How AI contributed to the success of the 148th Open Championship?

By: July 22, 2019

There are more and more pieces of evidence that AI (artificial intelligence) is penetrating into the golf industry.

In 2017, Pebble Beach Resort launched its AI-based virtual concierge service.

Another great example is Callaway Golf‘s Epic Flash Driver that was developed by utilizing AI. The ‘Flash Face’ was the product of 15,000 cycles and has been included in a set of drivers and woods. 

NTT DATA billboard at the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club
The 147th Open Championship – Carnoustie Golf Links in Angus, Scotland

Probably an even bigger challenge is how to engage a huge crowd at a golf tournament like the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club.

Deloitte’s Fan Engagement 2018 study says these are the TOP4 basic expectations of sports fans when they arrive at a stadium:

  1. The stadium to be safe, comfortable, and clean;
  2. They want the view from their seats to match their expectations;
  3. They desire a high-quality game.
  4. They expect an exciting atmosphere within the stadium.

The organizers were in a quite good position to meet the first three basic expectations of golf fans. But how could they exceed the fourth expectations?

Among the fanatic golf fans, the two most important expectations are #3 & #4.

The next level of expectations that we must exceed as per this study are

  • The ability to have experiences that are unique to the golf course;
  • Experiences that match their personal interests;
  • Live entertainment options before, during, and after the game, and
  • The opportunity to sit with fans who share their interests.

At this level, organizers need to think about how can they personalize their fans’ experience that is available in real-time, but also shareable.

If golf tournament hosts like Royal Portrush Golf Club – the host of the 148th Open Championship – would map fans’ customer journey for this they need intelligent touchpoints (e.g. ticketing) to be able to collect as many information as possible.

The role & benefits of AI usage at major golf events

When we are thinking about all these challenges the usage of artificial intelligence and machine learning come to my mind.

Let’s circle back to the advanced expectations of golf fans.

At the latest Masters Tournament, IBM used its artificial intelligence Watson to sift through hundreds of hours of play and produce customized video highlights for fans.

IBM launched an automated, personalized highlight reel service called “My Moments” to provide fans for free through and the tournament’s iPhone and Android apps.

This was the first time when the app used artificial intelligence from Watson to capture the essence of the competition and allow users to personalize their digital experience.

AI in the service of the 148th Open Championship

NTT DATA came up with a giant digital screen at the 148th Open Championship. Selected spectators were able to follow the events in a highly personalized way with an extraordinary level of data.

By utilizing AI (artificial intelligence) NTT DATA was able to extract relevant information such as player names and hole numbers, from live TV broadcasts, based on the data learned beforehand and screen text captured by optical character recognition (OCR).

Facial-expression and body-posture data were used to analyze players’ swings, types of shots and not-to-be-missed highlights.

The extracted data were tagged automatically to the broadcast video to enable viewers to quickly find scenes arranged into various categories (by players, holes, highlights, etc.) so they can select and replay a diverse range of scenes as desired. 

AI was used as well to analyze the reactions of spectators (processed anonymously) as they watch live TV broadcasts displayed on the NTT DATA Wall.

The analysis is performed with a facial-expression-analysis engine developed by Affectiva.

Based on this analysis, the most exciting moments were ranked on the NTT DATA Wall and constantly updated throughout each day of tournament play.  


As you could see service personalization is not enough only in the regular, everyday golf club operations to provide exceptional customer experience, but also in a golf tournament and event as well.

I am expecting that people will understand and appreciate more and more the benefits of AI and machine learning in the coming years.

This will bring a much higher level of fan and guest expectations at every area of our golf clubs’ & resorts’ operation.