The Masters gave me a sneak peek into its media future, and it’s mindblowing

a leaderboard at the Masters showcases names in front of a brilliant sunset

Outside the manual scoreboards at Augusta National, the future of the Masters looks different.

Darren Riehl

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Before you can find the future of the Masters at Augusta National, you must first take a long glimpse into the present.

And to see the present, you need a set of wheels.

A complex web of roads, tunnels and alleyways run through the most famous golf club on earth, hidden well away from sight for any of the 45,000 or so patrons who will attend this weekend’s festivities. But if you’re into understanding how the Masters became the biggest and most sought-after golf tournament in the world, well, these are the roads less traveled that require your attention. They tell the story of how a golf club with an unblinking obsession with the past secretly crafted our golfing future — a story that may be on the brink of changing all over again.

You see, it’s through these roads and tunnels and alleyways that you’ll find your way to the Masters content center, a hulking, three-building facility that sits on the other side of Washington Road, on the outskirts of the club’s footprint. The content center was built in the late 2010s as a way of housing the tournament’s myriad media operations, which include state-of-the-art broadcasts on ESPN and CBS, an in-house social media, video and photo team, and the operations for the group behind the Masters’ universally revered digital app. If you haven’t realized by now, presentation is a big deal to Augusta National, which has maintained the same weekend television partner (CBS) for six decades and lords considerable influence over how its tournament is shown across all platforms. It’s here, in the content center, where the vision comes to life.

And on Masters Friday, it’s here, in the content center, that Augusta National has invited me to be part of a small group of journalists for a demonstration of the innovation they think could change the Masters experience all over again: The tournament’s sparkling-new Apple Vision Pro app. I left the real-life Augusta National skeptical of what I’d find from the innovation on the other side. But after a short drive through the roads, tunnels and alleyways, I can confidently tell you that I’ll never view the Masters the same again.

Picture a world in which you can watch every Masters player hit every shot on every hole ad infinitum. A world where you can watch 18 television screens at once showing every split-second of Masters action. A world where you can see Tiger Woods hit shots around Augusta National as if you’re standing there next to him.

It all sounds a bit space-age, and some of it still is space-age, but ask the folks at Augusta National and they’ll tell you that it’s not far off from reality. In fact, some of it already is reality. After a four-month sprint to code the interface in time for tournament week, the Masters debuted its Vision Pro app for the first time at the start of this week, marking Augusta National’s first foray into the world of VR.

In the simplest terms, the app allows Vision Pro users to utilize all the functions of the Masters web app within the infinite world of “spatial computing.” Outside of copious amounts of retina-burning 4K video of tournament play — which is by far the most readily apparent (and thrilling) use of the headset — users can also access a 3D “cutout” of any hole, watch and manipulate a tracer of any shot on the cutout, and use the app’s “Easter Egg”: a massive, 3D tournament leaderboard. But if you believe the club, this year’s iteration of the app is little more than a beta test for the future of what the Vision Pro can become — and after witnessing it firsthand, that’s a mindblowing thought.

The demo, which lasted roughly a half-hour, offered a glimpse not only into the future of the Masters on television but also into the direction the club thinks golf on TV is headed. The answer, in short, is the Vision Pro, a first-of-its-kind virtual reality headset from the folks at Apple that has caused quite a stir in the few months since its launch. The headset, which retails for more than $3,500, claims to introduce the concept of “spatial computing” — a world in which our actions with computers are no longer constrained to the limits of screen size. Unlike previous VR headsets, which were built to take you “out” of everyday life, the Vision Pro operates translucently within your everyday life, allowing you to wear the headset and interact (albeit awkwardly) with the world around you.

While the headset is still a long ways from being a ubiquitous consumer product like the iPhone, a growing chorus of engineers and techies is centering around the idea that the Vision Pro could be Apple’s next great tech frontier. Sure, the headset is still bulky, lacking in battery life and socially bizarre, but the tech is undeniably eye-popping. The Vision Pro requires zero controllers (it’s operated using your eyes and fingers), showcases your screens in high definition so crisp it embarrasses your current phone and desktop, and is loaded with features that software engineers are only beginning to learn to harness. With iPhone-like advancements in hardware (and, one prays, cost) over the next several generations, it’s not hard to see how the product could become every bit as revolutionary as the iPhone.

And, like the iPhone, it’s easy to see how users could one day favor this form of computing for certain kinds of entertainment and productivity. From a small demo room in the content center, it only takes about 10 minutes worth of noodling for me to feel the same. The app allows me to watch three different screens at a time, with extra room for apps like messaging and notes, without leaving the conversation in the room I’m sitting. It’s slightly awkward, considering I hardly know those around me, but it’s undeniably riveting. I’ve never used the app when I opened it for the first time and have only operated a Vision Pro headset one other time in my life, but within a few minutes I’m navigating the different tabs like a seasoned pro. It doesn’t take long to realize this is precisely why the green jackets seem to be drawn to it: it’s not only brilliant and eye-opening tech, it’s idiot-proof levels of intuitive.

Of course, there’s the chance that the tech might not work out as planned. It is, after all, still bulky and heavy and expensive. Previous iterations of so-called “innovative” tech have proved to be duds, and there’s no guaranteeing the Vision Pro isn’t one of them.

But then again, the Vision Pro app helps you watch even more of the golf tournament the green jackets host every April, bringing you closer to the brilliantly green fairways of Augusta National than ever before. That might seem antithetical for the folks at Augusta National — the same guys who didn’t show their front nine until the 90s and who have built an entire reputation off the idea of ham-handed exclusivity. But the reality is a little more complex than that.

In truth, of all the traditions Augusta National holds dear, viewer innovation might well be the oldest. After all, the Masters has been the center of golf TV innovation for as long as golf has been televised. It was the first golf tournament broadcast in color, the first to debut the radical conception of scoring in strokes “over” and “under” par, the first to include microphones on every tee box and hole, and the first to introduce a mobile app that allows fans to view every shot from every player on every hole — to name only a few. It is not the first to debut a Vision Pro app — that honor belongs to the PGA Tour — but it is the first to deliver live television coverage from one, as it will do all weekend from the Masters.

This, it turns out, is what brings us back to the roads, tunnels and alleyways of the most famous golf club on earth. They’re always there, hiding just behind a sepia-tinted surface, reminding those who are willing to look that the work of bringing the world’s biggest golf tournament to life is a Herculean feat of coordination, care and, yes, innovation.

It might not feel that way. It might never feel that way. But that’s some of the magic.

The rest of it?

Well, you can find it on the Vision Pro.

James Colgan Editor

James Colgan is a news and features editor at GOLF, writing stories for the website and magazine. He manages the Hot Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and utilizes his on-camera experience across the brand’s platforms. Prior to joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, during which time he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at