PGA TOUR Set to Launch New Website to Accompany Recently Relaunched Mobile App
Clean, minimalist design makes the players - and data - the stars
On Tuesday, the PGA TOUR will launch a newly redesigned website.
It’s the latest step in the new digital era for the TOUR that follows in the footsteps of the institution of PGA TOUR LIVE on ESPN+ last year and the re-launch of the TOUR’s mobile application back in November.
The new website design looks to offer a cleaner and more modern take on the game of golf, making the golfers the stars of the product all while better leveraging the tour’s vast and deep network of data and statistics. Users will also notice a greater synergy between the web and mobile products.
Whether avidly following the busy early rounds of a tournament or popping in as excitement climaxes on a Sunday afternoon, the new website utilizes short-form video and content hierarchies to make users immediately aware of what’s important on the course right now.
The website is also loaded with more real-time data feeds, thanks to an in-house software developed to translate ShotLink (powered by CDW) scoring data and shot tracking.
The (Collaborative) Journey to Re-boot
It was towards the end of 2020 that says Scott Gutterman, SVP, Digital Operations for the PGA TOUR, Eric Hanson, VP of Digital Product Developement for the PGA TOUR, and their respective teams came to the conclusion that it was time to relaunch everything from the ground up. With a newly-minted rights deal in place and a suite of digital products built and iterated upon for about a decade, it would time to rebuild from scratch.
“Not only because that’s what we want to do, but we know that’s what our fans wanted.,” says Gutterman, a more than 17-year vet of the PGA TOUR. “The fans wanted faster data, more video, faster experience, better access to our players, a better performing app. Those were things that we heard all the way around from everybody. For us, it was come in and look at everything from the ground up, from the code that we have all the way up to the experiences that we need to deliver to our fans.”
Wanting to get an outsiders perspective and expertise, Gutterman and Hanson brought in a third-party vendor – the digital product agency Work & Co. – to design both the PGA TOUR’s new mobile app (which launched back in November) and this new website.
On the backend, the PGA TOUR also worked with the technology consulting firm Captech, who assisted in building the middleware software solutions beneath the app and website, as well as Ensemble on web development and Shockoe on app development.
What Do Fans – and Players – Want
If the TOUR was going to re-build the entire digital portfolio, they wanted to do comprehensive research on not only want fans wanted but what the TOUR players wanted, as well. The TOUR solicited the opinions of domestic and international fans, identifying the varying wants and needs of an app and website from users in different countries and time zones. They also spoke with players ranging from the TOUR’s top performers all the way down to rookies and even players on the U.S. developmental tour, the Korn Ferry Tour.
“This was, by far, the most collaborative project I think we’ve ever done at the [PGA] TOUR on the digital side of the house,” says Gutterman. “It involved all of our key stakeholders from our players to our fans to our board members to our staff, and a whole series of vendors.”
From there, that research led to the development of examples and use cases including screenshots and fully built-out prototypes to get into the hands of fans and players for feedback. The PGA TOUR digital team, along with Work & Co, would iterate the products in real-time.
“It was really helpful to allow us to get to something that we felt was different but, yet, familiar,” says Hanson. “We wanted to bring things that was surprising to [casual] fans, which is where we got the full screen video that you see when you first open the app. Then, at the same time, when you go to our leaderboard and our scorecard, it feels familiar [to hardcore fans] because we didn’t want to reinvent the way you follow golf. We just wanted to make it faster and better.”
Hanson and his team tested out new iterations of features, like a live scorecard during an event, as well as how best to integrate live data into the leaderboard and position real-time video highlights within the products.
Hanson says he even went into player dining rooms on the tour to show them prototypes and developed apps to see how they would be presented across the suite of products.
“[I] got some good feedback from them during that process,” he says, “We really tried to be open with them about what we were doing and how we were really trying to focus on making them the heroes of the product we were building. At the end of the day, our fans follow the PGA Tour because their favorite players play on the PGA Tour. We wanted to celebrate them inside of these digital platforms.”
Putting Betting Data Front and Center
As is the trend across all of sports in the United States, the PGA TOUR is also looking to offer most prominent placement and direct integration of live betting odds.
