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WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for season one of Netflix series Full Swing.

The Godfather: Part II. Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Aliens.

The list of sequels which are better than the original is as small as it is distinguished. For myriad reasons, making a follow-up worthy of its predecessor is notoriously and persistently difficult. Bottling lightning once is no mean feat. Doing it twice in a row? Harder still.

All of which is illustrative of the challenge facing the team behind Full Swing.

The fly-on-the-wall golf docuseries made a huge impression on its debut last year, cracking the top-10 on the Netflix global charts and peaking at No.2 in the US and UK.

Available in 190 countries and 32 languages, it also had a profound effect on the game, particularly in the US where Nielsen Media Research Analysis found that 63% of Full Swing viewers tuned in to PGA Tour coverage in the two months following its debut.

It ticked every box it set out to tick, basically.

It was, therefore, little surprise when the Netflix high heidyins renewed the series for a second season in March 2023, green-lighting it for another run alongside its tennis equivalent Break Point.

“These shows quickly appealed to core fans of golf and tennis, and also recruited brand new fans from all around the world,” said Brandon Riegg, Vice President, Unscripted and Documentary Series, Netflix. “Like so much of our growing sports slate, the compelling characters, competitive stakes, and vibrant storytelling reveal sides of the game you’ve never seen before, and we’re excited to follow the unpredictable turns of the year ahead.”

Without doubt, 2023 dished up an appetising menu of fascinating storylines, from a fiery Ryder Cup clash in Italy, to breakthrough wins galore, to the PGA Tour’s shock decision to merge with LIV. As you might expect, the cameras were rolling to capture it all.

It is with the PGA Tour-LIV Golf psychodrama that Season 2 starts, much of the opening episode devoted to Rory McIlroy as he finds himself front and centre of golf’s civil war. It’s a smart place to begin. As well as being one of the most high-profile figures in the game, McIlroy is also one of the most erudite and candid. His unvarnished, unsparing answers are frequently jaw-dropping and, as the credits roll, the bar is set high – very high – for the rest of the season.

Sadly, it peaks too soon. Whilst various parts of subsequent episodes are genuinely compelling, it’s impossible to shake the feeling that you’ve seen all this before. The narrative structure of the show is an almost mirror image of season one, to such an extent that this feels more like a continuation of the first season rather than a season in its own right. Most of the same voices return to put words on the pictures, the excellent Dan Rapaport bringing particularly strong energy and insight. However, there’s a noticeable lack of freshness and originality.

Indeed, if you’re hoping to see and hear from all new personalities, you’ll be disappointed. Hundreds of golfers with tour cards and it’s mostly the same faces as were profiled in season one.

Joel Dahmen and his caddie Geno Bonnalie get their own episode once again. But unlike the disarmingly raw and unpretentious instalment last year, this one makes for uncomfortable viewing. That’s because it charts Dahmen toiling as he adjusts to his new-found fame – fame caused, ironically, by his appearance on Full Swing.

It’s hard to shake the feeling that there’s a sense of self-congratulation at play here on the part of the producers, a little bit of “hey everyone, we did this!”. Maybe that’s unkind. I hope it’s wrong. But it’s illustrative of a bigger problem with season two: the disappointingly high proportion of fourth wall construction and deconstruction.

Players acknowledging the presence of the cameras (“If I get a hole-in-one here, I want free Netflix for life”); the off-camera voices of the interviewers intruding into shot as they pose their questions; regular clapperboard set-ups to introduce new ‘characters’; and, yes, an episode devoted to the impact of the debut season on one of its principle characters – much of this could and should have been left on the clipping room floor. Instead, by leaving it in, the producers stand accused of mistaking themselves for the stars of the show rather than the makers of it. In isolation, it’s easy to overlook these storytelling missteps but the sum of them feels a wee bit self-indulgent and is off-putting.

Elsewhere, Brian Harman’s Open win is almost completely disregarded, which feels strange considering the attention devoted to the other three majors, whilst the Tom Kim episode is sadly underwhelming. And yes, Tiger Woods remains conspicuous by his absence. Two seasons and not a single word from the game’s biggest name – not ideal.

Those “genuinely compelling” parts I mentioned? The episode with Rickie Fowler is tremendous, exposing a vulnerability and fragility in the six-time PGA Tour winner that many will surprise many.

Episode five, meanwhile, focuses on the Fitzpatrick siblings – Matt and Alex – and is truly first-class. Alex, in particular, is a natural in front of the camera and, like Dahmen in season one, appears totally unaffected by the trappings of his profession and improving profile.

Then there’s the Ryder Cup. The last two episodes are devoted to the clash in Rome and, in their own way, are a microcosm of where the series rises and falls. Eavesdropping on the conversations between the captains and the players they pick – and don’t pick, for that matter – makes for terrific content but the lack of inside-the-team-room access during the match itself (Team USA reportedly voted to keep the cameras out) leaves the producers little alternative but to show you highlights of the golf… most of which even casual golf fans will likely have seen before.

Consequently, as strong as it starts, the end of season two is weak. It leaves you wanting more, just not in the way its makers would have intended.

There’s no denying the team behind Full Swing comprises talented filmmakers and passionate storytellers, who are clearly specialists in production values, pacing, cinematography and the like. If this season ends up having a similar impact to its predecessor, it will be hailed a huge success, and with some justification. But on balance, it’s more “Magical Mystery Tour” than “Revolver”. Good, but not great. A level-par 72 that could have been a 59.

If there is to be a season three, let’s hope it dares to be different. Even if just a little. Even if just for the novelty of it.

• Full Swing is available to watch on Netflix from March 6. 

author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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