Golf is a game of tradition.
But it’s also a game played over a large course, with multiple participants, with multiple staging grounds for the most important shots.
That’s why the U.S. Golf Association has gone digital for the 116th U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, which will take place from June 13-19. As of today, an app that will allow spectators to locate players, locate their current shots, provide a map of the facilities on the course, a schedule of autographing and a livestream not just for those at the event but for those following at home, is available for download.
Amanda Weiner, Assistant Director, Digital Media of the USGA spoke to me last week about the merger of tech and golf and the driving force is providing the best experience to spectators that they can.
“We face this challenge each year: what does a massive golf course offer in terms of intimacy for fans?” After changed the mobile phone policy last year, the USGA created this app to provide a “curated” experience.
To ensure the app works on the course, approximately 70 beacons across 14 locations on the course will capture data which will be delivered to the app and updated for a to-the-minute experience at the U.S. Open.
“Our locater allows the user to find their players. You’ll see where they are in relation to you, but the app also locates the food and drink tents, the merchandise tent, all concessions, autograph sessions and provides a search engine in real time,” Weiner said.
The PlayCaster feature will allow a user of the app to drag the scrubber bar to find out where a player will be at a certain time. Click on a specific hole, and the app will serve up who’s on that hole in that moment, complete with positions of the balls to the tee.
How does PlayCaster do this? It will leverage current scoring data and pace-of-play information to forecast where a player will be on the course at any given time. This U.S. Open will be the first golf property to feature the this technology.
(For those like me, who wondered if both players and balls were microchipped to allow tracking of their locations, no. The balls are located via the laser system and the PlayCaster algorithm tracks the players.)
And, of course, the app contains a “fully robust” leaderboard, said Weiner.
Do you need the app if you’re watching at home? Yes, if golf is your thing. For certain times, the app will be the only way to see Open. From 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Thursday and Friday, the only televised feed will be on the app, as the networks covering the event are off-air during those times. The livestream will continue to track the Open all day and will update with highlights too.
The key to the app, of course, will be making sure the beacons placed around the course provide seamless coverage. This is not a stadium, like at Daytona International Speedway, but rather a completely outdoor event with a moving crowd. Attendance is expected to be approximately 35,000 people per day and about 20 percent of those are expected to log onto the app at any given time. Weiner said they’ll be testing out the beacons and the app to ensure all works smoothly.
It’s enough to make this non-golf fan want to walk the course.