The tumbling price of drones and advances in the technology they contain is helping golfers cut their handicaps and creating a new line of business for pilots of umanned aircraft.
Cameras mounted to drones are being used to shoot tee-to-green films of golf holes, which act as an online guides that give players a fresh perspective of the hazards they face.
Specialist businesses which shoot and edit drones’ films are springing up, which they are marketing both as an aid for golfers to navigate tricky holes and a promotional tool for the clubs themselves.
One is Fairway Flyovers, run by photographer Rob Howarth (pictured with partner Ashley Pickering), who got into aerial filming as the demand for traditional stills photography declined.
“Video is becoming much more prevalent online and having this sort film is becoming a necessity for golf clubs,” said Mr Howarth , launched the business a year ago and has since filmed a dozen clubs, including Turnberry, where the Open was held in 2009.
“The cost has come down dramatically as technology has improved, and now it’s just a matter of showing golf clubs how it’s a necessity. Clubs tend to be run by committees of retired people who aren’t always aware of the latest technology, but when we show them what’s available, they’re always impressed.”
As well as shooting individual holes, Fairway Flyovers also produces short films showing the course and the clubhouse, which can be used as a showreel.
Mr Howarth acts as pilot with his business partner Ashley Pickering operating its cameras, with filming usually taking about a day and costing £795.
With just over 3,200 courses in the UK and Ireland, the market might be limited but Gordon Hall, director of Manchester-based Flyover Eighteen, is hopeful he and his two business partners can make a living out of the industry.
His company has signed up “voice of golf” Peter Alliss (pictured right with the Flyover Eighteen’s Gordon Hall, left and Tim Butcher) to do voiceovers for the films it produces, which he says attract two different types of viewer.
“There are those who watch the hole guides over and over, listening to the pro’s tips to try to find that single shot that could win them the game,” he said. “There’s also the visiting golfer, who might look at a club’s website and decide from the film it looks nice and that’s why they are going to play there.
“Fifteen years ago most clubs didn’t have websites as they said they said they didn’t need them, now everyone has them – the same will happen with aerial films”.
Golf and drone filming fit “hand in glove” according to Mr Hall. “We’ve seen drones used for filming construction and hotels promotions but it’s very difficult getting permission to fly in city centres or near airports. Golf courses have the space and scenery and that makes it a lot easier,” he said.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com