Behind The Scenes: PGA TOUR ShotLink

If you have ever watched a PGA Tour event on TV, in person, or on your computer, you probably have wondered at some point, how are they able to get the precise distance a ball has traveled, how far it is away from the pin, or the statistics for number of putts Tiger Woods makes within 10 feet?

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All that data comes from an army of 300-400 volunteers that follow the action on the golf course using survey grade lasers and handheld devices to record every move each player makes on the golf course and that data is sent in real-time to the PGA TOUR ShotLink truck.

During round one of the BMW Championship I was able to get a behind the scenes tour of the PGA TOUR ShotLink truck and learn about how ShotLink works and how they collect and gather the data, that you and I see at home.

Background on ShotLink

The first electronic scoreboard system was first introduced by the TOUR in 1983, but that system like those that followed over the years proved to be very inefficient and unreliable, relying on scorers to write down the data at the end of each hole by a greenside operator. This was so error prone and that it eventually lead to the creation of ShotLink in 1999. The vision of ShotLink is to “Turn Data into information, information into knowledge, and knowledge into entertainment” according to a quote on the ShotLink website.

In 2008 CDW became the Official Technology Partner of the PGA TOUR with a five-year integrated marketing and business partnership. CDW powers ShotLink with state of the art technology and support both on and off the course. “This partnership is a unique opportunity to demonstrate how CDW helps organizations achieve their goals through specialized technology solutions,” said Mark Gambill, Chief Marketing Officer, CDW. “We look forward to leveraging our IT expertise and range of products and partners to help the PGA TOUR provide an enhanced experience for fans and improve TOUR operations.”

How ShotLink Works

Prior to each golf event a team from the PGA TOUR goes out the golf course to map it out and get a digital image of each hole. The background information that is collected is used to plot two points by any two coordinates on the golf course (e.g. from the tee-box to the fairway or location of the next shot).

At a typical PGA TOUR event, ShotLink is operated by small staff of PGA TOUR employees and 300-400 volunteers who score each hole on the course with a walking scorer, fairway laser team, and greenside laser team throughout the tournament. That’s almost three-man years of effort between volunteers and staff. Fun fact: The annual ShotLink volunteer count on the PGA TOUR is approximately 10,000

All the data that is collected in real-time is used in multiple ways from the player statistics displayed on the course scoreboards and TV broadcasts, to the shot information like distance traveled, distance to the pin, to the information you view on the ShotTracker application, and more.

Watch the video to learn everything you ever wanted to know about the PGA TOUR ShotLink. I was blown away by the amount of data and information collected and you’ll never look at golf statistics the same way again!

Special Thanks to the PGA TOUR’s Sean Howland and CDW for making this possible.

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Author: Rob Hayashida

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