More shot tracers! PGA Tour telecasts are about to get upgraded visuals
Let your eyes rest easy tonight, golf friends. At long last, your days of searching for the ball on a golf telecast are over.
On Wednesday, the PGA Tour introduced golf fans to a sketch of the sport’s colorful new broadcast future — one filled with beautiful, arcing shot tracers on every hole. The sketch came in the form of an expanded new agreement with Trackman, who will dramatically increase the availability of golf ball tracking data at every event on the tour calendar.
It’s a change that could reshape the golf viewing experience for fans worldwide, as the tour said the new partnership would double the number of shots with tracer capability in addition to dramatically expanding the depth and breadth of advanced data per shot.
“We’re excited to increase the volume and depth of tracking and tracing for every shot on the PGA Tour,” Ken Lovell, the tour’s SVP of Golf Technologies said in a release. “Trackman’s sensors will substantially increase content available for analysis and initiate the development of new insights, while creating the opportunity for us to develop innovative visualizations for fans to view all the incredible shots on Tour.”
Trackman’s new technology expands the Tour’s current tracking ability to up to 400 yards in any conditions, allowing “nearly every” shot to be traced and later shared with the Tour’s multimedia and broadcast partners. But the new technology is not without its drawbacks. Data on club speed, ball speed, curve, launch angle, spin rate and a half-dozen other analytics are only available on shots hit from the tee box to the fairway or the area around the green. Shots that fall outside of that area will not come with the full complement of data.
In the immediate future, the Trackman announcement builds the PGA Tour’s multimedia arsenal on its own platforms. Trackman technology will soon be used on PGA Tour Live streams on ESPN+ in addition to the PGA Tour app and ‘TourCast’, the tour’s live desktop program. The new system will also add depth and color to the hugely popular ShotLink, which utilizes ball tracking information to collect and produce scoring data.
Further down the line, the announcement could have sweeping implications for the world of broadcast television, where shot tracer technology has become an indispensible element of the viewing experience. It’s not difficult to see how NBC and CBS could continue to reinvent the viewing experience by leaning into shot tracers and other advanced statistics in much the same way Fox did a half-decade ago under executive producer Mark Loomis. According to the release, Trackman’s newest update will only become available to CBS and NBC in real-time in 2023, though broadcast networks will have immediate access to shot tracer from replays uploaded to the cloud by the tour.
“We are proud to be chosen to implement our new solutions with the PGA Tour, which will ultimately include all shots for all players,” said Trackman co-founder and CEO Klaus Eldrup-Jorgensen. “The future of golf will be told in new and innovative ways, the fan experience will elevate to a new level, and the stories about how good these guys play is just beginning.”
To Eldrup-Jorgensen’s point, golf telecasts have grown increasingly advanced in the last decade, with super high-resolution cameras, drones and ‘every shot’ broadcasts helping to ring in a new era of golf viewership. Shot tracers were the first step in that advancement, and have been a hugely popular element ever since. As sports audiences grow increasingly data-hungry, this partnership is at worst an effort to make the game more accessible and interesting to watch.
At best? Well, it might just change the way we see the sport for the better.