More statistics from more tours, with fans under control

by | Dec 10, 2021 | PGA

The PGA Tour’s ShotLink system was developed in the early 2000s. (Chris Cox / Getty Images)

As for the future of ShotLink on the PGA Tour, this is where AWS comes in and what should excite PGA Tour fans the most.

The current ShotLink system was developed almost 20 years ago and while some improvements have been made, the world of technology has moved on and fan expectations have changed. Golf lovers want video, statistics and control – all in real time.

As Lovell puts it, the challenge is he and his team need to develop the next ShotLink system that does all of this while maintaining the current system. It’s like building an airplane in mid-flight.

The aim is to make the Every Shot Live experience that golf lovers experienced during the Players Championship 2021 standard. ShotLink currently only collects data on one seat at multi-course tournaments, but the tour aims to collect data on everyone at events like the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the Farmers Insurance Open. All of this requires optimized logistics, better software and improved telecommunication networks as well as more cameras, better sensors and many expensive high-tech devices.

Francessca Vasquez is vice president of technology at AWS. Their company’s machine learning skills and analytics tools are used by several sports leagues, including Formula 1 and the National Football League, which AWS uses to develop next-generation stats like those in the company’s commercials.

“We’re currently developing on how we create and distribute content and what the experience is like,” said Vasquez, who not only plays golf, but will also be happy to tell you that she plays the same pink ping driver she plays Bubba Watson used. “I think for the PGA Tour they are trying to bring that experience to their existing fan base, but there is a whole population that is not in the following right now that they are going out and looking to acquire.

“For me it is not a pillar that we focus on. We’re focusing on the commitment and who we have today, but we’re also looking at how we can improve the fan experience and how we can attract and win more fans who are traditionally not interested in golf. “

To do this, AWS and the PGA Tour are creating a huge data repository containing petabytes of pre-recorded footage and data. To use this number as a reference, a modern smartphone may have 128 or 256 gigabytes of memory, which is enough for around 50 Hollywood films. It takes 1,000 gigabytes to create a terabyte, and a thousand terabytes are equal to a petabyte. All in all, it’s years of video, audio, and other data.

As it is sorted and added to the system to make it accessible to all AWS systems and tools, the PGA Tour can use it in new and better ways. And when new data is collected, Tour and AWS want it to flow into the system in the ideal formats in real time.

This will allow ShotLink and the tour to focus on developing new, fan-centric ways of looking at the game.

In the not-too-distant future, for example, the tour could use AWS’s facial recognition tools to help cameras identify players. So if a camera detects Jordan Spieth, the AWS-enabled system could add the footage to a Spieth content collection, tag it with a location and searchable keywords, and then make it available to fans. Would you like to see all of Spieth’s putts from a distance of 3 to 4 meters? Easy. All of his tees on par 3s? No problem. Any eagle, here you go. And all of this faster and with fewer people involved in the process.

The system isn’t there yet, but according to Vasquez and Lovell, these are exactly the things AWS and the PGA Tour want to deliver.

“The biggest area I think the tour wants to focus on is the all-round experience,” said Vasquez. “There will be new functionality for things like StatCast and Leaderboards, but the real value beyond the data is creating an experience that end users feel like they are there.”

So while the PGA Tour works to bring data collection and more stats to more tours in the coming weeks and months, the future of ShotLink and the way golf fans experience the game looks even better.