TourCast lets online viewers track their favorite PGA Tour players with high-res 3D graphics
The PGA Tour’s technology team is on a mission to decrease productivity at businesses throughout America.
OK, not really. But that could be an unintended consequence of the full release of TourCast on PGATour.com and the PGA Tour's mobile apps. Golf fans will certainly struggle to get any work done when tour events are underway.
Starting this week at the Charles Schwab Challenge and for the rest of this COVID-shortened season, fans will have the opportunity to follow PGA Tour action online in greater detail than ever before thanks to the new platform. TourCast is like ShotLink on 3D steroids. The technology debuted at the Players Championship (for one round at least) but took a back seat to the emerging coronavirus pandemic. With the tour returning at Colonial Country Club, officials are excited for TourCast to see its first full week of PGA Tour action.
Specifically, TourCast lets viewers follow players’ progress around a golf course, a la ShotLink, graphically tracing the results of each shot. But TourCast takes ShotLink a step further by depicting the course through interactive 3D renderings produced via overlaying sketches generated from high-resolution imagery captured by aircraft. Fans can follow a player’s progress in detail like never before, creating a truly enhanced tracking experience.
Before a golfer hits a shot, viewers can see his career history on the hole he’s playing, his up-to-the-minute strokes-gained data for the tournament and the season, his position on the leader board, how tough the hole is playing on the day, yardages to the pin, front and back of the green, and the views from wherever the player is standing.
Once the shot is hit, fans will have significantly more data than previously at their disposal. Swing speed, ball speed, spin rate, apex height and more will be provided by ShotLink’s underlying radar technology. The tour is working on having the “ball-in-motion” flight path of every shot viewable in the near future. When completed, if a player hits a rope hook, you’ll be able to see just how much the ball moved from right to left.
Anxious fantasy players/gamblers will be happy to learn that the TourCast technology, unlike ShotLink, shows the entirety of the course. On ShotLink, when a player hits a ball outside the boundary of a specific hole, it is listed in the play-by-play as “unknown.” That will not be the case with TourCast—fans will be able to see exactly where a player’s ball is, no matter if it’s two fairways over, as well as the view the player has from where his ball ended up.
Perhaps the most exciting new feature is an AI-driven video highlight cutting and posting program, facilitated by WSC sports, which will result in every shot captured by a PGA Tour camera being immediately posted to TourCast. If a player is in a featured group, that means virtually every one of his shots will be viewable through TourCast in real time.
It’s a feature similar to the one that debuted at the Masters in 2019, where fans could watch video of almost every shot at Augusta, by every player, on Masters.com. That, of course, requires cameras on every hole, following every group. The tour did have that in place for the first time at TPC Sawgrass for the Players. There are no concrete plans to bring enough cameras to replicate that experience at other Tour courses … yet.
“Our goal is to have a product probably in three-to-five years,” said Brendan Morley, PGA Tour senior technical digital product manager, “where we can show every single shot, from every single player, at every single event.”
For a more concrete preview of the experience, the Tour retro-fitted Rickie Fowler’s final round from the 2015 Players Championship to the TourCast platform. The curious can link to that here, and relived Fowler’s winning performance at TPC Sawgrass.
But be warned: If you give the platform a look on company time, don’t expect to get much work done the rest of the day.