Preview: Dude, Where’s My Par? Making Virtual Reality Golf
At the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale is one of the loudest holes in all of golf. Loudest? Didn’t you say golf? Yes. And thanks to the PGA Tour’s fantastic digital team, you can experience it for yourself.
Sloane Kelley, Content Director for PGA Tour digital properties, is the woman responsible for the Tour’s exciting and innovative content strategy. From 360 video to an Oculus application, the PGA Tour is not messing around with digital content. With not only beautiful courses and destinations, but also a hoard of fans hungry for tips from the pros, it turns out that golf is uniquely suited for virtual reality content.
“I started experimenting with virtuality reality production last year,” said Kelley. “It seemed like it would be really interesting for us to play with. What we discovered is that golf if actually really uniquely suited for VR. We have a new environment every single week, and pretty much all of them are amazingly beautiful.”
With the VR experience in golf, you get to feel like you’re right there on the course. “Getting to feel like you’re there with a player – especially in golf – is a really unique experience,” said Kelley.
Getting VR content on the PGA Tour isn’t always smooth sailing. “There’s always a lot of challenges – really in any kind of video production around golf,” said Kelley. “The beautiful locations are awesome, but it also means you’re up against planning for a rainy day, wind and other conditions out on the course.”
Kelley also has to consider and respect players’ space. Fans love content that gets up close and personal with a player, but if it’s in the course of competition the production team has to be very mindful of where they are placing cameras. Kelley’s team works closely with the PGA rules officials to make sure they get the best content they can without being disruptive.
“From a competition perspective, we need to make sure that we’re not in the way but we’re still getting something really compelling for our audience.”
So who is this content for? Everyone. The PGA Tour is the first sports league to launch an application on Oculus, and the unique immersion qualities of VR content has revolutionized the possibilities for engagement with fans.
“From a brand perspective the goal here is certainly to reach out to the existing audience in a new way, but we also know by going into a new platform and being there early is a way to reach new fans too – some people that wouldn’t normally follow the PGA tour. This is a way to show them that we’re trying some new stuff and they might want to pay attention to us.”
In addition to VR content on Oculus, the PGA tour has been producing 360 videos and publishing to Facebook and YouTube.
“Part of the reason for that is we can get more mass exposure there. Definitely based on our demo on Facebook and YouTube, we know it’s extremely young. I think people are often surprised to hear that about the PGA tour. The majority of our fans on Facebook are millennials or younger, and on YouTube it gets even younger than that.”
Great content is all about storytelling, and golf is no exception. Kelley’s SXSW Interactive 2016 panel, “Dude, Where’s My Par? Making Virtual Reality Golf,” will really look at the value of good storytelling in fan engagement.
“As an organization we’re very interested in experimenting with new technologies. I’m a storyteller – I’ve been a storyteller probably my whole life, but certainly my whole career. To me this is a new platform for storytelling, which is really exciting. It’s an amazing creative challenge and that’s what gets me out of bed every day.”