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Volume 21 No. 1
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15 video boards to line Medinah course for Ryder Cup

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

The PGA of America is installing a record number of video boards at Medinah for the Ryder Cup, including one giant screen that literally will rise up from the pond on the 15th hole.

GoVision also works with 10 PGA Tour events to supply large video boards along the course.
“What we really hope to do is create a whole new level of fan experience at a golf tournament,” said Jake Miller, the tournament operations manager for the Ryder Cup. “We always say this is the biggest event in golf, that it’s the Super Bowl of golf, and we want fans to feel like they’re at the biggest event in the sport.”

The PGA will rent at least 12 video boards to go on the Chicago golf course from Texas-based GoVision and another three that will be placed at locations away from the course. Those 15 boards are more than the 10 the PGA used at Valhalla in 2008, and significantly more than the two to four boards used at a typical PGA Tour event. The PGA has worked with GoVision in the past at PGA and Senior PGA championships. GoVision also works with 10 PGA Tour events to supply them with anywhere from two to four large video boards each.

“This is the most screens we’ve ever done on a golf course,” Chris Curtis, GoVision’s president, said of the Ryder Cup, which will be Sept. 25-30. “There’s nothing like this in golf.”

It’s not just the number of video boards the firm is installing. Size matters, too. Some of the screens will be as large as 15 feet by 39 feet on holes 13 and 17. The screen in the pond on the 15th will be 13 by 32 feet.

More than half of the giant screens will be the newest Panasonic products with a resolution of 8 millimeters, bringing a high-definition picture to the course. The fewer the millimeters, the clearer the picture, Curtis said. In other words, fans will be able to see content on the video board from across the fairway or even from other holes.

The PGA and GoVision said that their contract forbids them to discuss the pricing for the video boards. But both said the Ryder Cup is well-suited for this technology advancement.

“The Ryder Cup is a different animal,” Miller said of the event’s unique format, which has just four matches going at a time during the team competition, with all of that action contained on a fraction of the golf course. “With the format the way it is, you naturally have large crowds around the four holes where the matches are taking place. The video boards are a key piece to keeping the fans informed while action is going on somewhere else.”

Ryder Cup officials also are taking new steps with the programming on the video boards, going well beyond the typical scoring and highlight components.

Big Screen Network, a Los Angeles-based firm that provides content for video boards and ribbon boards at the Final Four and other big sporting events, will feed programming to the big screens. Unlike past Ryder Cups, in which all of the video boards carried the same content at the same time, each of the screens at Medinah will have the capability to operate independently of the others. Big Screen is working on more TV-like content, such as player features and historical moments, as well as live footage from around the course, to entertain fans during lulls in the action.

When the golfers are on the course, however, producers will have to be careful that they don’t show a big moment from a different hole while golf is being played on the hole where the screen is located. Tournament officials don’t want fans reacting to something on the video board that might interrupt the live action.

There will be social media components, too, including Twitter posts from golfers and others who are writing or talking about the Ryder Cup.

The PGA, which has control over any advertising, has not yet determined how sponsors will be integrated into the on-screen content. The PGA’s patron sponsors, American Express, Mercedes-Benz and RBC, are expected to get first crack at any inventory that evolves, while official partners National Car Rental and Omega likely will have opportunities as well.

“For traditionalists, this is pushing the envelope,” Curtis said. “But you have to look at this as an entertainment venue. I remember in 1995, there was a screen on the driving range at the Ryder Cup for the first time. Now we’re providing people at the event a truly modern fan experience.”