Earlier this year, we renewed our sponsorship of The Open, the oldest and most venerable of the ‘majors’, held this year at the Home of Golf: St Andrews Old Course, Scotland. The renewal took our relationship with The R&A, the Championship's organisers, to a 15 year partnership, which has seen consistent innovation, evolution and transformation. From our re-invention of the fan experience to helping to maintain engagement throughout the pandemic, we have long supported The R&A with its ambitious plans.
2022 marked a special occasion, as The Open celebrated its 150th year, and as such, it was important that we supported The R&A with concepts that had never been seen before in the world of golf.
The evolution of sport
It's no secret that digital transformation has touched all businesses in all industries in recent years, with the world of sport being no exception. As a result, the need for data-driven insights to help improve performance, play, the fan experience, equipment manufacturing, and business insights has dramatically increased.
Alongside this, we have seen the consumption of sport, whether in person or through online and broadcast media, become synonymous with a constant stream of real-time data, insights, comparisons, overlays and predictions. Data is as important as video and audio content in enhancing the fan experience, along with the fusion of this into complimentary and easy-to-consume formats.
Technology is vital in golf, permeating the course and the modern game for professionals and amateurs. There are millions upon millions of data points behind every golfing event, from the angle of the slopes on the green and pin placement to the length of the rough or the player's previous performance. Add the weather into this mix, and everything changes.
This is why the game of golf is so exciting and why we couldn't wait to get started when Steve Otto, the Chief Technology Officer at The R&A, talked to us about his data-led vision.
A world-first for golf
Working closely with The R&A, we launched our digital twin-supported ShotView technology this year. This technology aimed to bring the fans closer than ever to the data behind the drama, enabling fans on the course and at home to gain unprecedented insights into the millions of data points gathered around the course in a live, interactive setting.
Using various data sources such as open-source landscape data, orthorectified drone-captured image data, LIDAR mapping and point clouds, we created a digital twin for the St Andrews Old Course. This digital twin provided a realistic simulation of the landscape and surrounding area, forming the foundation for the interactive data experience. Our creative teams even spent hours deciding on the different types of terrain overlays to get just the right look for the gorse bushes on the 17th.
During the Championship, we created unique digitally rendered re-creations of every one of the 34,225 shots completed during the 4 days of the championship. Fans were able to access ShotView via TheOpen.com to follow any player or group, no longer being held back by which feature groups the broadcasters had chosen to follow. Insights into each player's shot paths, fairways hit percentage, G.I.R, and average putt per hole could be viewed within 30 seconds of the ball being hit. In addition, the technology provided detailed statistics on performance off the tee, on the green and hazard data. Finally, the ShotView tool also gave fans access to analysis of every hole on the course as well as tailored historical information, providing a rounded experience.
The ShotView technology proved to be a huge success, with almost 3 million pageviews during the Championship week. On top of this, fans onsite at St Andrews could view the insights via the NTT DATA Wall, an LED event installation over 20 metres wide, which provided a clear view of what was happening at the championship in real time. For the first time, the Wall included the insightful data visualisations created as part of ShotView alongside live broadcasts from the course.
This new data experience gave fans control over how they enjoyed The 150th Open. Increased access to real-time statistics, analysis and insights allowed them to elevate their viewing in an enhanced immersive experience.
The interactive ShotView map can still be viewed at: https://www.theopen.com/leaderboard
A partnership for the ages
The work we did with The R&A this year has been incredibly rewarding, and it is fantastic to see such great solutions produced. Our goal is simple: bring fans as close as possible to the action through data. Golf is a game of statistics. Tiny variables can have huge impacts; details matter, and the more data fans can access, the richer their experience becomes.
We look forward to building more exciting innovations together with The R&A, providing even more incredible fan experiences.
Learn more about the fan experience at The 150th Open below, and keep your eyes peeled for announcements on the innovations launched in 2023.
The Open 2023 will take place at The Royal Liverpool Golf Course from 20th-23rd July.