Forecaddie: Toptracer enhances the range at Pebble Beach for U.S. Open


PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – One of the most popular places for fans to go when they attend a professional golf tournament is the practice area. Let’s face it, if you camp out on a tee box or a green, you are going to see the same shots hit again and again. On the range, players hit every club in their bag and there are always plenty of golfers to watch.

With that in mind, The Man Out Front was thrilled to see that Toptracer, the company that provides shot-tracking graphics to television networks, is here for the U.S. Open. Using its Toptracer Range technology, the company enhanced the range experience for fans at last month’s PGA Championship, and now it’s doing the same thing at Pebble Beach.

To make the system work, Toptracer staff members arrived at Pebble Beach Golf Links’ range a week before the tournament started. They raised three trusses and mounted a pair of cameras that shoot high-speed video on top of each truss. Then the field was measured and mapped, with the distance to the green complexes, flags and other elements precisely measured.

Once the tournament begins and players start using the range, Toptracer spotters identify who is hitting shots from various areas and the cameras begin to track them.

When a player hits a shot, the cameras can track its entire flight and feed that information into a system. It can measure things like ball speed, launch angle, apex (the shot’s highest point), hang time and curve (in feet). The system also measures flat carry, which is the distance the shot would have flown on a flat fairway. At Pebble Beach, it’s a better measure than simply carry distance because players on the range are hitting slightly downhill.

Toptracer cameras
Toptracer cameras track shots players are hitting on the range at Pebble Beach.

“At a certain range or distance, the cameras might lose track of the ball, but the algorithms can take over and extrapolate the rest,” said Toptracer’s Fredrik Olmsted. “But the cameras see the ball for a long time.”

As shots are hit and the system works, the visual information is fed to a massive display screen on the side of the range. There, players, caddies, coaches and fans can see it. There is less than a three-second delay between the time shots are hit, and colorful arcs are traced on the video screen.

Stats and data are a growing part of the game, and fans love seeing how far their favorite players hit shots. Hats off to the USGA and PGA of America for making the range watching experience for fans even better.

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