Most golfers can attest that the sport is an endeavor that can often bring out some colorful language. There’s a reason the old joke about golf getting its name because it was the only four-letter word left always gets a knowing nod in the clubhouse bar.
While the game confounds weekend warriors and Tour pros alike, only one of those two subsets of golfers is playing for their livelihood. With more at stake, the margin for error on Tour is much smaller making mistakes that much more costly, which usually results in the previously-stated colorful language making its way onto televised broadcasts.
Unsurprisingly, not everyone on Tour has the “aw shucks” response to poor shots that Matt Kuchar does as proved by a recent report from Golf.com. Filing a Freedom of Information Request, the website received every complaint regarding profanities, commercials, visuals and other language that viewers deemed offensive during golf broadcasts on CBS, NBC, Golf Channel, ESPN and Fox Sports since 2015.
There were two complaints about commercials in 2015, no complaints in 2016 or 2017, but there were nine in 2018. One-third of the complaints came in response to Justin Thomas’ reaction to winning the Honda Classic earlier this year in a sudden-death playoff.
After holing a four-footer for the win, Thomas screamed, “Come On! F— yeah!”
— Eric Hubbs (@BarstoolHubbs) February 25, 2018
“I didn’t know that was obviously going to be on TV or I wouldn’t have said it,” Thomas said after the round. “I’m sorry. Please don’t fine me very much, PGA. I apologize to anybody that heard it, or everybody that heard it.”
That apology wasn’t enough, however, as viewers from Utah, Virginia and Iowa wrote to the FCC requesting fines for CBS.
“I am hoping that CBS will be disciplined for airing professional golfers yelling f— during live coverage in front of young sports fans. Huge fines should be enforced.”
Another big moment of contention was Xander Schauffele’s approach into the 15th green during the final round of the Open Championship. Flaring his shot out, Schauffele could be heard on the broadcast saying, “Oh s—.”
Viewers from Arizona and Texas voiced their displeasure.
“On SUNDAY, my family was treated to a golfer saying the word ‘s—‘ during The Open on NBC Golf,” the Arizona viewer complained. “Don’t they have a delay to cut that sound out? Seriously, a Sunday morning shouldn’t have programming with indecent language.”
Other instances of golfers using profanity came from Tiger Woods at Bay Hill and Brian Harman and Pat Perez at the Tournament of Champions.
The two final complaints came with different circumstances. The first was an overarching complaint from a viewer in Oregon City, Oregon, who said, “I’m sick and tired of not being able to allow my young children to watch golf because of all the golfers’ profanity.”
The final — and most notorious — complaint came as a result of a native microphone picking up a sexually graphic conversation being held between two members of the gallery at the U.S. Open on Fox.
“It’s an unfortunate reality for nearly all live sports, which on the whole tend not to employ tape delay,” a Golf Channel spokesperson told Golf.com. “When these incidents do unfortunately occur, they are edited out of re-airs, and on-air personalities are quick to apologize to the audience on behalf of the offender.”