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PGA Tour Live Director Mike Lacey helps produce PGA Tour Live on Thursday at the Tour Championship in Atlanta, Ga.

ATLANTA, GA. — In terms of broadcasting, golf is a unique. Unlike football, basketball, baseball, and most other sports, there is not one field or one ball. Up to 156 players tee off at a typical four-day tournament over the course of several hours. They each have their own ball and play a variety of shots at 18 different holes; at any time, there are hundreds of balls moving around on the course.

pgatourlive111That’s partly why the PGA Tour launched its first over-the-top streaming subscription service called PGA Tour Live last year in July.

The paid service, $5.99 per month or $39.99 per year, allows golf fans to watch a pair of “marquee” groups during the first two rounds of a given tournament before TV coverage begins. The idea is to give users an additional way to watch live action not covered by the traditional broadcast.

GeekWire stopped by the small PGA Tour Live production trailer at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Ga. this week and met with engineers and directors in charge of running the stream.

It is essentially a miniature version of a full-blown broadcast production. The tour has dedicated team focused on PGA Tour Live and invested in eight cameras dedicated to the streaming coverage. There is even an on-the-course reporter following the “marquee” groups and providing commentary for the PGA Tour Live stream, and a full-on broadcast set at the tour’s headquarters in St. Augustine, Fla.

Dennis Paulson and John Swantek on the studio set of PGA TOUR Live at PGA TOUR Entertainment in St Augustine, FL. Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR
Dennis Paulson and John Swantek on the studio set of PGA TOUR Live at PGA TOUR Entertainment in St Augustine, FL. Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR.

The service certainly provides a nice benefit for golf fans. For example, when Tiger Woods returns at the Safeway Open next month, the only way to watch some of his early play will be via PGA Tour Live.

But there also seems to be much more potential for the app.

Alex Turnbell.
Alex Turnbull.

Alex Turnbull, director of ShotLink Graphics for the PGA Tour, noted that the app could possibly mimic NFL RedZone, the NFL-run channel that shows every scoring play on Sundays. It’s become popular for NFL fans, and in particular fantasy football players.

Imagine if PGA Tour Live expanded by using cameras on every hole for every group, and then let viewers watch every birdie putt, for example. This process could be automated with a simple combination of scoring and ball location data that the PGA is already tracking in real-time.

“If you can imagine the RedZone experience, but with golf, where the fan could select a green and say, ‘I want to go there because so-and-so has a birdie putt,” Turnbull explained. “It could use logic and different points of reference.”

Or, perhaps the app could let you follow any player at any time. That would be beneficial for those who play fantasy golf, which has seen usage rise on daily fantasy sports site DraftKings.

It would surely be an investment for the PGA to pull off something like that, with the amount of additional cameras and production work required. And many folks would still prefer to watch the traditional broadcast so they aren’t frantically switching between groups on their own to watch a tournament.

But golf seems to lend itself to a more user-controlled viewing experience. Beyond PGA Tour Live, other tournaments like The Masters let fans stream a “marquee” group or watch all the action at a designated hole.

There is also so much data produced during a given golf round, whether it be from the ShotLink system that uses lasers to monitor ball location or the Protracer ball tracking technology. Why not give fans a way to access that information in real-time, with the ability to filter through different players and holes? The possibilities become even more enticing when you think about this app on hardware like the Microsoft HoloLens.

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