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At PGA Tournaments, Bluetooth Beacons Are Par for the Course

Golf fans at a recent championship event were able to know the locations of players within close range.
By Claire Swedberg

When a beacon attached to a standard bearer's sign comes within approximately 250 yards of a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)-enabled phone or tablet running the PGA app, the app on that device displays the names of players linked to that beacon.

For the Championship Tour in Wisconsin earlier this month, Smith reports, the beacons worked well. About 50 were installed, one for each group of three players. Turner is still reviewing the data resulting from the tour's Binoculars use, in order to determine when, where and how often it was used.

When a spectator's phone captures the ID transmitted by a standard bearer's beacon, the PGA app displays the names of the three players whom that individual is accompanying.
In the future, Treater says, Turner and PGA intend to use the beacon technology for additional purposes, such as the couponing and promotion of PGA products on sale at the course. For instance, he notes, a beacon could be installed at the merchandise tent offering promotional information for those who pass the area, which would arrive on their smartphones.

In addition, with beacons installed at key locations, the system could provide navigation functionality to help users find food, bleachers or the restroom, for example.

"This is year one," Smith says, "but we have a road map" for further enhancement of beacon solutions.

The technology could also be used to set up scavenger hunts, Treater notes. Spectators often tend to cluster in specific areas, and the PGA has found it difficult to encourage crowds to spread out more evenly around the course. To accomplish this goal, a beacon could be set up at specific points, such as at each hole, and spectators would then need to go to each of those sites. They would earn points as their phone captured each beacon's transmission, and they could win a free T-shirt, for instance, at the conclusion of the tournament.

Next year, Turner plans to employ the beacon-based Binoculars system at the next PGA Championship, as well as at the Ryder Cup, held in Minnesota. Because the course and the number of players differ for each event, Turner is still determining what kinds of features would be of most value for the beacons. "We're already strategizing what fans will want," Treater states. By way of example, he says, with the beacon data, along with other information from the app (such as each player's schedule), the system would be able to respond to inquiries from spectators regarding the real-time location of a specific player.

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