February 19, 2016
Courtside, in the pit, next to the stage or inside the ropes, fans are able to get closer to the action from their couch through virtual reality (VR) technology.
“We started chatting with Oculus about a year ago and have a strong relationship with Facebook. We started playing around with the device and saw an opportunity to get ahead of it and build out some cool content,” said PGA Tour Digital executive producer Sloane Kelley.
The PGA TOUR officially launched their VR experience at the 2016 Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Through a dedicated PGA app within the Oculus platform, fans will be able to experience a variety of two-minute videos, including instruction from Tour players Patrick Rodgers and Peter Malnati, as well as a behind-the-scenes view of the infamous 16th hole where players teed off in a coliseum filled with thousands of rowdy golf fans.
The PGA TOUR retained Immersive Media, known for their IM360 VR technology that powers the New York Times VR experience and used in projects for Red Bull, AMEX, Mercedes and Xbox, to capture the content.
While the ability to view this content will be limited to those who have an Oculus Rift developer kit (until the anticipated shipment starting March 28) or Samsung Gear VR, fans can also experience 360-degree videos on the PGA Tour Facebook page and YouTube channel.
Kelley said their widest demographic is the Millennial and “we know they are into technology and this is a way to help reach our audience and show them how great our players are [to follow].”
Rodgers agrees that virtual reality is a great way to attract new fans to the sport:
“I’m part of the younger generation and grew up with technology. [Virtual reality] brings people to golf who wouldn’t ordinarily be a fan of golf.”
Rodgers also said VR will be a helpful tool for him to visualize a course or a scenario without stepping foot on grass.
“When I’m preparing for a tournament, I try to put myself there in that situation-and to put on goggles and prepare for that event, or a major, is really good,” he said.
While at Stanford, Rodgers was able to experience VR in its early stage. Today, he’s part of the first batch of PGA Tour players filmed in VR.
“When I was growing up and watching Tiger Woods, he inspired me to be a golfer. I wanted access to [players], and know what their life was like, and how they played. For a fan to have access through technology, it’s groundbreaking and exciting to see how this all moves forward. To be a part of something [Facebook] is doing is pretty exciting,” Rodgers said.
Photo credit: Chris Condon / PGA TOUR
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