Netflix brings their A-game to another Drive to Survive Successor
After the disappointment of Break Point, the dull, tennis-focussed cousin of Drive to Survive, I believed that the success of the original docu-series could not be replicated. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised by the next instalment in Netflix’s sport-based endeavours, Full Swing.
Released on 15 February, Full Swing is an eight-episode documentary series following the 2022 season of 15 players on the PGA Tour. Only being the type of golf fan who casually watches major championships, I was not rushing to watch this series, instead prioritising Outer Banks over reading week. However, after watching the first episode ‘Frenemies’, following Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, I was hooked.
After seeing the positive effect that Drive to Survive had on the viewership of Formula One, top golfers were evidently keen to get involved, especially as golf has the traditional reputation of being a sport for retirees. Yet, Spieth and Thomas came across as likeable, down-to-earth, yet driven athletes, which can sometimes get lost behind all the polo shirts and golf caps.
The producers lucked out in their choice of year to follow the PGA tour, as in 2022 was the inaugural season of the LIV golf tour. Controversial due to its backing by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), LIV represents an existential threat to the PGA tour due to its poaching of the top players if the price is right. One of the highlights of Full Swing was how it didn’t sugarcoat the reasons why players abandoned the PGA tour. Either one doesn’t care about their legacy and follows the money, like Dustin Johnson, or is at the end of their career, and also wants the money, like Ian Poulter. This was juxtaposed in the final episode which followed Rory McIlroy and his mission to leave the game of golf in a better place than he found it, protecting both the legacy and the future of the PGA tour.
St Andrews has a leading role in Full Swing, offering frequent jumpscares when you’d look at the screen and realise ‘Oh, that is where I go to uni!’. The town hardly takes a bad picture, let alone drone shot, of which there are plenty. The series does a great job at balancing explaining golf for beginners, giving an overview of its history, and then primarily focusing on the people within the sport.
Highlights included episode four, ‘Imposter Syndrome’, which followed Joel Dahmen — who astutely observes that “someone’s got to be the 70th best golfer in the world, might as well be me” — and episode six, ‘Don’t Get Bitter, Get Better’, which follows probably the nicest guy in golf, Tony Finau. Both episodes almost had me welling up, not because of the golf, but because of the stories behind it; how the players got there, and why they continue to play.
As someone who has only picked up a mini-golf club in the past few years, Full Swing is still one of the best series I have seen for a while on Netflix. It was engaging, informative, and entertaining, the perfect dinner-time watch if you will. And although I won’t be keeping an eagle eye on every PGA tour event, I can certifiably say that Full Swing was a better watch than Outer Banks.
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