With an unparalleled ability for sports, franchises, and players to interact with fans, one group has finally joined the technology-savvy masses; the Professional Golf Association has at long last embraced social media. In a sport ruled by tradition, civility, and gamesmanship, an attempt to gain a greater audience and connect with fans has led to the embrace of Twitter and Facebook.
To begin, the tour announced that starting at the W.G.C.-Cadillac Championship on March 7, there will no longer be a ban on cell phones and other social communication devices. Fans will be encouraged to tweet real time reactions, send players questions, and partake in games throughout the weekend at the event.
The sport of golf has made headlines over the past year for a different kind of interaction with the fans. There exists myriad seemingly minor rule infractions in golf, but they are infractions nonetheless. On occasion these missteps by golfers are missed by officials, but captured by TV cameras. Fans watching at home have called in when they notice such penalties, resulting in scores changed for players well after the fact. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem has stated without ambiguity that he will not prevent fans from continuing to call in and make penalties aware to officials. It was a wise move, as firstly, there are rules for a reason, and secondly, and more importantly, fans are welcomed to and engaged in the sport they love. Social media initiatives are the next logical step.
“We understand that mobile devices have become a part of everyday life,” said Andy Pazder, PGA Tour Chief of Operations, in a press release. “We concluded after the five test tournaments, that allowing mobile devices on-site at Tour events was a tremendous fan enhancement, and did not affect the integrity of the competition.” The younger tour members, already active on Twitter, connected with fans that followed the news online. Stewart Cink, Ian Poulter, Hunter Mahan, and Justin Rose are some of the many golfers active on Twitter. Now, however, they have an organization supporting them in the online world.
The PGA Tour is going all out it seems, making up for lost time. Whereas most other sports have long been driving the social media bandwagon, the PGA is finally hopping on. They have launched both Facebook and Twitter initiatives, with the usual Facebook fan page information but with interactive games and a chance to win prize for those in attendance. Followers online will gain free entry to a special so-called ‘Social Media Zone,’ which includes food, drink, more prizes, and permission to use cell phones.
What’s more, users can submit questions to players via Facebook or Twitter to be answered following the tournament, and they can check into various locations via Foursquare. If you’re a golf fan, or planning on being in Miami, Florida for the tournament, follow @CadillacChamp to stay up to date.
All of this may seem very academic to social media savants, but for golf this is a major and very positive step forward. Golf is similar to baseball in that it is a perfect game to Tweet while in attendance. The slow pace of the game affords fans and players alike a great opportunity to connect and have real time conversations. Unlike hockey or basketball, where the game moves by much more quickly and scoring happens at random, golf is methodicaland the progression is predictable. Moreover, the nature of a day on the course warrants plenty of walking around and leisure time, perfect for what the PGA is doing in creating trivia games and treasure hunts. It seems a no-brainer that the sport embraces social media with not only the fans but the players, but at long last golf is making the change and surely for the better.