We bring you this column with concerning news: the future of golf could find your Sunday afternoon naps imperiled.
For years, you’ve drifted off under the gentle malaise of golf television, enjoying the soothing sounds of an afternoon on the PGA Tour. You’ve grown accustomed to the narration of Jim Nantz, Dan Hicks and a steady stream of commercials. And you’ve done all of it blissfully unaware of the organized chaos (emphasis on chaos) that happens between every commercial break.
“What people don’t realize is, we’re on 100-150 acres, there are 18 fields of play,” Scott Gutterman, the PGA Tour’s senior vice president of digital operations told GOLF.com. “There are often three groups on almost every hole. And so the complexity of getting all of that content off of the course is nothing like any other sport really has to do.”
Today, your innocence ceases. It’s time to learn of your new, nap-free future courtesy of Every Shot Live, the unique web broadcast that made its grand (re)introduction at last week’s Players Championship.
With Every Shot Live, viewers can live every golf fan’s dream — watching every single shot taken by every single player, right as it happens. It’s a sophisticated operation that requires a team of roughly two-dozen remote producers working in tandem with dozens of on-site cameramen to capture every moment and relay it back to a streaming audience. Once a moment is captured, the footage is uploaded to servers, where technical operators store and attach it to the Tour’s online live coverage assistant, TourCast, where it can be viewed on the PGA Tour website for free in perpetuity.
“Our goal is to put every player live in front of any fan that wants to watch them,” Gutterman said. “We believe that every player should have his round viewable to any fan that wants to see them.”
Every Shot Live is still working through beta testing while Gutterman and others at the Tour iron out kinks. The program’s cost and overhead make it unlikely you’ll see it for the remainder of 2021 season, but the early returns from fans have been convincing enough for the Tour to set its sights upon expanding in the coming years.
“We’re going to scale it up like we did with PGA Tour Live,” he said. “We’re going to start with probably our marquee events, you know the next couple of years. Next year, the only plan we have is definitely doing it at the Players Championship, but we’re already talking about what it’ll take to do at other events. I would expect you might see some expansion next year, but I’m hoping in the next two to three years you’ll start seeing another two or three events added every year.”
Ultimately, the Tour’s goal is to bring Every Shot Live within the same breath as Shotlink — a staple of nearly every PGA Tour event, irrespective of location.
“We’ll probably start with the three [FedEx Cup Playoff] events at the end of the year,” he said. “Then we’ll probably start at some different events, like the FedEx St. Jude or Arnold Palmer Invitational or Genesis or Waste Management. I hope in five years we’re doing all events, or at least a dozen or so events. In 10 years’ time, I hope it is at every single event.”
The Tour’s new deal with Amazon Web Services was critical in helping lift Every Shot Live off the ground in 2021 after a shaky, one-day debut at the Covid-delayed 2020 Players Championship. With AWS’s high-speed cloud platforms, the Tour survived four days and 830 hours of nonstop coverage with only a single Thursday afternoon mishap. On average, a shot went from live broadcast to TourCast in a little more than two minutes, a number Gutterman believes will drop as technology advances.
The goal is to revamp a PGA Tour entertainment product that has sorely needed a facelift for years, but the process won’t come without its hiccups. During Saturday’s third round at the Players, Every Shot Live microphones picked up a startlingly earnest conversation between Jordan Spieth and Collin Morikawa that later resulted in apologies from both players.
Such mishaps are hardly restricted to the Tour’s streaming services — it was earlier this year that Justin Thomas found himself in hot water after Golf Channel’s broadcast picked up his utterance of a homophobic slur. Still, it’s not hard to understand why removing the content buffer could leave the Tour’s members at greater risk.
With Every Shot Live, the Tour finds itself positioned between a proverbial rock and a hard place. On one hand, it has a duty to protect its players. On the other, it has a duty — to both its players and the golf public — to grow the game. Gutterman’s hope is that the scuttlebutt around hot mics has more to do with pros learning their new environment than finding themselves incapable of adapting to it.
“[Players] are understanding that as we move into this new world everything is going to be streamed and televised and heard,” Gutterman said. “It’s just something that all of our players are getting used to. We’ll manage it — we’ll manage it just the same way we’re managing our linear broadcast.”
With Every Shot Live, the Tour is betting that, by blazing the path forward, the game will follow. It’s a calculated gamble to be certain, but one that promises to add a whole lot of interest to your Sunday afternoons, if done right.
“The biggest takeaway is that we have the team and the platforms that we know we can do it, and that in the coming years it will get less expensive,” he said. “I think the opportunities, frankly, are going to be endless for us in developing Every Shot Live as a platform that eventually makes its way to all Tour events.”