Signs point toward USGA move to digital age

The USGA for the first time employed digital scoreboards for the 2014 U.S. Open doubleheader at Pinehurst.

PINEHURST, N.C. – The PGA Tour has converted nearly all of its scoreboards from manual to electronic, providing more information about the players and the shots that spectators see.

The U.S. Golf Association, in contrast, never had used an electronic scoreboard at one of its tournaments before this month, preferring the traditional manual scoreboards. During the U.S. Open doubleheader at Pinehurst, that changed. To the right of Pinehurst No. 2’s 18th hole, an electronic scoreboard flashed player information, driving distance, distance to the hole and putt distances.

“For us it’s just really to try it out and see what it’s about, see if it does help the fan experience, the spectators, give them more information,” said Ross Galarneault, the USGA’s director of GHIN and handicapping business development. “It’s a way for us to learn what the positives, the negatives, what we’d want to change if we go forward with doing more of it in the future.”

The positives may be more than just spectator enjoyment. A U.S. Open usually features a scoreboard on every hole. At last week's U.S. Women’s Open, approximately 11 holes featured scoreboards, with each requiring on average 10 volunteers.

The ability to limit the need for volunteers or to utilize the volunteers in other ways – such as collecting information via the laser that gathers driving, approach and putting distance – would be beneficial.

The R&A-run Open Championship next month at Royal Liverpool in England will feature 17 electronic boards. Although there’s no turning back from the digital era, the USGA feels the lure of nostalgia as it makes the technological leap, Galarneault said.

“There are a lot of us that love the old manual boards and don’t want to see them go by the wayside,” he said. “It’s sort of like Augusta.”

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