An Eye on the Sky Fine-Tunes the Golf Tournament Below

The P.G.A. Championship is played in meteorologically challenging western New York and has been a test.

An Eye on the Sky Fine-Tunes the Golf Tournament Below

PITTSFORD (N.Y.) -- Before dawn broke on Thursday morning, Stewart Williams took part in an urgent conversation that was taking place in a second-floor meeting room of the Oak Hill Country Club near the northern border. The night brought clear skies, cool temperatures and gentle breezes -- but there was a problem.

Frost had thickened on the course, and with less than two hours until the start of the P.G.A. The top official of the P.G.A. Championship needed to know how long it would take for the ice to melt. The top official of the tournament needed to know when it would melt before the scheduled start of the Championship.

Williams, who had finally begun the competition, was already thinking of the next obstacle: the front that would threaten to flood the course on Saturday during the third round.

He reflected in the sun that 'nobody' was focused on the rain before the frost had moved on.

There are few sports where the weather is as important as golf. And few sports rely on so many meteorologists to travel to specific venues and make precise forecasts. Weather apps and local television may provide forecasts that cover vast areas, but specialists such as Williams, who have spent more than 30 years around golf courses, build outlooks that only cover a few square mile.


His predictions may not have the same impact as the rule book at a popular tournament like the P.G.A. Championship, but they will influence course agronomy and pin placements, television broadcast preparations and emergency planning. His predictions will not have the same impact on the tournament that the rules do, but they can influence the course agronomy, pin placements, TV broadcast preparations, and emergency planning. Organizers often point out that a 350-acre estate with few shelters takes longer to evacuate.

Sellers Shy is the lead golf producer at CBS. The network will be airing weekend rounds, and has a weather map on its production monitors. But their technology and expertise allows them to pinpoint the exact distance, arrival time, and horn blowing within five minutes.

Kerry Haigh is a P.G.A. who relies on the forecasts for course setup. The chief championships officer of America, the man who desperately needed to know when the frost would melt, relies heavily on the forecasts for course setup. He changes his mind about tees and holes to accommodate the conditions of a 72-hole event.

Haigh said, "You can't run any golf tournament or spectator championship without them." Williams' desk is just a few putts away, and the forecaster was able to switch between maps, charts, and models on his laptop.

Williams put up a battery-powered, high tower outside, near a wading swimming pool. It detected electrical charges, which could provide a little more warning, before lightning strikes, the biggest concern in a large golf tournament. At the top, an anemometer was spinning.


The golf industry has yet to find an ideal location that will guarantee perfect conditions all the time. Tournament histories are full of disruptions, which some experts predict will increase as climate changes. The Players Championship in Florida ended a day later than planned last year due to bad weather, just as the Pebble Beach Pro-Am did in California this year. The Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga. was able to avoid its first Monday finish ever since 1983, but had to move the entire third round as well as the final round of the fourth round onto Sunday. The 2018 P.G.A. Lightning storms in the St. Louis region disrupted Friday's play. Six people were injured the following year after lightning struck at a tournament held in Atlanta. Lightning strikes are common during summer thunderstorms.

Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester is not a place where you can predict the weather, especially during May when the regional weather patterns are changing. The Great Lakes, which are nearby, can add to the problem by bringing in moisture and unusual wind patterns. Williams covered the 2013 P.G.A. The club championship was a valuable experience, especially this time since the tournament took place in August.

He began studying the weather patterns of the region about a week ago. He noted which models were more accurate. He also looked at historical trends.

'You have to be aware of the biases and tendencies that are present at the location you're in, and you need to understand them,' said Renny Vandewege, a Vice President at DTN. The weather company employs Williams, and also works with the PGA Tour and the L.P.G.A. 'You are always trying to stay in tune with how the data sources behave at the site you're at, so that you can understand tendencies and biases that help alter your forecasting. The P.G.A. It is not always private sector effort; Britain's National Meteorological Service, which is contracted with the R&A sends forecasters at the British Open.

Williams and Vandewege say that the influx of data is helpful, particularly with technology which has improved rapidly in recent years and models that can now produce projections every hour. They insist that the human element is more important than ever, especially in an age of readily accessible weather data.


Williams, seated next to Vandewege, weighed in on the storm system as it approached. "That's when your instincts kick in."

The number of daily forecasts issued by tournaments varies, but once they are inboxed and posted on the first and tenth tees, players and caddies will read them. Williams is often approached by players who want more detailed information about the weather forecast for the next few days. The course superintendent, on the other hand, is interested in the projected evapotranspiration rate, which measures how much moisture the soil and grass loses. Williams says Davis Love III also asked about his fishing trips.

Collin Morikawa is a two-time Major Champion who believes that nearly all players have two or three weather applications close by.

He said, "We consider everything." I think you need to consider everything.

Haigh is one of those who avoids a flood of predictions. Williams' predictions, they claim, will be the primary factor in their thinking.

Haigh stated that 'they are professionals -- they do it every day and they are very good at what they do'. They have more advanced equipment and apps than I do.