The NBC Sports Group and Topgolf Entertainment are unveiling a new technology partnership which they are hoping will bring golfers and casual fans closer to the sport.
The multiyear agreement includes the expansion of Toptracer as the network’s ball-tracking technology for PGA Tour telecasts on NBC and The Golf Channel.
Toptracer tracks the golf ball’s flight and can provide information such as ball speed, apex, curve and carry.
NBC will have exclusive use of Toptracer on all 18 holes, beginning with the Waste Management Phoenix Open scheduled from Jan. 31 through Feb. 3. The technology will be used mainly during tee shots via a live shot or a trace over a graphic of the hole.
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Toptracer can also track fairway shots with two mini-cameras that can be used anywhere on the course.
“Viewers want more information because they say it helps improve the telecast,” said NBC golf producer Tommy Roy. “To be able to have Toptracer on all 18 holes is going to be able to tell the story from tournaments better.”
Toptracer was started as Protracer in Sweden in 2006 by Daniel Forsgren, who was annoyed he couldn’t see the flight of tee shots while watching golf on television. It was bought by Top Golf in 2016 and renamed Toptracer.
Toptracer was used on 161 televised golf tournaments worldwide last year.
CBS used it on 10 holes during all but one event last year. The PGA Championship on CBS was the first time a network got to use it on all 18.
“The technology has evolved over the years but what we are doing is really trying to use it to help more people enjoy the game,” Toptracer President Ben Sharpe said. “It allows us to show the casual player what goes on and the different types of shots that are used.”
Toptracer will also be used on NBC and Golf Channel’s coverage of other events, including the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June, the Senior PGA Championship in May and the NCAA Division I men’s and women’s golf championships in late May.
Golf Channel will use Toptracer Range on driving ranges when it has its “Live from” shows during some of the sport’s biggest events.
Will McIntosh, the executive vice president of strategy for golf at NBC Sports, said Topgolf’s deal includes a partnership where GolfNow, which is a division of Golf Channel specializing in sales, will work with them to sell Toptracer Range to golf facilities.
Besides Toptracer, NBC is testing “Walk and Talk” interviews on the course during PGA Tour telecasts and mic’ing up players during the first two Web.com Tour events later this month.