A tournament unlike any other, the United States Golf Association is pulling out all the stops to make the 118th U.S. Open Championship the best one yet. Living in a socially dominant world, federations are having to look further than the game itself in order to please fans and draw them into their biggest events.
This year, the USGA and Deloitte have teamed up to create an interactive Virtual Reality experience that allows fans to be immersed in a world which gives them a unique perspective on the championship itself and the history that follows. From a 360-degree viewpoint, fans get a first-person perspective of Corey Pavin’s famous 18th hole finish at the 1995 U.S. Open or the famous old clubhouse and trophy room at Shinnecock Hills.
By opening up the world of virtual reality, golf is perfectly placed to showcase not just its history, but its monumental moments in the present, too: think Rory Mcllroy’s 25-foot birdie putt at this year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational or Patrick Reed’s historic finish at Augusta National. Highlights in golf are a collection of single shots, making this a sport where VR can thrive.
Exploring the history of a place allows fans to feel attached to something they once knew nothing about. Golf today can use VR to showcase the other aspects of an event, sport, or player – the bits that TV cameras aren’t following. Highlights or near-live coverage of the event as it happens is one take on this, but as the USGA is showing us, VR gives golf the chance to delve deeper into its history to give fans a flavour of the event in the days leading up to the second major of the year.
Another unique social aspect of the tournament this year features the American Express Radio commentary. It’s impossible to be in more than one place at one time, this feature allows fans to listen to other important aspects of the tournament while keeping their spot secured at their favorite hole on the course. Fans are encouraged to pick up the radios at any time and walk throughout the course while witnessing their favorite players make history. Fans at home, too, can keep abreast on radio coverage through apps or connected speakers while they do other things if they’re so inclined.
Official apps from The PGA Tour and ESPN give fans the ability to live-stream a sporting event via video, audio or text coverage meaning all bases are covered.
As the digital age continues to take the world of sport by storm, social media coverage has become a key consideration to all event organisers. The U.S. Open has done just that by creating a bucket list of “must-see” photo opportunities throughout the course, bringing fans who have tickets to the event into the digital media fold, too. Often the digital output is geared to those who are following at home, but those present on the course are encouraged to take selfies in front of the legendary clubhouse or visit the U.S. Open trophy itself to snag a quick picture with a trophy bearing the names of some of the sports most storied names.
By creating a ticket that offers the “best seat in the house” at an event or spending money on a posh rooftop bar, all features relate back to social media and how the fans will showcase it. In a sense, it’s free publicity for the event itself which is why golf as a sport is encouraging not just its fans but players as well to utilize digital media platforms to their fullest extents.
The 118th U.S. Open Championship promises to be the most social yet. Fans – both at home and present on the course – will feel not only the history and key moments that make up the mold of the tournament but also witness present day history being made right in front of their own eyes.