The last few years for The R&A - and anyone in the events world - have been immensely challenging. In 2020, The Open was cancelled and while the Championship returned in 2021 with live spectators as part of the UK Government’s Event Research Programme, it went ahead with a reduced number of fans due to continuing restrictions. Last year we had limited capacity on attendance, but even up until a few weeks out from The Open, we didn't know whether we were going to be able to have fans at all or what that number might be.
Thankfully, the situation with the pandemic has improved in number of countries in 2022 and we are able to focus more on staging a Championship that’s even better than ever. Naturally, a return to full capacity is exciting for us all, but to add to this, we are this year celebrating The 150th Open and at the home of golf - the Old Course, St Andrews. Everyone at The R&A is very excited about this momentous occasion. We're very proud of the major championships we run and while we have always celebrated The Open being the oldest and most international, reaching the 150th landmark this year is such a special moment in our history.
The heritage and unique traditions of the championship are something we’re very proud of, but it’s also critical that we focus on future technologies and lead the way in terms of being one of the most innovative major sporting events. . This is why our partnership with NTT DATA is so important and why we’re thrilled to be continuing our relationship to deliver some really exciting innovations to fans during The 150th Open.
The NTT DATA difference
Our partnership with NTT DATA since 2013 has facilitated innovative change at The Open and it’s great to see how we’ve worked together over the years. From big digital scoreboards in 2013 when NTT DATA first came on board as a partner, to the introduction of the NTT DATA Wall, the innovations delivered have always helped us to take a step further into being one of the best digital fan experiences.
Last year we worked closely on delivering a more personalised experience for fans and also launched a live blog which was fuelled by AI tech. The personalised news feed allowed as many fans as possible to follow The Open – a deep level of information on what was happening on the course, from every player, was easily accessible like never before. Not only this, but the technology helped our media and broadcast partners to tell more meaningful stories.
Making our digital offerings as attractive as possible is a huge focus for us as we try to engage as many people with the sport of golf as we can. Providing this depth of information pulled in more fans, and we hope that as a result these viewers have increased their love of the game.
Once again, the innovations NTT DATA enabled us to progress last year were just another step further along our journey of trying to deliver the most up to date, relevant, innovative and interesting digital experience for our fans.
What’s in store for The 150th Open
The 150th Open is sold out and will be the most attended Championship of all time. We’ve got lots of innovations to reveal this year, which are going to be nice little surprises for our fans. We've got celebrity golf events and exhibition events taking place during the Practice Days building up to first tee shot being struck in the Championship on Thursday 14 July and the sound bites that are coming out of the golfing world all indicate that this year will be a special moment.
One of the exciting launches we’re set to see as part of our relationship with NTT DATA is the introduction of digital twin technology alongside Shot View Live. It's the first time that The R&A will be collecting ball positioning data for every single shot that takes place throughout the Championship, and this data will then be used to create a virtual, interactive model of the course, enabling a full data experience: every shot, player, hole, and round will be captured in real-time for a new way to engage with The Open. It goes without saying that this will enable fans to follow the golf being played more closely, focusing on the players of their choice for example. It’s enabling us to add something that no other golf event is able to.
Fans will be able to really absorb themselves like never before through a digital representation of what each player is doing on every single hole. This means that if someone doesn’t have access to watch The Open on TV or via a streaming service, or if they're in the office and want to check in, they’ll be able to follow every single shot in an engaging way. We’re hoping that this will mean fans spend more time interacting with our platforms and immersing themselves into the action.
In addition, the technology is also hugely beneficial for our media and broadcast partners, who will use a lot of the information now available to help them tell the story of what's going on the golf course. These partners will now have access to far more information, enhancing their offering too. The technology that NTT DATA is providing is therefore impacting fans from a B2C point of view and also broadcast partners from a B2B point of view, adding real value through new insights.
The continued evolution of the partnership
Looking to the future, we’re really excited about continuing to develop our relationship with NTT DATA. There are so many different ways we can tells stories and engage fans through the integration of data. This year we’re doing more than ever, but there’s also a lot of innovative projects that we already have in the pipeline for next year, and further years to come, including sustainability initiatives and integrations into the metaverse.
An aspect that we’re really interested in from an R&A perspective is to get more people playing golf. In particular we are focusing on encouraging more women and girls to play golf. As well as renewing its sponsorship of The Open, NTT DATA has this year announced its sponsorship of the AIG Women’s Open for the first time, which we couldn’t be happier about. Having NTT DATA as a partner for both major championships will enable us to tell a stronger story using data insights. We’ll be able to compare the stats of players in both championships in greater detail and provide evidence in support of the previously anecdotal indications of female athletes showing greater skill than male athletes. Through our collaboration with NTT DATA, we’ll be able to tell this story on how different the game is for men and women and that’s something we’re very excited to be able to achieve.
Over the years NTT DATA has supported us in driving innovation at The Open, and we’re delighted to be delivering game-changing advancements to the sport of golf hand-in-hand with one another. To be able to work with an existing partner to deliver something that is massively enhancing the Championship and also deepening the relationship between us and NTT DATA as our Patron is a win-win for everyone. We look forward to showcasing these latest developments at The 150th Open in July this year.
The Open will be played from 10-17 July. Be sure to visit TheOpen.com or access all the action through the official Open app, and to follow NTT DATA’s social channels to get all the latest developments from the home of golf - Old Course, St Andrews.