The Masters Digital Experience is a Model for Professional Sports
How one of golf’s four majors is advancing the love of the game and defying the laws of physics
Much as every player might wish otherwise, there are no accidents in the game of golf. The laws of physics rule the game. You play the course as it presents itself—wind, water, unruly rough, wicked lies, whatever; it’s up to you to adapt to the physics at play in front of you.
The experience of watching the game, whether in person or on television, is similar. You can’t change the broadcast. And you can’t be in two places at once. You can’t defy the laws of classic physics and experience the game however you wish.
That is until now.
Each year, the digital viewing experience of The Masters, like the performance of the pros invited to compete, gets better and better. One of four major tournaments on the PGA Tour, the folks behind The Masters take customer experience seriously. The Tournament’s digital channel is no exception.
The result is a model for other professional sports to follow.
When you watch a golf tournament live, you have to pick your battles. Because a golf course is a big place. You may be a fan of a player in one group at one end of the course. And you may also be a fan of another player a mile a way at the far end of the course. There’s no good way to follow the live action of both; you have to choose.
When you watch a golf tournament on broadcast television, you have even less control. Because the broadcasters pick the place and the players for you, leaving you to watch and listen. Sure, Jim Nantz’s commentary pours off the screen like Sunday syrup. But if you just love watching four-time major champion Rory McIlroy and he’s having an off day, then you’re out of luck because he’s not going to get much airtime.
But when you watch The Masters at Masters.com you get to dabble at the fringes of quantum physics. The Tournament producers — with the help of some seriously bright minds — make it a snap to watch multiple groups at once, build your own groups to follow, and traverse the majestic contours of Augusta National with a click and a tap.
While it’s fitting for our multitasking lifestyles to be able to multitask a major golf tournament, there’s more to Masters.com than streaming multiple groups at once.
Professional sports are data-rich environments. Golf is no exception. Devoted fans and commentators alike are notorious for citing esoteric stats from their favorite players as quickly as their own birth date.
Masters.com allows fans to dig into the tiniest minutiae of a player’s performance in every round. Fairways hit, greens in regulation, strokes gained putting, daily scorecard, live action—you name it, the folks behind Masters.com have tracked it, analyzed it, and served it up on an azalea-laden platter.
Snuggled in the tall pines as far from the first tee as one can get, at a crook in the design of Augusta National aptly named Amen corner, lies one of the most treacherous par threes in all of golf. A rattle snake of water called Rae’s Creek sleuths its way around the front of the pitiably small green of hole number 12, quixotically known as Golden Bell.
It’s the shortest hole at Augusta National Golf Club, rarely requiring more than a wedge for most professional contestants. Yet the hazards it presents—seen, unseen, or merely conjured by a mind deeply scarred by prior experience—has made or broken countless runs for the iconic green jacket.
Tiger Woods, after winning his fifth Masters in 2019, in part by benefiting from disasters committed by Brooks Koepka and Francesco Molinari at Golden Bell in the final round, would return to number 12 in 2020 to card a sweltering 7-over par.
That’s two strokes more than he scored on the same hole in the prior three rounds combined. Instead of finishing 8-under par to tie for 13th place, he finished just 1-under to tie for 38th, costing him not only a shot at a record-tying sixth Master’s title but also a little over $300,000 in prize money. All because of a cascade of sacrifices made to the menacing thirst of Rae’s Creek. Like a roadside wreck, it’s a golf hole to which people can’t help but pay attention.
Thanks to Masters.com, now you can—even exclusively if you wish.
The Track feature provides a bird’s eye view of the 18-hole layout and allows users to explore the action hole-by-hole. You can take a 3-D flyover tour of each hole and see who’s making their way from tee to green.
If number 12 is your jam, you can witness powerful shot-tracking and artificial intelligence. Track allows you to trace the detailed efforts of every player that passes over Hogan Bridge and onto the green before making the turn back toward Butler Cabin, where one worthy player will be crowned a Masters Champion.
Despite the powerful ways to enjoy the Masters described above, there’s so much more to Masters.com. For those into creating their own meta tournament, there’s Fantasy Masters. For those seeking to wade into Masters history, there’s a trove of past Tournament highlights, milestones, and videos. For those dreaming to down one of Augusta’s famed $1.50 pimento sandwiches and amble the lush field as a Patron, there’s detailed info about how to enter the devilishly-hard-to-win ticket lottery.
What’s more, you don’t have to be stuck to your laptop to enjoy the high-tech. Through the magic of Apple TV and AirPlay, you can project the content of Masters.com in 4K onto the biggest flat screen in your home.
The Masters tournament planners and producers are masters of customer experience. They are keenly aware of their Patrons’ desire to be as close to the game as possible, to feel the beguiling rustle of the tall pines and the heart-pounding rush of a flushed cut shot that drops softly a half-yard over the trap on 6.
Yet, being close to the game goes far beyond physical proximity. It means feeding the many different ways fans hunger to experience and understand—on their own terms—exactly what it’s like to spend a moment in the shoes of glory, and yes, sometimes in the long, agonizing shadows of defeat.
This and more is made possible by continuous advancements in technology, design, user experience, artificial intelligence, and analytics—all accessible from the comforts of a home thousands of miles from Augusta, GA.
It’s a model that makes The Masters one of the greatest sporting experiences in the world. And it’s one for other sports to follow.