With warm weather comes the golfer’s desire to spend as much time on the course as possible. But with busy schedules and a down economy, a consistent diet of golf might not be feasible for many players. Enter World Golf Tour (WGT) — the most realistic golf experience on the web. The company uses high-definition cameras to photograph famous courses from around the world, creating an online virtual game.
The idea for the company came after co-founders Chad Nelson and YuChiang Cheng sold their previous company. While Nelson, now president of WGT, was away at a wedding enjoying some golf, he called Cheng to tell him he wished he could have been there. This conversation planted the seed that led to the creation of virtual golf courses that users can enjoy anytime, anywhere.
“What makes us so unique is that our site allows you to play a high-definition, high-quality experience on your browser for free,” says Cheng, WGT’s CEO. “We’re giving the average person a chance to experience five-star courses they might not have access to.”
WGT’s partnership with the United States Golf Association is one example of how they’re providing this unique experience to their users. This spring, users were able to log on to WGT and play a virtual 18 holes on the Black Course at New York’s Bethpage State Park, the site of this year’s U.S. Open. The top 156 scorers had a chance to face off in a virtual U.S. Open for a chance to win a trip to the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
The young company is growing rapidly and continues to focus on adding more renowned courses and integrating its site with the European, LPGA and PGA tours. To support this growth, the company must make sure they have adequate bandwidth. “You can never overinvest in hardware,” says Cheng. “I think IT is key in leveraging your business. If you can strategically place IT, you can create barriers from your competition and have a huge leg up on them.”
One challenge for WGT is supporting the massive amount of high-definition images provided throughout the gaming experience. “We have a big storage appetite, and we err toward sizing,” says Homan Lee, director of IS and IT. “But as cost goes down, we can move toward solid-state drives and other solutions that can help us with our storage capacity.”
As small businesses work to make the most of their IT budget, Lee suggests implementing managed services. “With time as our asset, we don’t plan out too early and we don’t implement too early.”
This lets WGT avoid unnecessary expenses. Lee also says that IT leaders with tight budgets need to identify their business needs and interview all key players at the business to know what they are looking for. “It’s easy to follow technical trends, but know what fits best for your company and match it to the appropriate technology.”