AUGUSTA, Georgia – It wasn’t long ago that golf fans who tuned in to The Masters Tournament telecast didn’t get to see golfers hit shots on the front nine at the Augusta National Golf Club.
Starting Thursday morning, they will be able to view every shot hit by every player in the field - on all 18 holes - on the Masters app or on Masters.com. It’s a first for golf and demonstrates the aggressive way the Masters is pushing the digital envelope.
The new feature won’t be available live or on television – at least, not yet – but each shot should be viewable within a few minutes of it being hit. Fred Ridley, the chairman of Augusta National, made the announcement Wednesday during his pre-tournament news conference.
“For the first time ever in golf, we will capture virtually every shot of every player during every competitive round," Ridley said. “This extensive library of content will be available on our website and apps through the leader board and track features.
“Within minutes of every shot, this added content will now allow our fans online to follow their favorite players from their drive off the first tee to their final putt on the 18th green.”
Asked why the Masters has embraced such an ambitious project, Ridley said, “We have always subscribed to the notion that we want to provide content to our fans in the way they want to receive it. You know, the world is migrating towards digital technology. It was something that we thought, and that we’re hearing, that our fans wanted.”
He added, “It’s been two or three years in developing. We had it in a beta test mode previously, but now I feel like we can actually execute on this. We just thought it was something that people wanted and which supplemented our other forms of providing coverage of the tournament.”
Ridley also announced that Augusta National this summer will begin a multi-year development of a portion of club-owned property north of Washington Road, the busy four-land road that runs adjacent to the course.
“In a matter of weeks, we will commence construction of a tunnel connecting an area near Gate 1 to new development on the north side of the road,” he said. “This project is the first of its kind in the state of Georgia. Thanks to modern engineering, we will be able to excavate under Washington Road without any impact to the flow of traffic above.”
Ridley also announced expansion of various services, including building a state-of-the-art global television and digital compound. And he addressed rumors that a dedicated interstate exit will be built off I-20 that would lead directly to patron parking lots a mile away.
“As far as a dedicated exit, I know it is in discussion and certainly will be a great benefit for the tournament,” he said. “I’m sure it is something that will continue to be discussed.”
In other news, Ridley said:
• The policy of no cell phones allowed on the grounds will continue. “I don’t believe that’s a policy that anyone should expect is going to change in the near future, if ever,” he said. “I can’t speak for future chairmen, but speaking for myself, I think we got that right.”
• A potential lengthening of the par-5 13th hole, made possible when the club acquired land from the adjacent Augusta Country Club, is still being studied. “Amen Corner is a sacred place in the world of golf,” he said. “I am hesitant to move too quickly in that regard.”
• While hundreds of courses have embraced tree-removal programs in recent years, it’s unlikely that Augusta National will start taking down scores of the towering pines flanking most of the fairways. “I think the Georgia pines are part of our history, and they are not going to go anywhere,” he said.