjoyed his articles, especially his column in the Scotland on Sunday.
When the two joined forces for their podcast my hopes were high and they delivered. They soon ditched the idea of having a ByTheMin Golf writer on the team and instead just went with the two of them hosting, with normally a top draw guest. Fans of The Two Ronnies in the mid 1980s of a Sunday night will hopefully understand when I say that Scott Michaux is their Elaine Page.
The quality of discussion on the show is really high. They are genuinely curious into what is going on in the golf world and bring on guests who can further that discussion. CHubby Chandler's annual state of the nation is worth the subscription alone.
There was a certain incestual relationship in the early days of golf podcasts. Mike Clayton and Geoff Ogilvy would flit around from pal to pal, Shackleford turned up on the Scottish Golf Podcast. Shackleford and Huggan's path hasn't crossed of late but a friend of mine once saw them blank each other in a North Berwick restaurant. Now THAT'S the kind of gossip you're looking for I know! These were clever people talking about important things in golf and it made for great listening.
The only disappointing thing about this podcast is that it seems to have gone by the wayside this year. It has only appeared 3 times in the last 3 months and that's a real shame. I imagine they didn't make any money from it and they clearly have other things to do (they do seem to have been beset with more technical differences than seems fair) but that's our loss. If I had a lot of money I would give it to them to do more than these. Or buy a PXG driver.
This is the Grandaddy of the lot. First appearing in early 2012 this does what it says on the tin, serves to discuss the state of the game.
It's been hosted for the last few years by the flirtatious Geoff Shackleford, ex European Tour stalwart Mike Clayton (here's his most famous moment in case you haven't seen it) and an Australian chap called Rod Morri who has a great voice and beguiling style.
Occasionally they are at risk of sounding like grumpy old men but they normally have a point (the game is being ruined by the ball, the golf cart, the rangefinder, the driver, the set level plastic tee......). I really like listening to what they have to say. Clayton brings a real expertise to the party - an ex-player who now designs courses and has a philosophy for making the game both enjoyable and accessible but in no way dumbed down. They are smart people who have a view of the world outside the narrow confines of the PGA tour.
The show has a bit of an Australian bent but in a world dominated by the US tour that is in many ways refreshing and their guest lineup was great. Joe Ogilvie in episode 45 was possibly the best interviewee ever.
And yet they appear to have gone the way of Donegan and Huggan. They now only make an occasional dalliance in the world of the pod which is a real shame. They are always worth listening to and at least we now have Shackleford to listen to on a more regular basis, even if he does spend a little too much time talking about razors and boxer shorts.
I would say that those are the only 3 'must listens' which always make it to the top of my list when available. But there are some others worth listening to for sure -
the next best - i almost always listen
This is a podcast dedicated to introducing golfers to the delights of Scottish golf. Hosted by the Scot Ru McDonald, he brings a real passion to all things Scottish golf and is a great advocate of the game up here. My only quibble with Ru would be that once you tune into it his loss of the letter 't' can be a little distracting but you can live with that.
He is often joined by the wonderfully named Graylyn Loomis who brings a touch of the Shackleford sage voice of reason to affairs (he is at least 24 I guess). Here are 2 young guys spreading the gospel of Scottish golf. Keeping it fresh with new insight and angles is tough but they more often than not succeed.
Ryan Ballangee is the host of the 19th Hole. Again, what makes this one good is that he has a point of view and isn't scared to discuss significant topics. He recently explained in quite some detail why Phil Mickelson avoided jail and how golf screwed up the Olympics - a refreshing voice.
It's still early days for this pod but it has potential for sure. Bacon is a golf journalist come Fox online presenter. Fox Sports that is rather than News. He has clearly been employed by them to attract the much wanted Millennials but there is something in it for us older people too.
For the European audience it is a little US-centric at times (I don't care that much for how Joe Buck transitioned from NFL and MLB to golf commentary) but there have been some good guests too - Alan Shipnuck and Justin Thomas to name for example and Bacon brings a real energy to the show which it's hard not to enjoy.
The chaps are Millennial seekers on heat. They will think nothing of having a twenty minute segment on 'funny things I shouted behind the tee to get on the TV' and other hilarious segments but actually, once you get through that surface, there is good stuff in here for sure.
The No Laying Up site and Twitter feed is dedicated to those who embrace throwing everything they have into the game with gay abandon - think John Daly rather than Vijay Singh - and can be really funny. The podcast takes that into the online world and more often than not makes for a pretty good listen.
the golf show podcast from espn
This is another of those podcasts you just wish they would produce more often . Michael Collins and Jason Sobel make really good hosts and they have an interesting take on the game. The problem is they don't really do them very often and as a result they fall into the 'good but could be great' category. Averaging one podcast a month makes me think their heart isn't really in it
TAKE THEM OR LEAVE THEM DEpending on guests -
This one has the advantage of good guests more often than not but the hosts could do with injecting a little more personality and opinion into the whole thing. It's what makes the Huggan's, Clayton, Shackelefords, Donegans etc so listenable. These just sound a bit like they're asking questions at a press conference more often than not which is a shame. If the guests are really good though they can make it worthwhile.
Mark Immelmann is the brother of South African Trevor Immelmann and is a well respected coach. He does have a rather soporific voice though and the subjects can often be rather dry - 'Dr Sherylie Calder from EyeGym.com discusses Visual Fitness is a good example - but occasionally is worth a listen.
Again, this can be a little dry and the advertising a pain but it is all in the guests. There have been some good ones - Hank Haney and Lorne Rubenstein of late - but without them it can be dry and hard work to get through sometimes.
So there you are, I have the joy of an hour each way commute at the moment hence I am getting through the podcasts at a rate of knots. I'll update if I discover any new gems in the months ahead!