Coming to a Simulator Near You
A primer on Trackman’s new Next Tour, which will feature $100,000 purses and a $130 entry fee
By Ryan French
Almost immediately, the DMs and texts flooded my phone. I had posted about a mini-tour that was guaranteeing $100,000 purses with a $130 entry fee, played over 18 holes. Big promises such as that are often made on the minor league circuits; usually, however, organizers don’t deliver on those promises. But the reason players had questions this time was because the events won’t be played on a golf course but rather on simulators. I decided to track down (pun intended) the tour owners and ask them about their idea.
I have no relationship with Trackman, which is running this tour. I reached out to the company and simply asked the questions that players have been asking me. I spoke with Trackman executives Bernd Larsen Linde, Bjorn Norgaard and Adam Vinter and put together this primer on the circuit that will be known as the Next Tour.
Is Trackman involved in this tour?
Yes. This tour is 100 percent run and owned by Trackman, and it is funding $100,000 for each of the first five events. The first event is expected to begin on Jan. 4.
What is the entry fee?
It’s $130, of which $100 goes directly into the purse. If the event gets 1,000 players, the purse would be bumped up to $200,000.
What is the purse breakdown?
Side games are one of the reasons I love mini-tours. You don’t see long-drive contests or skins games on the PGA Tour, but you do on mini-tours. The Next Tour won’t disappoint here, with some side games offering significant payouts. In fact, $35,000 of the purse will go to side games, including aggregate closest to the pin, social media standout (I’m going to shoot 83 and collect a check each week), longest drive, longest birdie streak and most greens in regulation.
Where can people play?
Any place that has a Trackman simulator, including in people’s homes and at golf clubs. Play must be completed within the time allotment (12 days for the first event). According to the company, there are 1,500 locations with Trackman simulators across the U.S. and more than 5,000 worldwide.
Who can play?
Anyone. Men, women, pros and amateurs. Men and women will compete in the same event but from different tees. The first event is at PGA West, where the men will play from just over 7,200 yards and the women just over 6,200.
Can you enter an event more than once?
The team at Trackman went back and forth on this, but as of now, players can only enter once.
How many events will there be?
There are five scheduled for 2023, plus a sixth tournament for the top 100 players on the season-ending rankings. The sixth tournament will have a $100,000 purse. In addition, according to Next Tour, the top 10 will receive bonuses ranging from $15,000 to $2,000.
How will the putting be done?
The first two events won’t have putting. Instead, putting will be calculated by proximity to the hole in the following way: inside of 9 feet, one putt; 9 to 60 feet, two putts; outside of 60 feet, three putts.
Because players will be playing at different times, how will ties be broken?
According to the website, the order will be: lowest back nine total; lowest score on the last six holes; lowest score on 18; lowest score on holes 4-9; the lowest score on holes 7-9; lowest score on 9; aggregate closest to the pin; longest holed birdie putt (if putting is implemented); longest birdie streak; most greens in regulation; longest drive.
How will the tour confirm a golfer played and didn’t get, say, Will Zalatoris to play instead?
Cheating is the biggest concern among the players I talked with. Here are the procedures that Trackman is planning to put in place. First, players must video, on a phone or otherwise, their entire round without breaks and send the footage to Trackman after the round is completed. Trackman execs say getting players to upload such a big file and send it is one of their biggest concerns. According to Trackman, all scores will be confirmed with the video sent from the player.
How will the settings on the Trackman (weather, wind, sea level) be monitored?
According to the Trackman team, there will be an option to select Next Tour, which will have settings that can’t be adjusted. The tour will confirm that the entire round was played in this setting.
What happens if there are glitches with the Trackman software?
“We are very confident there will be minimal issues, but it’s software. It won’t be perfect.” Norgaard said. The solution lies in the video from each round. If there is a glitch, the player must take stroke and distance. (The settings won’t allow for a mulligan.) Players will be asked to complete the hole and then submit to Trackman an email stating on which hole the glitch happened. The tournament board will review the video and adjust the score if it determines a software glitch occurred.
How will players know that the winner and others got paid?
Players who tee it up on a mini-tour typically see each other at the next event. That’s how everyone confirms they have been paid. With players competing from all over the world, I wondered how Trackman would ease players’ minds. The company plans to do a lot of marketing around the winners. Therefore, everyone will be able to contact the player to confirm he or she was paid.
My conversation with the Trackman execs helped ease some of my primary concerns. I was skeptical when I heard about the tour, and questions remain, but I feel better that Trackman is the owner and operator. This has the potential for pros to make money without travel costs and at a small entry fee.
I am concerned there are ways to cheat that no one has thought of. Obviously, without putting it won’t be real golf, but Trackman isn’t marketing this venture as that. It is a way to compete for a nice purse and supplement a player’s regular schedule.
If players have access to a Trackman, why not play the first couple of events and see what happens? The risk is minimal.