A virtual reality trip round Augusta

Vowed to make it to Augusta one year, but haven’t come up with the cash or the tickets yet?

Never mind, next year you’ll be able to walk the course from the comfort of your living room.

This week, Sports Illustrated golf writer John Garrity tested new virtual reality kit from NEXT VR, a company based in Laguna Beach, California, who seem to have produced a breakthrough experience that might frustrate Masters ticket touts.

Garrity strapped on a pair of goggles, fired up an Android app, and found he could almost smell the azaleas.

He told golf.com: “I was on the right side of the green on the par-3 sixth, the hole known as “Juniper.” Looking left, I saw hundreds of spectators seated on a grassy hillside and, above them, the hilltop tee.

“Looking right, my eyes traced the 10-deep gallery around the green until I was staring down at the fellow seated next to me. He was holding a pairings sheet, which I tried to read.”

“Basically, we’re live streaming this to your phone,” explained Bradford Allen, NEXT VR’s executive chairman.

“We have two stereoscopic cameras on holes six and 16. They give you a sense of presence, so you feel like you’re actually sitting there.”

“I was really out there on No. 6,” gushed Garrity, “puzzled only by the lack of tactile and aromatic stimulation.

“Through the phone’s speaker I heard a little “thump” as a ball hit the green. There was a ripple of applause, perfectly synched to my view of clapping spectators.”

“’Ooooooo!’ I said, like any other patron.”

“What VR does is take you there. It puts you in seats you could never pay for. It’s just an incredible experience,” said Allen. “The resolution isn’t high-definition yet but by the end of the year it will be 4K.”

By next year, then, the cameras should be at every hole and you’ll be able to walk the course from anywhere.

NEXT VR has also tested the software at NBA, NFL, NHL and Premier League venues.

Garrity’s verdict: “This is my last Masters. I’m resigning from reality-based journalism.”

“Next year I’ll be covering the Masters from the aforementioned sofa, and the guy at the next laptop will have to needle and distract me via Skype.”

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