The PGA TOUR ® showcases one of the most elegant sports in the world with a rich history and storied tradition. What most people don’t realize is what happens behind the scenes to pull off the great TOUR golf events that so many of us enjoy watching throughout the year. The TOUR has 600 players, thousands of employees and volunteers, and is involved with more than 100 tournaments each year across three tours in the US and throughout the world, where big purses and prestigious titles are bestowed. As the world’s premier professional golf association, it is also one of the most innovative sports organizations on the planet, striving to deliver an experience for its fans that puts them right in the action. Technology plays a key role in enabling the PGA TOUR to deliver unique experiences its fans have come to expect.
Over the past several months, the TOUR has deployed Windows 10 to over 800 devices across its organization, with a goal of 1,300 by the end of the summer.
Last November, Microsoft entered into a partnership with the PGA TOUR to work together to build custom technology solutions that would make data and content easier to manage and interpret, and enhance TOUR operations and fan engagement starting with the adoption of Windows 10. Our two teams have wasted no time. Over the past several months, the TOUR has deployed Windows 10 to over 800 devices across its organization, with a goal of 1,300 by the end of the summer. They are also changing the way that they bring tournament insights to staff and golf fans everywhere. By building custom apps on top of the universal Windows 10 platform, the PGA TOUR is adopting the philosophy of ‘build it once, run it anywhere’, starting with four universal Windows 10 applications that run on Surface Pro 4 and Lumia 950 devices.
“Fans want to be able to see each drive, approach shot and putt in real-time and compare tournaments,” said Steve Evans, SVP and Chief Information Officer, PGA TOUR. “Technology plays a key role in making that a reality across any digital device, but using modern day technology doesn’t stop with us providing interesting and fun user experiences. It’s also about using technology like Windows 10 to drive PGA TOUR operations to deliver a better experience for our employees, our players and our fans around the world.”
Volunteers use Windows 10 devices and apps to track tournament data
I recently had the pleasure of joining the team at a PGA TOUR event, where I quickly learned that volunteers play a pivotal role. There are more than 300 volunteers at each TOUR event that help to drive the ShotLink Scoring System, powered by CDW. This group compiles scoring and statistical information at every shot and at every hole – adding a plethora of stats at each tournament, which are then used for scoreboards, television broadcasts and websites such as PGATOUR.com. About two-thirds of the volunteers operate lasers from towers behind each green that measure distance of approach shots and putts. Others record driving distances and some are walking scorers with each player group. In partnership with SMT and Microsoft Services, we built three apps that volunteers will be migrating to. The first app is the ‘Walking Scorer’ which runs on Microsoft’s Lumia, creating a more user friendly experience on familiar devices to track and manage player and course info, continuing to deliver instant stats to TOUR staff. The second app that volunteers will transition to is the ‘Laser Operator’ which also runs on Lumia devices and collects data from laser sensors on the greens. The third app they tested at the tournament was the ‘Grid View’, which runs on Surface Pro 4 devices and will be used by a volunteer around the green to now digitally input ball position when the laser operator has an obstructed view.
“With the Microsoft Surface Pro and Lumia devices running Windows 10, the PGA TOUR will have intuitive, secure and easy to use devices that allow our volunteers to track every shot and deliver accurate and timely data to our backend systems,” – Steve Evans, Chief Information Officer, PGA TOUR
Universal Windows app delivers instant stats and trends to fans in new and engaging ways
Another exciting experience the PGA TOUR and Microsoft showcased was the ‘Tournament Companion’ app, which is currently being beta tested with attendees during the tournament. Fans will be able to use the app to track tournament data including: player location via a heat map, the ‘pickles’ diagram (i.e. the bird’s eye view of the course and holes), statistical game analysis, player leader boards – and they can even play live games with other attendees. While the team is first focusing on hospitality, we will build this out for fans to allow them to get deeper insights whether at the tournament or at home.
Additionally, Microsoft was testing a golf performance app that we built with Windows 10 and Azure. It allows instructors to record videos of their student’s swing, analyze and annotate the slow motion replay, and save all of the footage to the Microsoft Cloud. Students can access and review their swing footage after their lessons, on the go from any device.
Over the coming months, the PGA TOUR will continue to integrate Microsoft technology into its organization, including the power of the Microsoft Cloud (Azure) and Office 365 to better integrate data and video analysis for golf fans, staff, players and commentators.
As Ben Hogan once eloquently stated, “The most important shot in golf is the next one.” It’s a pretty exciting journey to be on and look forward to the next phase with the talented team at PGA TOUR.