On the theme of collaboration, Gutterman and Hanson worked closely with the PGA TOUR’s VP of Gaming Scott Warfield and his team to develop strategy, roadmaps, and solutions that make the gamification of live golf a more seamless element of the overall product design.
Some of those features include weaving odds directly into the live leaderboard, as opposed to the previous products that offered an odds leaderboard as a separate entity. While the TOUR’s app does not take bets itself, it does offer a betting calculator and integration to allow users to take immediate action on odds by directly them to their partner sportsbook applications.
That, I think, helps to expedite not only the knowledge that a sports better wants to see out of the platforms that he’s using, but also to be able to take action on it right away,” says Gutterman, “which is a benefit to the sports better and a benefit to our official betting operators.
“We’ve also tried to build in a lot more stats and live data into the site,” adds Hanson. “You’ll see a lot of ‘geekier’ stats; stats that betters and really deep golf fans appreciate. We’re updating those now live in real time.”
Hanson also added that his team was currently working on building an expanded leaderboard into the mobile app that offers more information when the phone is turned to horizontal.
Additionally, the PGA TOUR’s Golfbet vertical, which originally debuted back in 2020 in partnership with The Action Network, is being moved in-house under full TOUR operation this year. Golfbet, which is led by Will Grey, the PGA TOUR’s Editorial Lead, Betting & Fantasy (formerly of NBC and Golf Channel), is also being reintroduced as part of the website re-launch this week. Within the website and the mobile application, Golfbet will host video highlights, original betting-focused content, realtime scoring and odds data, and tips from experts in the field.
Going Fully to the Cloud
While the PGA TOUR’s digital side of the business has been largely in the cloud for more than a decade, this wall-to-wall redesign has helped the TOUR take better, more efficient workflows into the cloud.
The PGA TOUR’s digital infrastructure is entirely server-less, built on the back of AWS [Amazon Web Services] tools like Lambda, AppSync, API Gateway, and DynamoDB. The AWS Cloud Development Kit (CDK) was used to create stacks segmented by business and technical function. That allows for deployments to be repeatable, reliable, and targeted when updates are needed across the suite of products. That also means new environments can be provisioned in a matter of hours, as opposed to weeks.
The designs of the website and mobile app rely heavily on the display of accurate realtime data – especially during live tournaments. DynamoDB, along with AppSync Subscriptions and AWS Lambda, push scores to the website and apps within milliseconds of receiving that data from the PGA TOUR’s official scoring systems.
According to Hanson, it’s a positive step in the right direction for the TOUR and its digital product offerings.
“We didn’t leverage the instant scalability of the cloud,” he says of past products. “We still had managed services and, basically, the equivalent of physical hardware in a cloud. But now, we’re taking advantage of all of AWS’s ability to scale and all the things that they can do. All that’s automated now for us, so we can scale up and scale down based on our demand. We have demand Thursday through Sunday. Being able to scale up and down is really important for us and it saves us costs and resources.”
The overall cloud architecture also has built in protection and redundancies. It uses a multi-active region within AWS that allows for load to be geographically distributed and offer disaster avoidance in the event of an AWS region drops out.
More to Come
Gutterman and Hanson both shared that, while launch day is the milestone date they’ve been building towards, its far from the end of the journey.
“I had to correct myself in a meeting,” laughs Gutterman, “I said, ‘I’m excited for us to get to the finish line. I mean, wait, wait, wait, I mean, get to the start line,’ because what we’ve done is built the foundation that’s now going to allow us to continue to build.”
In the coming months, the mobile and web products will add more features, including deeper personalization options, including the ability for fans to connect their accounts for live event ticketing, their streaming package, and gaming/betting profiles. The goal is to consolidate any and every experience a golf fan can have with the PGA TOUR in a single platform.
There’s also, according to Hanson, plans to build in new elements of TOURCast into the app, including translating 3D shot trails allowing not just the stream but also the date and stats of a single player or even a group. Integration of augmented reality and more features to enhance the on-site experience are also on the roadmap.