As PGA Tour, LIV Trade Shots, New Off-Course League TGL Is One Year Away From Reshaping Professional Golf

One year from now, the PGA Tour will be kicking off its own team golf competition. Well, sort of.

Amid all the attention paid to the LIV Tour as a disruptor and challenger to the PGA Tour, an even more outside-the-box golf league will be making its debut around the same time as the PGA Tour’s 2024 Florida swing. And rather than a competitor to a tournament like this week’s Players Championship — the PGA Tour’s biggest annual event — the high-tech TGL will be a complementary product designed to not only showcase golf in a very different way, but expose the game to a broader audience.

One year removed from its primetime reveal, here’s a look back at TGL’s transformative evolution and a look ahead to what will be one of the most groundbreaking advancements in professional golf history.

What Exactly Is TGL?

TGL is a technology-based golf league that will debut in March 2024 with six teams of three PGA Tour pros competing live on Monday nights in a custom built, state-of-the-art indoor arena. Instead of playing on a traditional, green grass golf course, the action will take place entirely within a 135,000-square-foot venue, with players mic’d up for live broadcasts and between 1,500 and 2,000 fans in attendance.

While players will hit full shots on a virtual course, TGL is far from “simulator golf.” Rather than a typical hitting bay, think of something closer to the size of a massive IMAX screen that TGL participants will be blasting balls into within the arena environment. They’ll then move to a tech-infused short-game complex for chipping, putting and greenside bunker shots.

The cutting age technology behind TGL hasn’t been announced yet, but there are several dots worth trying to connect. The first is that former Topgolf Chief Technology Officer Andrew Macaulay, who led the development of Topgolf’s innovative experiences, has taken the same position at TMRW Sports and will lead the tech strategy for TGL, including fan experience and venue operations. In addition, the new tour’s co-founder, Tiger Woods, has had a partnership with Full Swing Golf, the largest U.S.-based producer of multi-sport simulators, since 2015.

Who Is Behind TGL?

The biggest names, without question, are Woods and Rory McIroy. The two stars teamed with former Golf Channel President Mike McCarley in co-founding a venture called TMRW Sports and laying the groundwork for TGL – well before the launch of the LIV Tour, incidentally. Woods and McIlroy gave the new tech-based league instant relevance in committing as participants as well as visionary backers.

Other strategic investors behind TGL are a veritable Who’s-Who in both the sports world and business world, from Josh Allen (NFL), Steph Curry (NBA), Shohei Ohtani (MLB) and Gareth Bale (soccer) to team owners and senior executives in other professional sports such as Arthur Blank (Atlanta Falcons), David Blitzer (Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils), John Collins (Cleveland Browns), John Henry (Boston Red Sox, Liverpool Football Club and Pittsburgh Penguins), and many others. From the worlds of finance and media/technology, investors include Dynasty Equity Co-Founder and CEO K. Don Cornwell, Piper Sandler Vice Chairman and Senior Managing Principal Jimmy Dunne, Highpost Capital Senior Managing Director David Gubbay, former Continental Cablevision Vice Chairman Tim Neher, former NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol, and former Reddit Executive Chair Alexis Ohanian.

The PGA Tour is also a strategic partner in helping develop TGL, which Commissioner Jay Monahan describes as a “one of a kind, almost unimaginable concept.”

“Tiger, Rory, and I came up with a concept that we knew was going to be complimentary to the PGA Tour,” McCarley said. “Jay and his team not only embraced it, they have really helped us build this into what it can become.”

Soon to come are media and commercial partners, as well as the team ownership structure.

Who’s Playing?

Besides Tiger and Rory, nine other well-known names have committed so far to competing in the 15-match regular season, which will be followed by playoffs and a championship. There will be 18 PGA Tour players in total. Those currently in the mix have combined for 181 PGA Tour wins and 27 majors, with seven of the 11 in the Top 10 of the current world rankings. (Woods is among those outside the Top 10)

World No. 1 Jon Rahm was on board early, as was one of Woods’ closest friends on tour, Justin Thomas. The other current TGL participants are Collin Morikawa, Adam Scott, Matt Fitzpatrick, Max Homa, Billy Horschel, Justin Rose and Xander Schauffele. The teams have yet to be set, but the initial roster is the cream of the PGA Tour crop.

“Fans crave to see the top players compete against each other more often, so TGL is another opportunity for golf’s superstars to square off,” McCarley said. “The TGL roster not only includes the top golfers in the world, but ones with dynamic personalities whose competitiveness will thrive in this environment.”

What Will the Environment Be Like?

In terms of fan experience, the TGL will be unlike anything golf has offered before – an intimate, but high-energy arena setting with numerous screens and live feeds for player performance data and wagering.

“It’s like being courtside, at a rink or basically any kind of team sport environment where you don’t have to move,” said Woods. “And unfortunately, in golf, the fans have to move 8 to 10 miles a day trying to walk their way around, and maybe not quite see what they want to see. Or they may miss a roar, miss a shot, trying to get ahead and into a position where they can see something going on. Here, they’re going to be literally right there with us the entire time, and for two hours in prime time.”

And unlike green grass golf tournaments, which are subject to the vagaries of Mother Nature, there won’t be any weather delays.

“No cold weather,” Woods added. “My body’s very, very thankful for that.”

Who Is the Audience?

TGL’s backers expect the league to cast a wide net: golfers and non-golfers alike. Gamblers, data nerds, technophiles… The hope is that TGL’s impact within the professional game is in some ways an extension of the success Topgolf and other golf entertainment venues have enjoyed in the recreational golf sector, with an appeal to viewers of all ages and ability levels.

“Coming to an experience like this is less intimidating. It’s also one we can bring to a number of different generations and they can all enjoy it together,” said Woods. “That’s one thing that we want to have, the sustainability in the introduction of the game of golf. Having an arena like this, we’re going to have the excitement, we’re going to have something different, and something that is passionate.”

McIroy sees opportunity to get more youth into golf through the TGL experience.

“The really exciting thing is trying to bring golf into the 21st century,” McIlroy said. “It’s so rooted in tradition, which is a great thing and I think people really appreciate that about the game. But (this concept) tries to deliver golf to the younger demographic.”

What Will the Competition Look Like?

The TGL unquestionably takes competitive golf to a whole new level, with 18-hole matches played within a two-hour window and in a self-contained, tech-heavy venue at Palm Beach State College in South Florida.

The arena is being built by CAA Icon on a 10-acre unused piece of property on the campus, not far from the homes of many of the pros in nearby Jupiter. That proximity will likely be welcomed during the Monday night primetime matches, which will played a day after the Sunday final round of PGA Tour events and just before the Tuesday and Wednesday practice rounds for the upcoming tournaments.

Unlike the individual focus on the PGA Tour, the TGL will be team-oriented.

“The fact that you’re not just playing for yourself, that’s such a foreign concept for us,” said McIlroy. “The most pressure I’ve ever felt in my career is my first Ryder Cup. All of a sudden, what I do doesn’t just affect me, it affects everyone else, and that’s a big responsibility, especially if you haven’t really had that experience before. To be standing up there and know that whatever shot you hit or whatever putt you may hole, it doesn’t just affect you, it affects everyone else on your team, that’s a pretty big deal.”

McIlroy noted that while some players will embrace the format, others will likely learn how to deal with stepping outside their comfort zone. And having players mic’d up adds another element.

“It’s going to be interesting, the banter that goes back and forth, the strategy that happens,” said Woods. “There’s a lot of strategy that we have experienced playing in international team competitions that is so different, that is so unlike what we do every week. I think that the fans will truly appreciate that, understand that and embrace it.”

And it’s now only about a year away.