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R&A and NTT Data transform St Andrews into a digital twin for data-driven recreation of The Open

Every single shot at the 150th Open will be tracked and visualised using video game technology.

15 July 2022 Steve McCaskill
R&A and NTT Data transform St Andrews into a digital twin for data-driven recreation of The Open

NTT Data

  • Digital twin will drive new fan engagement offering
  • ShotView is ‘a first’ for any of golf’s major tournaments

The R&A and NTT Data have transformed the Old Course at St Andrews into a ‘digital twin’ for the ongoing 150th Open Championship, creating a foundation for data-driven recreation of the golf tournament that will allow fans to visualise any shot from any player in near real time.

Digital twins are an accurate virtual representation of a physical space, allowing venue operators to simulate changes or scenarios in real time. The technology has been used by other sports organisations for things like venue management, but in the R&A’s case the principal aims are fan engagement and record keeping.

‘ShotView’ is a new digital offering that lets users interact with any part of the course or with certain groups or players so they can see the ball flight for any shot, together with statistics such as fairway hit percentage, greens in regulation (GIR) and average put per hole.

The idea is that fans can curate their own experience and gain a better understanding of the event rather than having to rely on the television broadcast.

To digitally recreate St Andrews, NTT used various data sources including open-source landscape data, drone images, and lidar, ready for ball and flight data to be overlaid on top.

Human data collectors are positioned around the course to provide an approximate location for every shot before GPS technology and fixed-point laser scanners locate the ball to within two centimetres.

All data is then fed into the system using a dedicated Wi-Fi network, and every shot is immediately visualised in a video game engine, ready to be used by ShotView as soon as possible.

“ShotView is entirely data driven and unique to any of the majors,” Laurence Norman, vice president of sports technology at NTT Data said at an event at St Andrews. “Other [major tournaments] have video clips that allow you to [replay] shots, but [with ShotView] everything is based on data but so we can recreate it in real time. We’re heading towards photo realistic views of those shots.”

“Unlike in previous years, we’re getting accuracy of the ball position down to two centimetres. That’s important because it allows you to start seeing players who have decided to play it to the left of the fairway or the right and decide why they are making some of those choices. Before this, we would never have been able to see that level of detail so [ShotView] brings to life more of the story of the competition and what the players are doing.”

Some ShotView data will be displayed on NTT Data’s ‘data wall’ in the heart of the spectator village at St Andrews. This means patrons who are taking a break from the galleries to get refreshments can still keep up with all the action around the course, with prioritisation algorithms determining which is the most important shot at the event at any single moment in time.

“Because [ShotView] is based in more accurate data and is using lower latency [infrastructure], we’re seeing things in near-real time,” added Norman.

Data-driven recreations of every single shot have an obvious fan engagement benefit, but the R&A also likes having a trusted record of everything that happens in the quest for the Claret Jug each year and the technology will form the basis of its shot archive.

“A digital twin has to use data you can trust and it has to work with other systems,” said Steve Otto, chief technology officer at the R&A. “It’d be pointless [otherwise].

“In the next few years we’ll be able to replay everything that happened at St Andrews [this year] and we can trust it.”

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