Golf, VR and AR: The Next Big Thing for the Sport

Golf seems like an unlikely place for VR and AR technology to grow and thrive, but 5G is having a significant impact on most professional sports already. Using sophisticated technology allows the Tour to add more insight and data for the audience.

The PGA Tour is driving demand for a more interactive fan experience. Fulfillment is quite difficult, held back by existing GPS technology that is accurate to about 10-15 feet. That kind of accuracy is great, but nowhere near as precise as a golf player needs to line up a shot.

That hardware limitation is still a factor, but Intel and other partners are helping golf to up its broadcasting game and better utilize the wealth of data the game has collected for more than a decade. The result? A far more engaging experience for the audience.

New PGA Live Tour App

The PGA has been collecting ShotLink data since 2005. The ambitious program sought to open up the numbers side of golf to an entire audience of academics and numbers people who might not otherwise find interest in golf. During a hackathon in 2016, the PGA discovered innovative ways for viewers to use this data if it could be rendered in real time.

See all the action this year at The Players. Credit: PGA

The PGA Live app was born: outputting the visualization of a hole on any flat surface and giving audiences more insight into player shots. Viewers can personalize each hole to follow their favorite player, or an entire group, across any round of play.

First, select a hole, then pick the player you want to visualize. You will see a list of potential shots from a perspective that will change based on where the phone is physically located. The app loads the particular round and player you’ve selected and then visualizes the shot from a bird’s eye view.

5G at Tour Sites

The Tour app is neat technology at home, onsite it becomes game changing. You might have noticed the onsite push toward 5G at some major sporting events. If you live in a major city with a very large sports team behind it, you have probably seen this technology firsthand. We wrote about its impact on the Olympics and football recently. We think it’s sports broadcasting’s next big thing.

Currently, GPS limitations make the PGA Live App a little less accurate than the organization would like. With 5G and GPS, they are hoping to overcome this limitation. Viewers who attend PGA events can hold their phones up and view ball trails as players take their shots across the fairway. All made possible by data that is crunched live at 5G connection speeds.

Intel VR Tech Front and Center

You can get a taste of what this all amounts to with Intel’s app, or by viewing the PGA Tour app. Both feature highlights compiled from eight VR cameras total spread across two holes. There are three on the short par 12th hole, and five spread out across the tee box, fairway, green, stands, and even one in the water.


Intel’s technology is available Cardboard style on the Play Store, as well as the Oculus Rift and on iTunes App Store. Anyone can also access this content live as it’s posted to the PGA Tour Twitter account, which is viewable in Parascope mode.

Final Thoughts

Fans who come to the tour will have the opportunity to take three shots on the iconic 17th hole or try their hand at some historical recreations. This partnership with Striver Labs allowed a kind of stripped-down version of the 17th hole designed for virtual golfing.

It’s something novel, but experiential VR like this is the first step for many non-gamers.

The golfing fan experience has always been best when you’re there, but those watching at home now have more ways to get in on the action. The position of VR cameras allows for the kind of audience-level shots that you don’t get watching the sport on television. Fans will also enjoy the kind of rewind and replay abilities that 5G can unlock onsite. However, much of the change will occur behind the scenes. Driven by powerful technology capable of transmitting and processing terabytes per minute, golf’s analytical side will start to show.