Holey Moley’s EP on predicted ratings success, and the ‘big investment’ in a local course: ‘It’s all actually worked out favourably’

Holey Moley's executive producer, Andrew Backwell, is 'hoping for a big [ratings] number' when Seven's new format launches next Monday night, up against Ten's The Amazing Race. In this interview with Mumbrella's Brittney Rigby, he explains why the big investment in a local course will pay off, and how the show provides necessary diversity to Seven's content slate.

“Last year we took all our contestants and our team over to LA to film it on the ABC America set. Three days into shooting, we had to close the whole production down and bring everyone back to Australia due to COVID. If it had all happened like a week later, 10 days later, we would had the whole series in the can and it would have been to air at the end of last year.”

As executive producer, Andrew Backwell, explains, Holey Moley’s production didn’t go to plan.


When international filming was suspended, getting back into Australia only created another problem. Seven was relying on using the over-the-top mini golf course already built and used in the US for that market’s successful version of the format, so “if we want[ed] to do the show, we had to build our own course” locally.

The production team found a location just outside of Brisbane, “and invested the money to build it”. That “big investment” will pay off, Backwell tells Mumbrella, because international broadcasters plan to use the Queensland-based set in the future.

“We’ll start making an announcement on what markets are coming,” he adds. “Obviously COVID is restricting people’s travel at the moment, but we’ve got a commitment from a number of markets that are going to come and use it. And so in the end, it’s all actually worked out favourably for everyone.”

The show was filmed last August, and has been in the editing suite since. As Backwell notes: “You don’t film sequentially. You film all the different holes for all the different episodes in one go. It’s a big post production job.”

The course, and the show itself, is a lot to take in. Previews of the first two episodes depict golfers trying (and failing) to run through a sliver of a gap as a windmill quickly spins on one hole. When they misjudge the timing, the windmill blades send contestants violently flying. There’s Wipeout-esque jumping and grabbing and flailing and falling. Enormous inflatable ducks sway side to side, threatening to knock players into a pool filled with smaller inflatable ducks.

One of the Holey Moley holes

“Everything you think about mini golf, think again,” Backwell advises viewers. “Expect the unexpected, this is mini golf on steroids.”

‘I’m hoping for a big number’: Ratings expectations, and interest from advertisers

Holey Moley’s local audience will be “going in fresh”, Backwell predicts, with most likely not having seen the US series. But he’s hoping for an impressive ratings performance.

“I think it’s going to launch well. I can’t give you a number because I don’t really know what the competition’s got. We don’t know what Nine’s playing. We know against the launch, Ten will have Amazing Race, which is made, ironically, by the same production company. So the production company is going to have their two big shows launching head to head, which is interesting.

“I think we’re going to go well, because I think it’s broad family fun … I’m hoping for a big number as we do with every single show.”

Backwell thinks the show will rate well

Holey Moley is unique in Seven’s lineup; it’s a new show in a slate dominated by old formats: Big Brother, Farmer Wants a Wife, The Voice, Australia’s Got Talent, and from next year, Australian Idol.

Backwell agrees Holey Moley is “very important” to that mix.

“With scheduling, you need to have some returning brands, you need to have some big international formats, and you need to have some new content,” he explains.

“If you put all your eggs in one basket, all old formats on your schedule, they will tire quickly. You need to have that balance. And I’m very happy that it was a brand new show, something very different. We haven’t seen this in this market before. It’s always a risk putting a brand new show on.

“We can have Big Brother, which is an old format returning, and we’ve got a new series of Holey Moley so they’ll balance each other. It’s important for us.”

It’s also important for advertisers. The show has attracted sponsors such as McDonald’s, AAMI, Woolworths, Fetch, Mars Wrigley, and Kellogg’s, with network director of sales, Natalie Harvey, calling Holey Moley a “huge hit with brands” so far.

“I’ve not seen a new or established property move as quickly as Holey Moley has,” she says.

“Demand outside sponsors has also been the highest level since I started at Seven with so many brands wanting a part of the action.”

‘A fun way to spend the day’: Locking in a cast and working with Greg Norman

The show – first announced at Seven’s 2019 upfronts under the name ‘Mega Mini Golf’ before its rebrand to Holey Moley early last year – has a number of presenters on board.

American actor and comedian Rob Riggle, also a fixture on the US show, and former Olympian Matt Shirvington commentate on the action. Sonia Kruger hosts (she was taken off the show when she signed on to Big Brother, but was able to resume the Holey Moley role when filming was delayed). And Australian golfing legend Greg Norman is the ‘resident golf pro’.

Kruger hosts the show

Backwell explains that Norman, who is based in America, was planning to “come on set and perform on set”. When US filming didn’t work out, “we shot all his bits in the show … very similar to how they did in the US, but he didn’t travel out to Australia”.

“I thought it was a great coup that we got him to be involved in the show in the first place.”

The cast, meanwhile, consists of professional golfers – “all of them have played mini golf, and they’re all coming in there to try and win the competition” – including the country’s best women’s golfer, Montana Strauss, Australia’s top mini golfer, Colette Norton, and Guinness World Record holder for ball control, Henry Epstein.

Finding golfers willing to sign on to the show “wasn’t that hard”, according to Backwell. “When people see clips from the US show, they see it’s going to be a fun way to spend the day.

“And at the end of it, if they make it through and win the final, there’s $100,000 on offer, so there’s that incentive. But I think mainly it was that it’s a fun day out to come in and have some fun on the course.”

At the start of each episode, two contestants compete head-to-head for a spot in the second round. The second round’s victor heads to the final hole.

Kruger on set

The overall winner of each episode “takes home the prestigious plaid jacket, the golden putter and books a spot in the Grand Final, where they will compete for the chance to win $100,000 on the daunting last hole,” Seven said in an announcement.

Ultimately, Backwell believes Seven is a winner too, as the broadcaster to bring to life the Australian version of an Australian idea. The show was dreamed up by the founders of Eureka, Chris Culvenor and Paul Franklin.

“They came up with the idea and pitched it to America, and for an Aussie idea to get up in network TV in America and become such a big success is unusual and an incredible achievement,” Backwell says.

“And it’s great that now it’s launching in Australia … we’re lucky at Seven to be the ones that are broadcasting it.”


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