New on the PGA Tour: ShotLink, Live Ball-tracking, and the Future of Your Golf Game

While Tiger Woods worked his way through the links at the Quicken Loans National over the June 29-July 1 weekend, most fans of the sport enjoyed the in-depth coverage provided by CBS. But something remarkable happened behind the scenes that is about to thrust this legendary sport into the 21st century, much the same way that Moneyball affected how baseball is managed and played back in the 1980’s.

ShotLink went live. Let’s find out what all the buzz is about.

What is ShotLink?

Three automated cameras are positioned on each link of the course. They follow the flight of every ball hit using laser technology. The information about the shot is instantly sent to the ShotLink truck positioned on sight. A computer with innovative artificial intelligence developed by Microsoft creates stats for the hole, the player, the tournament, and the season. Sports commentators are provided this information in real-time to improve the quality of the broadcast. The players will have access to the stats for their own use after the event. Previously, a human would be positioned on the hole to use a laser to measure the distance of a shot once it landed and radio the single piece of information to the truck.

What Kind of Data is Collected?

Speed, height, hang-time, spin…you name it, the system actively gathers a huge amount of data for every single shot. Instead of simply recording the distance flown, the number of shots for the hole, or visible observations about the ball’s behavior, hard numbers are generated specific to the player at that location on that day in those conditions.

What is Crunching the Numbers?

The PGA has teamed up with CDW and Microsoft to create a server and the software able to sort and dissect all the data almost instantly, reportedly millions of data points. Besides the live stats being recorded at this weekend’s tournament, they have fed the system 20 years of statistics and video recordings to further enhance the interpretation of any given shot on almost any course in the PGA tour.

Who is Using All That Information?

Previously, both the broadcast commentators and fans would rely on a few talented individuals to sort the data and provide meaningful statistics that could be interpreted. That could take time. The new AI will feed more in-depth stats to the booth to improve the commentary on live play. But it won’t end there. The data will start to be disseminated to sports sites, blogs, and even on the PGA website. By the end of this season, fans will start to see new statistics popping up on broadcasts, in chat rooms, and fantasy leagues.

How is This Going to Change the Game?

Right now, expect the ShotLink data to appear as something like a curiosity as broadcast professionals get a handle on how to use the data. But when Molinari, Ancer, and Woods start to sit down and study their stats compared to their competition, expect to start seeing a change in approach to developing swings, use of unique clubs, and even the change of tee positions. Over the next five to ten years, the sport will be scrambling to apply a wealth of new knowledge to a sport that is centuries old.

What about your game? The new stats will ultimately be added to the dataset used by golfing sims at your local golfing center, like Moon Golf. Computers and golfing pros will work together to help you develop a better game, by matching your performance and comparing it to the hottest names on the PGA tour today. In short, golf is about to roll into the new century with a renewed partnership between technology and tradition.

Would you like to learn how to apply real numbers recorded by an impartial computer like Trackman and enhance your play? Come on down to Moon Golf in Melbourne and Vero Beach, FL for a personalized assessment of your stance, grip, and swing by our experienced golf pros.