The sports landscape has a huge range of commercial stakeholders, from governing bodies and tournaments themselves to data distributors, broadcasters and betting operators.

Representing these respective sectors, IMG Arena’s Commercial Partnerships Manager for Golf, Rowan Northcott, DraftKings’ Head of Golf Trading, Stuart Purling, and PGA Tour’s VP Gaming, Scott Warfield, discussed with SBC why golf is the ideal in-play betting product.

SBC: Rowan, can you give us an introduction to IMG ARENA and golf?

RN: IMG ARENA signed long-term deals with the PGA TOUR, DP World Tour and LPGA Tour in 2018, 2019 and 2022 respectively, with the vision that golf was a sleeping giant within the sports betting landscape. Since then, we have also been fortunate to add golf’s largest events to our portfolio including the Ryder Cup, PGA Championship and Presidents Cup, underlining our commitment to the sport for the foreseeable future.

Following the establishment of these partnerships, we created the Golf Event Centre, a turnkey golf betting solution. The Event Centre uses shot-by-shot data to allow fans to follow every shot in an immersive 3D environment. 

Our data hub ingests this shot data to generate an odds feed enabling fans to bet on every shot, from every player, and on every hole, encompassing 30,000+ different markets at each tournament. 

Live streaming from two par three holes and an enhanced statistics suite is seamlessly integrated in the product to provide a holistic offering for our sportsbook clients and give golf bettors a one-of-a-kind experience. 

SBC: What prompted IMG ARENA’s investment in golf?

RN: Golf has all the hallmarks of a perfect in-play betting sport. Before we formally entered this space there were no more than 10 markets available, with settlement at the end of the round or tournament. 

With three to five minutes between every shot, golf is perfectly suited to in-play with bettors having ample time to evaluate the market and selection. Each tournament offers around 35,000 shots per tournament, producing a staggering amount of betting opportunities for fans of the sport. 

The global nature of golf from every time zone equates to significant “up-time” as sportsbooks have access to live golf from Thursday-Sunday. We knew it would take time for bettors to acclimatise to our offering, but we are now seeing signs, particularly in the booming US market, of in-play golf betting very much taking off.

I often think back to when Scott and I were at this year’s WM Phoenix Open. Looking on at the famous 16th hole, we saw first-hand how excited fans were about placing bets on which player would hit it closest to the pin.

This sums up the fast-paced and innovative betting activity that we are trying to create that was amplified by one of golf’s most famous tournaments. The excitement created for bettors gives all 35,000+ shots of a tournament its own story. 

SBC: Scott, now that the Golf Event Centre is established within operators’ platforms and the PGA TOUR’s fans are becoming more affiliated with your tournaments as a betting proposition, what comes next in this journey?

SW: With the Golf Event Centre now available to the vast majority of the betting population, we are focused on growing the reach and engagement of the product through a few key avenues. 

In 2023, we brought the Golfbet content brand in-house which, through both our O&O and social properties, is a key lever to engage and inform golf bettors. With the PGA TOUR’s robust ShotLink data and tournament access, we can bring golf storytelling to life through a betting lens unlike any other platform and are continuing to invest in content production and innovative data tools. 

In addition to digital and social innovation, we have an opportunity to capitalise on the intersection of media and betting through our robust media ecosystem, including broadcast and D2C streaming. Over the coming months, fans will continue to see an organic evolution of our live coverage to incorporate engaging decision-making data alongside live competition. 

Last, but not least, we are continuously finding new ways to collaborate with our official betting operator partners across our collective platforms to bring world-class golf offerings to sports fans and bettors. 

SBC: Rowan, what are IMG ARENA’s plans for golf as a betting proposition?

RN: The first challenge is to place the correct insight in front of the customer at the right time to help them make an informed decision. Therefore, we are doubling down on statistics and insights. 

Visualisation of these insights is key, so we released our very own strokes gained model this year and challenged our data engineers to make this information digestible. Hence the use of radar charts, percentages and rankings tables. 

Secondly, we want to focus on offering fans the chance to watch and bet, rather than watch or bet. Interactive streaming and bringing all the features of the product into one place is a key focus of ours across a range of sports, not just golf. 

Finally, in 2024, we have a host of exciting new features coming next year using AI that should add a completely new dimension for the bettor – again adding to engagement.

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