The Unlikely Harmony of Golf and Podcasting
When they realized the sport they love had an underserved market, the founders of No Laying Up saw an opportunity.
Golf and the digital world might not seem like a natural pairing, on the surface. Golf was founded in 15th-century Scotland; the internet was founded in 1983. With a dwindling national audience for pro golf and a grim growth forecast at the sport’s grassroots level, there are more and more discussions concerning its long-term survival. And in a media landscape where hype videos regularly rally hordes of basketball and football fans across platforms, it's not always clear how to scratch the itch of the American golf audience. That’s where the internet—and in particular, podcasts—have filled a void.
“We started No Laying Up—which started as a website—because we felt like there was no golf content that was written in our voice, in the way that we talk about golf,” says Neil Schuster, one of the podcast's founders and hosts. “And then in the same vein, there wasn't really any golf podcast.” Now NLU is a beloved and popular podcast among golfers that features accessible analysis alongside interviews with some of the biggest players in the world.
Friends doing what friends do
Like many good podcasts, No Laying Up started as a logical extension of a rollicking text chain between three golf-obsessed friends who met at Miami University in Ohio. The plan to start recording was less about finding an audience and more about entertaining one another (No Laying Up’s primary crew consists of hosts Chris “Soly” Solomon, Neil, Neil’s brother Todd “Tron" Schuster, and Phil “Big Randy” Landes). While many golf fans tend to be obsessives who will happily gobble up every piece of golf content available, this group saw plenty of white space in golf’s commentary ecosystem.
“We were answering a problem we had,” says Schuster. “I think that’s how a lot of people and companies start stuff. They ask a question that no one is answering.”
What started as a side project is now a full-time career for all four No Laying Up creators. They’ve expanded their offerings as well, developing a culture and commentary podcast called TrapDraw, a show that’s based on the conversations and arguments the foursome tackle during an 18-hole round.
“We're all starting to develop our own voices and personalities, so I think [TrapDraw] gives us a little bit of latitude to talk about things outside golf,” Schuster says. For example, one recent episode was pretty much a love letter to the 2004 Metallica documentary Some Kind of Monster, which had come up recently during a round. “That’s something something that I want to talk about, and maybe somebody wants to listen to that, too.”
Using the slower pace as an advantage
In an individual sport like golf, where the competition is one golfer versus a field of 100 or so, Schuster sees each PGA Tour player as a growing brand. Unlike athletes in the four major sports, a golfer like Rory McIlroy is a global star but is also fairly available, and he and his peers came up in an era when social media and an always-plugged-in culture have given their fans a high level of access. For No Laying Up, the cycle that is fed by that environment—more access leads to more engagement and curiosity on the part of the fans—makes the players ripe for longform discussion.
“Golf is a game of integrity,” Schuster says. "A lot of these guys grow up and have to learn all this nuanced etiquette." Also, golfers are often put into situations—like pro-ams or other promotional events—where holding a conversation with a stranger is a must. That muscle gets worked in the podcast format."
The nature of the game itself also helps. Where thirty seconds in an NBA or NFL game can change the entire narrative, golf plays out much more slowly; major tournaments last four days. At the same time, a tournament takes place on a sprawling golf course, so there’s lots of opportunities to relish the minutiae. While a broadcast focuses on one shot at a time, the reality is that there’s probably 30 or 40 shots hit by 30 or 40 different players, happening simultaneously. And as long as there are golfers with interesting stories, No Laying Up is well-positioned for success, no matter the health of the game at large.
“I don't see [golf] as a growth business or a growth vertical,” Schuster says. “But I think… there are enough young people that are crazy about golf that it's not going to die. It's one of those activities where if they do it, they're addicted to it… people are just craving interesting stories about this game that they love.”