Video-game course design? It's part of Ryan McCormick's process
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Uses satellite images and public surveying information to build courses on PGA TOUR 2K
Written by Adam Stanley @Adam_Stanley
Talk about revenge of the nerds.
Korn Ferry Tour veteran Ryan McCormick, well positioned to earn his first PGA TOUR card as the 2023 season nears its conclusion, has used a unique way of preparing for events this season – and he doesn’t even have to leave his hotel room to do so.
McCormick – a self-proclaimed video-game nerd – utilizes PGA TOUR 2K to plot and then play Korn Ferry Tour courses as part of his pre-tournament prep, to the tune of “five or six” virtual rounds per tournament.
It has paid dividends this season, as McCormick fired an opening-round 60 at the NV5 Invitational presented by Old National Bank en route to finishing third, his second top-three result of the season. He enters this week’s Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna at No. 23 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List; the top 30 at season’s end will earn 2024 PGA TOUR membership.
Ryan McCormick builds courses digitally to prepare for Korn Ferry Tour events
It’s not like the game has all the Korn Ferry Tour tracks locked and loaded, however. Before McCormick can even think about playing the course, he’s got to, essentially, build them himself – a process that takes about half-a-day, he said.
McCormick combines satellite images of the course and public surveying information into an open-source program to spit out the course. But the job isn’t done there.
“The most difficult part is basically taking this satellite image from above and tracing out the tee boxes and the fairways and bunkers and greens with all these little nodes you click. It takes forever to do that part,” McCormick said with a laugh. “(The program) is able to figure out where some of the trees are, what the slopes are … It’s not as accurate as the yardage books but it’s close enough for me.
“Once it gets into the game, it becomes a painting and I just need to add to it.
During the COVID-19 hiatus, McCormick was playing “a ton” of video games. One of them was The Golf Club 2019 – a precursor to the PGA TOUR 2K franchise. He started to go down a YouTube rabbit hole shortly thereafter on how people were able to create courses, then tested it out by creating his home course.
The floodgates opened from there. This past offseason, he tried to figure out a way to create the Korn Ferry Tour’s venues, after falling agonizingly short of earning a PGA TOUR card last season – he stood inside the top 25 (last year’s benchmark for a TOUR card) with two events remaining but missed both cuts.
McCormick began the process of building out the Korn Ferry Tour courses in October 2022, hence beginning a unique mode of preparation for 2023.
“A lot of the courses we’ve already played, I know where the grandstands are and the tee boxes we play,” McCormick said. “I’ll build in the grandstand and … if I know a tree is on a corner, then I’ll make sure it’s in the right spot. I use my yardage book a lot to look back to see if the yardages are right. It’s usually pretty good.”
Almost any golfer can relate to the general concept of his preparation, he said. When he’s playing for real, he doesn’t get surprised by anything.
“People will play a round and they (finish) and they say, ‘If I go out right now, I can definitely do better because I know X, Y, Z.’ For me, I get to play two rounds for every tournament round out here,” he said. “I can look at pin locations from years past. I can play a practice round. But sitting here, I can basically control all the conditions and it helps me understand the course on a deeper level.”
McCormick has talked to about five fellow Korn Ferry Tour pros about what he does, he said, and a few have followed his lead. The Ledges in Huntsville, Alabama was a course that a lot of the guys played virtually, for example. But he’s not giving away any state secrets here.
“It takes me a long time to do this. I’m friendly with some of these guys, but I’ll say, ‘I don’t know if it’s ready for you this week, guys.’ I let them play the week after,” McCormick said, smiling. “This just became something I was interested in doing, and after last year I figured how I could be a little more prepared every week and I thought, maybe I could learn something from playing the golf courses virtually.”
McCormick has always enjoyed playing video games, and this was a unique way for him to combine his love of gaming with an opportunity to help his career. People initially think he’s nuts, he admits, but then they want to see the game. And the guys who have played usually give him good feedback.
The results are starting to speak for themselves, too. McCormick has notched four top-10s this season, the most of any year in his career.
“There are just some nerds out there who are really into creating their own courses,” McCormick said with a laugh, “and I found this group of nerdy course-design video game people and figured out how to use it here.”
McCormick’s tournament course-record 60 gives him Thursday lead at NV5 Invitational