PGA Tour Makes Hole-in-One with Oculus Partnership

February 19, 2016

11:12 am

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.

Designed for the hacker to fanatic golfer, the PGA Tour has teamed up with Oculus and Facebook to bring golf fans closer to the players on and off the tournament.

“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.

Peter Malnati works with Virtual Reality cameras giving a bunker lesson (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)

Peter Malnati giving a bunker lesson (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)

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.

Patrick Rodgers works with Virtual Reality cameras giving a putting lesson (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)

Patrick Rodgers giving a putting lesson (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)

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].”

Behind the scenes for VR production. Photo by Tishin Donkersley/PGA TOUR

Behind the scenes-filming in VR. Photo by Tishin Donkersley/PGA TOUR

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.

Patrick Rodgers works with Virtual Reality cameras giving a putting lesson (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)

Patrick Rodgers giving a putting lesson (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)


Photo credit: Chris Condon / PGA TOUR

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Tishin is a technology journalist and correspondent. She has written for TechCrunch, Demand Studios and Fitness, and has regular network segments on local Phoenix affiliate stations. She holds a Master's degree in Clinical and Sport psychology, and has covered many areas of technology ranging from 3D printing and game development to neurotech and funding for over 15 years.

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