Penny for your thoughts: Is virtual golf technically an esport?

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are launching the TGL, a virtual golf tournament using a tech-based arena. Should we consider it an esport?

With the rise of technology, it seems that anything is possible now, even in the world of sports. During the pandemic, we saw the rise of esports in many different forms. And now, the use of technology is becoming more mainstream for another popular sport: golf.

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy recently announced that they would be teaming up to launch a new golf league. But this isn’t just any league—it’s going to be tech-infused. In partnership with the PGA Tour, they will be launching the league in January 2024.

The TGL Golf League

Woods and McIlroy’s new league, known as the TGL, will take place on Monday nights. It will include 15 regular-season matches where teams of three PGA Tour players will be competing. A postseason will also follow, comprised only of the top teams.

The matches will be played in a tech-based arena. If you’ve ever played golf in a golf simulator, you already have an idea of what their custom-built space will feature. According to TGL’s Twitter, their arena will feature a virtual golf course with different high-tech features.

The arena definitely gives off a game show feel. But that may be exactly what the league is going for. “I think it’s a great opportunity for PGA Tour players to show a different side of themselves, prime time on Monday night. I think it’s great for brand exposure to try to engage a different audience,” McIlroy shared.

With a new way to consume golf, and by bringing it to primetime, the league hopes to see a new group of fans getting into the sport. But that brings us to the question: if they’re playing on a virtual golf course, does this technically make this an esport?

A new esport? Or nah?

Lately, more sports have been creating new leagues for players who excel at the sport virtually. For instance, FIFA created an esports league known as EA FIFA esports. They host the FIFA Global Series, where players compete in virtual football games.

This league is considered an esport. But here, players competing in the FIFA esports league play the game using controls, whereas in the TGL, players will still compete as though they were on an actual golf course. In this aspect, the TGL does not seem like an esport.

But the TGL is more similar to the F1 Esports Series. Now on their fourth season, the F1 in esports form requires racers to still keep the same principles as actual drivers. The players actually have to drive car simulators that replicate the feeling of being in an F1 car.

If you’ve ever tried driving a virtual F1 car seated in a car simulator, you’d know that the steering is heavy and you can feel nearly every movement of the car. With the realistic feel, this is more closely comparable to the TGL.

But, no matter how realistic car simulators become, they still leave out many key aspects of racing. For starters, sitting in a simulator, you don’t feel the real Gs of the car when you’re driving, which takes away a huge challenge of the sport.

Meanwhile, players in the TGL are still basically playing the exact same game. They will still be using the same clubs and same body movements, just on a virtual course.

So in comparison to other virtual sports leagues, the TGL is very different and cannot easily be classified as an esport. As it is still set to officially launch in 2024, we’re yet to find out more about the tech-based parameters of the league. Until then, for us, this new golf league still seems like any other golf game—just with some new high-tech features.

What’s your take on the matter?