With the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, getting underway at Wentworth Golf Club it’s clear from a short walk around the fan village that there’s never been a better time to be a golf fan.
Whether it’s a nearest the pin competition, a photo with the Ryder Cup, a Mega Putt challenge or a free golf lesson, there’s something for every golf fan to add to their enjoyment of the day, but this is a relatively new phenomenon in the game, as Simon Jones, Head of Sales & Business Development at sporting fan experience specialists Provision Events (PVE) explains.
“Going to the golf is such a different experience than when PVE started creating activities at events. Tour events used to attract a hardcore of fans who would follow every swing, watch every putt into the hole and only stop for a sandwich. Our first experience at Tour events was 13 years ago, when we offered free golf lessons, hitting into portable nets. Even though it was relatively recent, many fans didn’t expect any extra entertainment so to have somewhere that they could go and actually swing a golf club was hugely exciting.”
This year’s BMW PGA Championship is quite different, as golf fans descend on Virginia Water for the experience of the Tour’s flagship event as much as they do the golf. Around the fan village, PVE is engaged in 3 separate activations with the largest area being a design and build for Europe’s biggest golf retailer, American Golf. The American Golf skills challenge combines golf simulator technology across three different disciplines and sits alongside the pressure putt challenge and free golf lessons in a specially designed hitting area. Once the build for the area was complete, Matt Bacon, Head of Events at American Golf said, “Fans don’t come to the big Tour events just for the golf any more, so they are a fantastic opportunity for us to engage with golfers in a setting that is away from retail and is just about sharing our love of the game. PVE has designed and built all of our major experiences over the past few years. It’s vital to American Golf that we get the most out of our investment and PVE have proven time and again that they have the expertise to create an attraction that really engages with fans.”
In addition to the American Golf experiences PVE is overseeing the Wentworth leg of the Ryder Cup trophy tour where fans have a chance to be photographed with the Ryder Cup and then have a go at hitting a hole in one on a simulator version of the 16th hole of the 2018 Ryder Cup venue, Le Golf National.
The fan village also sees the return of a firm favourite that PVE has run for the European Tour for many years, the ‘Totally Mega Putt Challenge.’ The Mega Putt is a 100 ft putt along a PVE constructed putting area and has proven to be one of the most popular experiences that PVE has ever designed, as Jones concludes, “The Mega Putt is always a favourite as you have as much a chance of success if you’re 8 or 80. And that’s what experiences at golf events really should be. We want to make sure that if you’re a professional golfer or an absolute beginner there’s something that you could take part in and have a great memory of the day. It’s so important as golf tries to broaden its appeal that golfers can bring their friends and family along knowing that there’s more on offer than just watching the tournament. For golf to grow, we need to entertain the fans and that has to happen both on and off the course. You only have to look around the set up here at Wentworth and it’s clear that there’s never been a better time to experience a day at the golf.”