THE European Tour has launched golf’s first esports series, the European eTour – which will see players taking on Topgolf’s World Golf Tour, which is played by some 20 million people online worldwide.
And the best esport players in the world will get the chance to qualify for the live onsite events via an online tournament.
Starting at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January, the inaugural season-long eTour will feature six esports contests held at European Tour tournaments around the world.
A long-time leader in online golf competitions, WGT by Topgolf offers the most photorealistic golf gaming experience – giving players the opportunity to virtually play some of the most famous golf championship courses.
The eight players who qualify will compete onsite at European Tour events in an exciting nine-hole knockout matchplay format, initially in two round-robin groups, before straight knockout semi-finals and final.
The five tournament winners, along with three wildcards qualifiers, will then contest the season-ending finale at the European Tour’s own season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, which takes place at Jumeirah Golf Estates, from November 19-22, 2020.
Topgolf is currently developing additional European Tour virtual venues to add to its portfolio of WGT golf courses and helping the Wentworth-based Tour – along with epsorts specialists Dreamhack.
DreamHack will bring their extensive esports events and streaming production capabilities to create a premium fan experience.
Fans will be able to enjoy extensive live coverage as well as bespoke ancillary content of all six European eTour events across a multitude of platforms, including broadcast, digital and social media.
The European Tour held its first esports event earlier this year with WGT and DreamHack.
The inaugural European eTour Championship took place at the 2019 Made in Denmark, and the success of that tournament led to the development of the new series of one-day events across the 2020 calendar.
The exclusivity of the European Tour’s esports experience amplifies the benefit of players participating in the event, and the ability to virtually be part of real world tournaments, said a spokesman.
Chief content officer Rufus Hack said: “The launch of the eTour underlines the European Tour’s commitment to innovation, and we believe this is an exciting opportunity for us to be leaders in a market that has huge growth potential.
“The esports industry allows the European Tour to engage with our existing audience in a different way and attract new fans outside of our traditional demographic through our broadcast and digital platforms.
“Our inaugural event in Denmark earlier this year gave a glimpse into the popularity of esports and we are looking forward to launching golf’s first esports Tour in 2020.”
Dreamhack Sports Games chief executive Peter Nørrelund said: “We see a great future for sports games in esports.
“The combination of a good game and a strong player in traditional sports is a winning recipe.
“World Golf Tour is a superior golf game and natural platform for golf esports, and European Tour is one of the strongest brands in the world of sports.
“With our ability to create content, media products and build strong communities I am sure, the European eTour will be a smashing success.
“I am thrilled with the partnership,” Mr Nørrelund added.
Topgolf media president YuChiang Chen said: “We are constantly innovating around how we can connect people in meaningful ways and the competition of esports brings a large, diverse group of people together to share a common experience.
“WGT was always built to be a realistic simulation of golf – rewarding skill and mirroring the level of strategy, course management and mental toughness required to win in professional golf.
“The WGT players have been urging us to take this next step and we look forward to partnering with such innovative partners to further enhance the modern competition of golf and launch an unmatched esports tournament experience on WGT.”
The esports industry is one of the fastest growing media sectors with an audience of more than 380 million enthusiasts worldwide which is forecasted to surpass 1.6 billion by 2022.
A majority of esports fans are in the 18-34 age demographic.
•Find out more about Topgolf’s World Golf Tour by clicking here.