Golf Channel starts new season with Green Reader putting graphic

By: Martin Kaufmann

With the PGA Tour season set to begin, Golf Channel will introduce a new graphic that has the potential to show viewers a variety of putting data, including the break of every putt that viewers see.

The Golf Channel Green Reader, which will launch this week at the Open, was developed in conjunction with SportsMedia Technology of Durham, N.C.

Green Reader will show as many as five statistics, including the amount of break. All of the data can be generated in less than five seconds. Golf Channel has the option of using Green Reader on every putt shown, live or on tape, with the graphic residing in the corner of the screen.

“With this thing, the announcers don’t even have to refer to it,” said Jack Graham, vice president of golf events at Golf Channel. “It’s more eye candy for viewers to look at while you’re staying on live golf. . . . The nice thing is, we have the ability to do this on pretty much every putt of every hole we cover.”

Some of the data – such as length and make percentage – is produced by the PGA Tour’s ShotLink system and has been readily available, though used sporadically on golf telecasts.

“The key (stat) I wanted to show was break,” said Scott Armstrong, Golf Channel’s director of tournament graphics. “Most of the other stats we’re going to pair with this come with the ShotLink data we can get onsite, but ShotLink cannot provide break.”

To identify the break, SMT combines digital scans of the greens, which are accurate to within 3 to 6 inches, with the speed of the greens, according to Hans Weber, the company’s vice president of research and development. SMT developed an algorithm that also factors in how the golf ball responds when professionals putt.

“We didn’t just develop this in a vacuum,” Weber said. “We’re able to use our virtual technology to capture video of professionals putting on these greens, and then can analyze and follow the path of actual putts on the greens, and use that data to tune this algorithm and make sure it’s valid.”

Green Reader is the next-generation, graphical representation of Aimpoint, a putting line that illustrated the break on greens as players were preparing to putt. Aimpoint, introduced in 2007 when Golf Channel became the exclusive cable home of the PGA Tour, was well received, even winning an Emmy in 2008. But it was cost-prohibitive to use it on more than two greens per tournament.

More recently Golf Channel has been using a graphic putting line.

“That expanded the number of holes we could do, but we also had to go away from live golf,” Graham said.

Armstrong said Golf Channel will use Green Reader at the season’s first two events, then reassess it. He said Golf Channel eventually will have a dedicated Green Reader person in the graphics truck.

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