The Open: Live sports in the digital age


This week my colleague Ben and I were lucky enough to visit the first day of The Open 2017 in Royal Birkdale. The Open is the oldest of the golf majors celebrating 150 years in 2021. As a child, I had golf lessons and over the years it would pop back into my life at different times (mainly at the time of the Ryder Cup!) so I was looking forward to experiencing this year’s Open Championship.

The Open 1

Walking through the gates

Visiting The Open was my first experience of a live golfing event and I really had no idea what to expect.  What immediately hits you immediately is the size and scale of the event. As you walk through the entrance gates it feels more like a festival in the village spectators zone – with different food outlets, a swing zone for golf enthusiasts, a mini putting course and huge shop zone. Most noticeable of all is the big screen showing live footage and highlights from the course with all forms of data to digest from tweets to player and course stats.

You could have spent all day in the village spectators zone alone but once you hear the applause as players strike off from the 1st tee, you’re drawn into the playing zone itself.  

There’s an app for that

The Open App

Rather than having to rely on the signposts to guide you to the holes, you can open up The Open app to explore the course and follow your favourite players, plus find a place to eat or drink. The other great feat was access to Wi-Fi everywhere even at the furthest holes which allowed us to utilise all features of the app. The laying of the telecoms, power cables and Wi-Fi setup is apparently complete a whole two years before the event starts!

Walking around the course we had the chance to see my favourite golfers including Ian Poulter, Darren Clarke, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose. Of course, these players attracted large crowds so having the app allowed us to plan ahead and navigate ourselves to each hole in plenty of time.  



See you next year?

By the afternoon, the sun had come out, the bars had been opened and the spectator zone was brimming with fans watching the golf on the big screen. It was a friendly and inclusive atmosphere, all making it a difficult decision to head back to the station. The Open Championship may well become a regular feature in our sporting calendar!

The Open
Neil Clayton