Brow Beat

Will the Masters in 3-D Turn Me Into a Golf Fan?

This year’s Masters is undeniably about Tiger Woods’ return to tournament play. In the meantime, another milestone has gone relatively unnoticed: ESPN’s 3-D telecast of the Masters is “the first live national next-generation 3-D broadcast of a major sporting event on TV.” Yesterday, ESPN and Time Warner Cable held a promotional gathering to show off the 3-D greens and fairways. (You’ll be able to watch at home if your cable provider offers the dedicated 3-D channel and you have a 3-D enabled television set. So, basically you won’t be able to watch at home.) I traveled to a swanky, improvised lounge in the heart of Manhattan’s Time Warner Center (scenically located right in front of Borders) to see whether viewing golf in three dimensions would make me into a fan.

The verdict? 3-D TV is undeniably cool. The novelty of seeing Augusta National’s green hills pop out against smooth ponds didn’t wear off over the hour or so I spent watching the tournament. Even so, it’s a little disorienting to watch 3-D programming on a nonmovie-theater-sized screen. I agree with Slate ‘s Justin Peters that the experience was more like watching a ” living diorama ” than it was wholly immersive. Any time I started to get truly absorbed in the 3-D, I’d notice the area outside the screen and the effect would be partially ruined.

Alexander Dudley, vice president of public relations for Time Warner, told me that a lot of people at the company think golf is better suited for 3-D than many other sports football, for example. “Someone said that the natural light of the outdoors enhances it,” he explained. “There’s a lot of panoramic shots, there’s a lot of undulations in the landscape, there’s water, there’s trees. There’s a lot of opportunity to create the 3-D imagery.”

There’s certainly some truth to those claims; the landscape of a golf course does look pretty great in 3-D. Yet because balls aren’t flying directly at the screen and players aren’t waving their clubs at the camera, the 3-D aspect doesn’t fundamentally change the experience of watching golf on television. I wasn’t very interested in golf before I saw the Masters in 3-D, and after seeing it, I still haven’t been struck by an urge to follow the tournament.

Putting nuts might herald the advent of 3-D technology as a major step forward. But for laypeople like me, this gimmick isn’t enough to make golf fun. We’ll continue getting our Tiger news from the usual sources: the tabloids.