The partnership between BMW, The European Tour and TrackMan created the BMW Indoor Invitational and helped to keep the flame of pro golf burning bright in difficult times.
The spectacle of top players competing against each other on the international stage is the lifeblood of pro golf. The recent BMW Indoor Invitational gave golf-hungry fans a new kind of competition to enjoy in the form of pro players going up against each other in a virtual environment.
An existential threat to pro golf
The global Covid-19 lockdown meant an immediate suspension of regular tournament action, so many leading professionals turned to TrackMan software and simulators to keep their golf game sharp. However, there was no getting around the lack of world-class competition from fellow pros. Also, fans had no option but to revisit broadcasts and material from previous events. Something had to be done.
Grabbing the golfing world’s attention
Golf lovers were scouring the internet for new content and fresh inspiration so the tour came at exactly the right time. The hybrid nature of virtual golf, where players mostly compete alone and the results are compared at the end of the permitted time frame for the round, proved to be a great success.
“Valderrama was as tough as it is in real life. On holes like the second where you try to run it under the tree in the fairway, it’s so realistic.” – Connor Syme
There was a spirit of fun competition throughout the whole tournament. Any golfer with access to a TrackMan simulator could join in the fun by trying to match – or even beat – the pro scores on exactly the same courses, with exactly the same tour course conditions. The tour was all-round top-quality golf entertainment, just when it was needed.
“It shows you how difficult Valderrama is even on a simulator. It was fun to do and something I would definitely do again.” – Sergio Garcia
Fast-tracked golf innovation
BMW, The European Tour, and TrackMan came together to provide a solution. The result was the BMW Indoor Invitational. Powered by TrackMan, the tournament was the first pro-level virtual golf event of its kind in the world.
TrackMan was already working on an indoor golf tournament that was first scheduled to be launched well after the summer. However, as the global situation developed, it became more and more apparent that both players and golf fans needed the opportunity to enjoy the tour here and now. The company decided to take the drastic step of fast-tracking the entire project and devoting all the necessary resources to making it happen. Team members and work hours were reassigned from other projects as everybody involved pulled together, despite the challenges of working from home and being compliant with Covid-19 legislation. Valderrama and Wentworth courses were built, checked, and approved in record time in order to meet the extremely tight deadline.
“Before the BMW Indoor Invitational, our ability to run virtual golf tournaments was very much in the concept stage. Making it a reality in such a short time was a major challenge but also great fun! We managed to get some of the best players in Europe to compete for a good cause. Everyone here at TrackMan is very proud of the results.” – Klaus Eldrup-Jørgensen, TrackMan CEO
The thrill of the chase
It was decided from the start that the US$ 50,000 prize money would be divided equally between each tournament, and each week’s winner would donate the winnings to a charity of their choice. Getting the technology in place and deciding on terms and conditions was one thing, but would the Tour players actually be interested in playing virtual golf in a competition? Fortunately, the players were extremely enthusiastic and positive about the new concept. 18 signed up immediately for the first round of the tournament, which took place on St. Andrews Old Course. As the tournament news spread, more players became interested, including major stars like Sergio Garcia, Joost Luiten, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, and Rafa Cabrera-Bello. The last round of the tournament saw 34 tour players competing on the legendary Wentworth course.
A success for the sport of golf
The BMW Indoor Invitational showed how golf can thrive even in the face of Covid-19. More than 30 million impressions with online material relating to the tournament are conclusive evidence that golf fans all over the world have embraced this new type of competition. With the explosive – and seemingly endless – growth of eSports, the future is looking bright for virtual pro golf.
Watch all the highlights and full rounds here: