GREENSBORO -- The headline may be cliche, but there's nothing unoriginal about the Wyndham Championship's decision to create its own iPhone application for fans who are on the course.
For those of you that missed the news a few weeks back, Greensboro's professional tournament is the first in the history of the world to allow fans to carry their cell phones and PDAs around the course.
Tournament director Mark Brazil and his staff took the smart next step by creating "Wyndham: The App" which allows fans to manage parking situations, buy tickets, track the leaderboard, scope out an interactive course map (detailed hole-by-hole, no less), watch PGA Tour video, check out event photos, and even follow PGA players' and the Wyndham's tweets.
Sure, there's a Masters application (primary purpose: sneaking to the bathroom at work to stream video), a U.S. Open app (primary purpose: same as the Masters), an unholy amount of golf games and some range-finding apps, but never before has there been an iPhone app you could actually use on the course of a PGA tournament.
Until the Wyndham anyway -- and the tournament's sponsor seems pretty pleased.
"The Greenbriar had an iPhone app that the PGA tour did for them," Kevin Rinker, SVP of Sports Marketing for Wyndham, told Yahoo! Sports. "But this is the first one where you're actually out there with the device and able to interact in real time -- get updates on where the players are, get scoring updates ... so it really becomes a hand-held tool for the tournament to use." (The app, available here, has already been downloaded more than 1,000 times.)
I pointed out to Rinker that it's a handy tool for the media too -- it is! -- but mainly, the device is for fans, whether they're on or off the course.
"It was primarily designed to allow people to get information about the tournament regardless of where they are, Rinker told Yahoo! "I think the real benefit of it for consumers not at the course is that they can access it wherever they are -- people who are driving in a car, or out at lunch and away from their access to television or the internet, they can check it too."
The combo of an iPhone application and allowing cell phones on the course could be called "risky" by some. A better description, though, is "modern."
"It's very forward thinking of the Wyndham Championship to integrate an iPhone app and social media tactics into its overall communications strategy," said Monty Hagler, CEO of RLF Communications, a strategic marketing and communications firm in Greensboro, N.C. "The app should help attract more people - and more young people - to the tournament and the traditional sport of golf. It's impressive to see the Wyndham is taking risks and experimenting in order to strengthen the tournament over the long run."
Rinker agreed with Hagler's assessment as well, pointing out that such forward thinking is something that the sport of golf almost has to embrace, in order to stay on par with the other major sports.
"There are a lot of things, text to win, etc, -- I think all of those things is the future of where golf needs to be. Am I traditionalist? I guess not. But I don't think that's a bad thing either. I think golf needs to keep moving forward in order to keep up."
Of course, one potentially crazy member of the volunteer staff might disagree: a scraggly, bearded fella stopped me at a crosswalk, took down my name after and then threatened to put a red Sharpie dot on my media pass for using my iPhone ... to mess with the Wyndham app.
Bear in mind, this fella is an exception to the rule here; the people who give their time to help at the Wyndham are without question some of the nicest at any golf tournament you'll find. But it just goes to show that the world is (and probably always will be) filled with people who aren't that into embracing technology.
Thankfully, the folks who do the decision-making at the Wyndham Championship don't fall into that category.
- Wyndham Championship