Win or Go Home
Money or Legacy
Don’t Get Bitter, Get Better
Golf is Hard
Everything Has Led to This
Drive to Survive has been a massive success for Netflix. Not only has it managed to get over the 3 season hump (where most long-running shows on the platform go to die), it’s also continued to get better and better over time. With exemplary editing, nail-biting tension and a proper behind the scenes look at the sport, it was only a matter of time before the producers branched out to look at other sports too.
Earlier this year we had Break Point, which took a while to find its bearings before actually delivering on-pitch entertainment. It wasn’t mind-blowing but it was a solid experimental venture into a different sport altogether. Full Swing then is an interesting beast by comparison. Not only does it embody some of the better elements of Drive to Survive, it also embodies the worst – and the less enjoyable elements of Break Point too.
The show takes on a similar approach as those aforementioned series, this time focusing exclusively on the world of golf. Across the 8 episodes, the focus is split between two different competitors on each of the four major golf tournaments, The Masters, PGA Championship, US Open and the Open Championship. Along the way there are play-off matches and even practice rounds to flesh out what’s predominantly a human drama at its heart.
If you’re not familiar with golf though, Full Swing does go some way to explain what’s going on. You may be confused as to why the leaderboard features minus numbers, which is eventually explained, while specific slang terms within golf – bogeys, eagles, over and under par etc. – are work to ease casuals into the world of golf.
The editing can be rather hit or miss at times though, with some bizarre music choices that give this an unintentional cheesy feel on occasion. Thankfully these are overshadowed by the direction each episode takes, which takes two different golfers and explores their personal and professional lives, intent on finding out what makes them tick. I
In episode 1, we see the rivalry between Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas grow. Meanwhile, episode 6 examines Tony Finau’s dedication to his family, contrasted beautifully by Collin Morikawa’s fierce dedication to beating the best no matter what. Nestled between these episodes are several that look specifically at individual golfers, saving the best for last in Rory McIlroy’s hunt for another championship. It’s a welcome approach and one of the better imports from Break Point.
Admittedly though, this is something of a double-edged sword, especially for those who would prefer a more widespread look at each tournament as a whole. Adding some drama in this though is an ongoing narrative involving Saudi-backed LIV Golf attempting to rival PGA. This ongoing shadow hangs over the world of golf but it never really takes off until quite late on in the show, which is a shame.
Despite all that, Full Swing is an enjoyable documentary but it doesn’t quite hit a hole-in-one. It takes a while to get going while the episodes themselves have some pretty hit or miss editing at times. The action on the green is quite good, while the constantly changing league table is a lovely inclusion.
Unlike Break Point and Drive to Survive, if you’re not a fan of golf going into this, Full Swing is unlikely to change your opinion. Die-hard fans might find this a bit basic too, making for a somewhat subjective watch. It’s certainly not bad, but it’s not as good as it could have been either.
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Verdict - 7/10