For a game steeped in tradition, regulation and heritage, golf is experiencing somewhat of a technological transformation.
In a world in which etiquette rules the roost, the rise of the so-called Experience Economy is fuelling a change in thinking for the game’s ruling bodies. Because in 2018, and beyond, customer experience is crucial.
Golf is a sport like no other, in that the action doesn’t take place on one field of play, rather 18 holes across a course spanning miles.
And for the thousands of fans in attendance, seeing all the action at the same time is impossible, creating a need for platforms to house real-time content to keep pace with developments.
But that’s just a small example of how connected golf courses of the future are taking shape, with the support of the industry’s leading technology giants.
In October, the United States Golf Association (USGA) and Cisco announced a new multi-year global partnership focused on using technology to enhance the fan experience at USGA championships.
The agreement is designed to create new opportunities for content distribution on-site and worldwide, while accelerating the USGA’s goal of driving global innovation in golf.
As the official technology partner of the USGA and its championships, Cisco will help transform the experience at the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open by strengthening the network throughout the venues to enable greater access to scoring, content and other digital experiences for people attending or covering the action.
“We are thrilled to announce our partnership with the USGA to drive an innovative connected experience on golf’s largest stages by using the power of Cisco technology,” said Chuck Robbins, chairman and CEO of Cisco.
“This partnership reflects a shared commitment to bring further innovation to the sport of golf for everyone who loves to watch and play this great game.”
In addition, Cisco’s collaboration and video technology will help increase distribution of content on-site at championships and worldwide, in addition to augmenting the broadcast studio at USGA Headquarters to better support strategic initiatives such as learning golf’s new rules.
“We are incredibly excited to partner with Cisco around ways we can better leverage technology to lead golf into the future,” said Mike Davis, CEO of USGA.
“Their industry leadership and the significant breadth of their capabilities will elevate not only our championships, but how we better serve and generate measurable impact for recreational golfers, golf courses, and the game.”
Furthermore, Cisco aims to play an “integral role” in driving USGA initiatives to create a more sustainable and enjoyable game, including supporting STEM education.
Meanwhile, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) was appointed as an official supplier to the 2018 Ryder Cup, leveraging Aruba technologies.
Specifically, the vendor helped deliver a “secure, stable and flexible” wired and Wi-Fi platform at the event, to over 250,000 spectators across the week of activities at Le Golf National.
Combining the ability to track people, players and assets across its 18-hole site, fans could take advantage of real-time updates and location-based services.
The HPE solution was entirely based on the Aruba Mobile First Architecture which consists of the switching and wireless infrastructure, backed up by a suite of central management and network security software.
Delving deeper, the solution also included Aruba location services and Analytics Location Engine to enable a “rich and data-enabled” digital engagement with the spectators, on and off the course.
“As a world class, major event it’s critical the Ryder Cup embraces the latest technology, empowers fans and delivers a best-in-class experience,” said Michael Cole, CTO of the European Tour.
Designed and implemented by HPE partner, Ultima, Cole said the enhanced and agile technology infrastructure at the Ryder Cup is part of the European Tour’s commitment to the digital transformation of the sport, with increased opportunities for fan engagement both onsite and through other channels.
As a result, the supplier partnership with HPE represented the largest investment ever made in a technology platform for a Ryder Cup.
Designed to be a modular solution, Cole said the European Tour will retain the ability to replicate the same technology setup across a number of its calendared events next year, helping to standardise technology delivery for top-quality fan experiences.
“The Ryder Cup is transforming digitally in order to change the way that people interact with a live golf event,” added Marc Waters, managing director of UK and Ireland at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.”
In 2015, the PGA Tour and Microsoft entered a three-year partnership focusing on technology and media integration.
The solutions were designed to “instantaneously mine” the TOUR’s vast video library and statistical information to “enhance and simplify” the way data is interpreted.
The aim was to provide fans, players and commentators with new and engaging ways to access insights.
“Through its collaboration with CDW on ShotLink, the PGA Tour has been on the cutting edge of technology innovation and real-time insights around historical information, drives, putts and course conditions for golf fans everywhere,” said Chris Capossela, CMO of Microsoft, at the time of the announcement.
“We believe the Tour’s commitment to our Windows 10 platform and Microsoft Cloud offerings will enable fans and broadcasters to access ShotLink and other PGA Tour content in ways that have not been previously possible, across all digital devices.”
The PGA Tour is adopted Windows 10, Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Office to make data analysis easier to interpret and understand for every golf fan, as well as players and broadcast commentators.
As part of the deal, Redmond also created new solutions by helping the PGA Tour analyse information faster and more efficiently, giving fans instant access to insight about players, courses and conditions.