News & Opinion

Pandemic may spur change to on-site experience

As the PGA Tour slowly allows on-site spectators, tournament operators will have to compete with the growing number of at-home viewership options, including sports wagering

As we collectively hunker down to watch the Masters this week, my mind drifts to the joys of attending live tournament golf. While the PGA Tour recently began to allow limited numbers of golf fans on-site, it feels like ages ago that we enjoyed the roar of the gallery, let alone experienced being up close and personal to view tournaments.

Sports and Leisure Research Group — 11.12.2020

Sports and Leisure Research Group has spent significant time during the past few years researching the on-site fan experience at golf and other sporting events. In early 2020, during the pre-pandemic months, the group surveyed more than 1,000 golf fans about their experiences behind the ropes. More than half of the golfers surveyed had attended a tournament within the past two years, and – as shown on the left side of the accompanying graphic – the most typical experience was a mix of following a group for a few holes and then lingering at a single location to watch the balance of the players come through.

Deeper insights into the fan experience will be even more critical once the pandemic subsides. Tournament operators will not only need to continue to provide safety assurances, but the battle for fan attention – the pull of digital innovation and at-home viewership options – will be a major source of competition for property holders seeking to optimize ticket sales. 

Sports and Leisure Research Group is seeing it in every spectator sport vertical in which the group is involved. From a golf-centric standpoint, the new rights-fees contracts for the PGA Tour, coupled with the continued adoption of sports wagering, will, in my opinion, likely transform both the on-site and at-home fan experiences over the next decade.

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