Spectator tracking, no grandstands among safety protocols at Memorial Tournament

Memorial tournament 18th hole

The 2020 Memorial Tournament will look a lot different than this scene from 2019.

Getty Images

The PGA Tour spectator experience will be much different in the second half of 2020 than the first, with social distancing protocols galore. That may even include remote tracking of fan movement around the course, according to Memorial Tournament director Dan Sullivan.

Sullivan outlined a number of those protocols on the Greater Columbus Virtual Sports Report Thursday. At this point, the Memorial is expected to be the second Tour event to allow spectators on-site, following the John Deere Classic held in western Illinois the week prior.

Among the biggest changes expected at the Memorial is tracking the whereabouts of fans. While there will be fewer spectators allowed on tournament grounds — ticket sales have purposefully been slowed to keep from over-populating — each spectator badge (and the badges of tournament staff/volunteers) will have within it an RFID tag. “At any time we can know, around the golf course, how many people are collecting in a certain area,” Sullivan said.

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification, which in this case means chips placed within the tournament badges will emit a frequency that communicates with various measuring devices littered throughout the grounds. 

“We’re considering every venue to be very much like a restaurant or bar,” Sullivan continued. “We’re going to manage as the state has mandated at that time.” This could mean 50% capacity, as Sullivan noted, which will be regulated by controlling the “ins and outs,” just as many grocery and departments stores have across the country.

One important factor in most every tournament is the seating areas, and at this year’s Memorial, there will be no grandstands, leading to a much different-looking tournament for those on-site and watching on TV. Sullivan mentioned that those watching on TV will have a much different experience viewing the Memorial, too. “It will look different,” Sullivan said. “When CBS comes on property here, they will bring over 250 people. From what I understand, they’re not going to be doing that. They’re not going to be bringing as many people to the tournament. There will be different camera angles. Some of the on-air personalities may not be on-site. They may be off-site.”

As with much of the rest of the country, people on the tournament grounds will be expected to wear masks. Sullivan said that the tournament will be issuing a Memorial-logo’d mask to all volunteers and staffers on-site, but did not clarify if those masks will be issued to all spectators as well. However, spectators and staffers will have their temperature checked daily upon arrival at Muirfield.

Lastly, Sullivan also made clear that his event has the benefit of a full month of Tour events preceding it to adjust the Memorial’s plans. The Tour plans to begin again with Fort Worth’s Colonial event on June 11, and plans are initially in place to allow spectators at the John Deere on July 9. “As Ohio opens up,” Sullivan said, “we’re hopeful that July 13 still makes sense.”

Golf.com

A senior editor for GOLF.com, Zak joined the staff GOLF staff three weeks after college graduation. He is the utility infielder of the brand, spanning digital, print and video. His main duty is as a host for various GOLF.com video properties and its award-winning podcasts. When the Masters comes around, be sure to tune in to hear him and fellow staffers recount the most memorable tournaments in Augusta National history on A Pod Unlike Any Other.