Soly, Neil, Tron and Big Randy. These are the constituent parts of No Laying Up (NLU) - a website, podcast and merchandise enterprise.
We got turned on to NLU a few years ago, and have been part of the cult ever since. We found refreshing takes, devoid of pretension or elitism. Humourous while also informative views. NLU is at the epicentre of a changing game.
We caught up with Chris Solomon (Soly), co-founder of NLU to find out a bit more.
So No Laying Up - what do you do and how did it start?
Myself and three friends started it a little over four years ago. We saw a gap in how golf was covered and how people talk about golf when they’re sitting next to their buddy at a bar, and found media outlets in general lost track of the best interests of the fans and started serving their own interests in the way of clickbait and trash articles - stuff about wives and girlfriends - there was so little out there celebrating the good parts of the game so we started doing our own thing in our own style.
For a very long time we felt like we were typing into the void and no one was reading it and then a couple years in we saw a bit of growth, then it started faster than we could have imagined. Before we knew it we figured out we had something on our hands. Our goal is to be as authentic as possible and use our resources to entertain and inform our fans as best as possible.
We have a pretty big following in the UK. The reach is worldwide. We went to Abu Dhabi and we had people coming up to us saying they love the podcast.
We went to play in Australia and it was mind-blowing people knew about the podcast. It was a gratifying feeling.
You’ve had DJ, Rory, JT on the podcast - how do you go about getting players to sit down with you?
Usually we have to reach out. We have some players and management teams who come to us, and we’re usually keen to pursue those as they know our style and they know what we’re about. They’ll probably bring energy and will open up, rather than do a standard interview.
Some see it as a chance to rehab their image. Fans can hear their view, their story, the inflection in their voice, instead of reading quotes which doesn’t have the same impact.
Usually I do go through the manager, unless I have a really good relationship with the player. I have got in trouble with some managers for going straight to the players.
It’s getting harder to get players on as there are more podcasts now. We’ve gotten the ones that are “easy to get” but some recent ones that are massive names have proven really difficult to get.
You openly have favourites and some players who are...not favourites. Are you tempted to get some of the players you regularly poke fun at on?
I don’t think we’d getting Bubba - I would do Poulter though. We’re hoping to get him soon. We’ve needled him over the years, but he takes it well. Bubba, I’m pretty sure he despises me at every possible level so I’m not interested in doing him!
You’ve done some superb travel podcasts - how have they gone down?
There are no more polarising episodes than the travel episodes. People are like “these are the dumbest episodes, who cares about your stupid round of golf?” and some are like “my favourite one was Ireland etc.” They are meant for people that are going to these places, or have been to these places. I get it if you never plan to go, though.
The thing is, we can’t just do a player interview every week.
How much do you listen to feedback from the listeners?
We definitely do listen to feedback. Some listeners tell us what we should have asked after interviews - very rarely is it something I hadn’t thought of...an example is asking DJ about falling down the stairs at the Masters but he’s been asked that 500 times. We want to at least come from a different place, and if you ask things like that the wall will go up.
We do listen to feedback, but this is more of an art than a science. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and be a critique.
Here’s a loaded question: golf in the UK v golf in the US. What are the differences?
How much time do you have? I played my first round in the UK in 2015 and before I only knew one style. From the driveway into the club to the teeshot on the 18th, everything is different.
It makes me wonder how much American golf has been a detriment to the game of golf.
What I love about the UK, everybody walks and the courses are built for that. I’ve been lucky to play some of the top courses on the British Isles. So I’ve only seen the best of the best, which isn’t the same as in the US.
Distance isn’t nearly as important in the UK. Controlling the ball in the wind and accuracy are more important than just bombs away. It’s so much more fun.
What I do really love, most of your top courses I can call up and play, although it might cost a bit. You can’t do that with the private clubs in the US.
At some of your top courses in the UK, members pay comically low prices. Hearing what they pay at Royal Dornoch compared to Shinnecock Hills...something got screwed up in the model in the US.
It’s so refreshing how golf is more of an every man’s game - my taxi driver at St Andrews was a member and plays the Old Course all the time. The whole vibe around golf i so much better compared to the US.
I get it’s not all roses over your way too, though!
Yes, definitely - what about the change that seems to be happening in golf at the moment, with the sport seemingly going through a bit of an image change. Do you feel that?
I don’t see golf changing too much. Getting into my 30s I see more of my friends getting into golf and the circle around golf get tighter.
Seeing how many athletes turn to golf, I can see how people can be getting turned onto it.
That’s what made me quit my full-time job. I thought this could be a good business seeing how much money is made in golf.
Of course we want more juniors playing it, affordable golf and things, but the target of golf will always be where the money is, unfortunately. That’s not going to change anytime soon.
What about the changes in the coverage. You’ve watched Sky Sports?
I lived in Amsterdam for three years so watched a lot - it’s vastly different to what we have. We’ve worn out our listeners talking about how bad CBS is because we fell in love with how Sky Sports does it from a different perspective. There’s less ego in it, they let the golf speak for itself. You have it so good! I miss it.
And what about the progressive European Tour…
It’s like they let a blogger take over the ideas committee and run with any of their ideas. I love it. It’s hilarious. They are doing things that would never get approved on the PGA Tour - it took forever for them to add a team event!
As cool as some of the initiatives are it hasn’t really peaked my interest in the European Tour, I don’t know what kind of data they are seeing though. But I love they are willing to try things. It’s exactly what the European Tour should be doing.
The players seem to be buying into Keith Pelley and what he’s about, and that’s important.
Ok that’s the difference between golf, what about golf fans…
The fan behaviour has got very bad. It’s become a one-up thing of saying something funny to a player. We didn’t see that in Mexico (WGC event) or the UK, it’s different. It’s a stain on the game and a trend I’m not enjoying.
What about the recent JT incident?
JT got crushed for it. In the States we do this with a lot of athletes. When you’re young and on the way up everyone is a huge fan, but once you get to a certain level people get sick of you. Lebron James is the best example.
It’s happening with JT, and it happened to Spieth, with people picking up on his pace of play. It upsets me golf fans are so particular about a player’s personality. It’s not that big of a deal if Jordan needs to go back to his towel to wipe his hand off or complains after hitting a bad shot. The things we judge players on is so dumb.
What about the Ryder Cup, what’s your view on fan behaviour there?
That’s different. European fans in the Ryder Cup I think have towed the line pretty well. I was at the event in 2016 and it teetered on the edge of too much. The harassment Danny Willett got was not appropriate, it went past the spirit of the competition. Some people think this is a Nascar race though…
Alongside rabid fans, slow play is sparking debate at the moment. What’s your take on it?
The PGA Tour aren’t doing enough. I don’t like the idea of a shot clock, it’s not the way golf is meant to be played. There is more players can do to be ready when it’s their turn. Those things can be cleaned up. It’s going to be slower in the winter with shorter days and more guys on the course, you’ll have five-hour rounds. It’s not an absurd pace. These problems go away as you go through the season.
And where do you see NLU going, what’s the blueprint?
We did 51 episodes last year and we hope to do 75 this year maintaining our schedule of debriefing on tournaments, player interviews, and add in different episodes. The Club Pro Guy was something new we did, and we’d like to start a book club - maybe we pick the 1998 Masters, read up on it and then talk about it.
More topical episodes for sure, but giving people more options. We’re doing more video work as well.
Our audio quality was terrible and it took a long time before we broke down and got good equipment, and we’re looking to upgrade again.
We still don’t really know what we’re doing, but for a long time we had no idea.