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Jul. 06, 2022

The World's Oldest Golf Tournament in line with Digital and Data

10 years as a sponsor of the Open Championship

It all began in Prestwick, a town on the southwest coast of Scotland. It was here that British golfers arranged the very first Open Championship in October 1860. The tournament lasted just one day, with only eight players.

In the years that followed, astonishing evolution took place, due in part to the increase in professional golfers, and the Open’s cachet as the oldest golf tournament in the world that is still held today makes it an event like no other. And as advances in IT pick up speed, spectators’ experience becomes more and more thrilling each year.

NTT DATA became a part of the Open’s long history in 2013, making our debut as an official IT patron at Muirfield at the same time Japanese champion Hideki Matsuyama played his first game on Scottish soil.

The following year, we supplied NTT DATA Walls for digital signage throughout the English links course where the 2014 Open was held, dispensing with the traditional yellow manual reader boards and creating a whole new experience. Screens displayed the scores and positions of the 156 players scattered around the field, providing greater immersion for the spectators and catering to their various points of interest.

From 2015, we built on the technical showcase we were creating, experimenting with the latest technology to find new ways to provide fans with a greater understanding of the tournament and make it an even more exciting experience. An AR (augmented reality) simulation at the 2017 Open made users feel like they were stepping onto the championship course themselves, while AI technology adopted in 2018 analyzed the emotions of fans in the venue and visualized their excitement level. Cameras on the DATA Walls took photos of visitors and the AI analyzed their facial expressions, detected and quantified their excitement level and objectively determined pivotal moments based on data about how excited spectators were by each play. In 2019, video AI performed AI analysis of broadcast footage to automatically extract clips of specific golfers’ plays. Highlights were screened shortly afterwards on DATA Walls and on tablets in the pavilions.

160 years after those first golfers battled it out in the sea breeze, the Open buzzes with the same passion as its early days, but golfers in the 19th century could never have imagined what the links look like today.

Update: 2022 and beyond

The Open is held at a number of links golf courses in the United Kingdom, with each course hosting the venue every few years. In 2022, it is returning after seven years to the Old Course at St. Andrews, a course on the east coast of Scotland that looks out over the North Sea. This is a holy ground in the golf world, the headquarters of the R&A. Imagine seeing it in all its glory, filled with top players battling to be number one, on your own computer or smartphone.

This is the 150th Open, and NTT DATA will mark the historic event with DIGITAL TWIN technology, bringing the home of golf to the screens of over five million viewers around the world.

A 3D map on the official website will use position data to show each shot by every player, amid visuals based on satellite data that are at once faithful and stunning. The ShotView Live will not only show scores and details of each hole but provide real-time updates of details such as the carry of each stroke and the field stats of each player according to GPS data gathered by the staff on the course. The leaderboard, the most accessed area of the official website, will combine score data with graphics showing the position of each player’s ball on each course. This data will also be live blogged for users. The website will provide a bird’s-eye view of one of the world’s most prestigious tournaments, with active expansions and in-depth insights.

In only a tiny fraction of the Open’s long history, IT has transformed the world. NTT DATA has infused the world’s oldest golf tournament with new revolutionary technology and ideas, but our focus has always been on working together with R&A to maintain the grand traditions of this tournament. Our work is born from a heartfelt respect for those traditions and a desire to invest in the future of golf.

The way the Open rotates between specific links courses in the UK makes it one of the few major tournaments that is truly efficient in bringing about evolution in golf. With data being collected and used over the years, there is the potential for technology that will allow players to see at a glance how their techniques differ from those that other players, or they themselves, used at the same hole on the same course a few years ago. Technology like this would bring about changes in the techniques and power that we will see on the golf course.

It’s a multifaceted approach where history and data are both drawn upon, with time as the axis. And Hideki Matsuyama is one of the golfers at the center of it all, returning to the Open for the first time in three years and to St. Andrews for the first time in seven. NTT DATA is casting its eyes forward to the next time Matsuyama will return to this holy ground of golfing—and the next 150 years of the Open.