CBS Sports plans to use the PGA Championship to make its biggest technology push to date in golf. That will include adapting one technology better known to basketball fans and reintroducing green-reading tools that were tested earlier this year in Los Angeles.
For Ken Aagaard, CBS Sports’ executive vice president, innovation and technology, the new tools that have emerged in recent years reflect the fact that technology finally is catching up with the demands of golf, which often is described as the most difficult sport to produce.
“Golf has always been one of those sports that has been waiting for a lot of technologies to come together for years,” Aagaard said. “I’ve been doing golf going back to when I was with NBC in the early ’80s, and always felt that we were leaving so many shots on the edit-room floor. There were so many things happening in golf and we didn’t have ways to get the story to the viewer.”
Aagaard has been in the television industry 49 years, the past 20 at CBS. But it’s only in recent years that fans have seen the proliferation of shot-tracing technology, real-time ShotLink data and other tools that can complement the traditional live productions.
“All of these technologies are really starting to come together now and it’s exciting because we’re able to tell some incredible stories and do it visually and with graphics and with data,” Aagaard said. “The hard part is to mix it in so that the technology doesn’t overshadow the show itself. It has to be complementary, and we’re learning as we go and getting better at it all the time.”
At the PGA Championship, CBS will introduce 4D Replay on the 15th tee. The video can pan 270 degrees, zoom in and slow down, creating what should be an interesting tool to study players’ swings.
CBS also will bring back the Putt Predictor, which illustrates the firm and lag putting lines, to give viewers an idea of the range in which putts must roll to have a chance of going in. This tool is used occasionally in coverage of the European Tour. CBS also will use an Undulation Grid, a graphical overlay to show the contours of the greens.
Toptracer will be available on all 18 holes, and as we saw on Fox Sports’ coverage of the U.S. Open, CBS also will use wireless, mounted cameras to trace approach shots from the fairways. That’s not as simple as tracing tee shots.
“Doing the wireless shots is a lot trickier because you have to figure out how to get the camera out there, get it steady (on a tripod), so that it can recognize the ball,” Aagaard said. “The technology is both ball recognition and radar, and the combination is what helps us get it done on the fairway.”
These tools and others create the potential for livelier and more fulfilling viewing experiences this week and beyond. But they only hint at what is yet to come.
Within the next decade, Aagaard envisions golf fans being able to create a more customized viewing experience on a weekly basis, much like what DirecTV viewers are able to do with multiple feeds shown during major championships.
“If you just want to watch Tiger or Phil, there are going to be ways to do that,” Aagaard said. “If you just want metrics from those particular golfers or you want to be able to control those metrics, you’ll be able to do that. The data and the fantasy (element) is growing, so we have to grow with it. … You’re going to have more choices of the things you want to see.”