Cellphones to bring fans closer to action

FORT WORTH, Texas -- A huge sign hangs near the clubhouse entrance at Colonial Country Club listing the guidelines for cell phone use. And at the main entrance, a little down the road, there's actually a tent with folks, some of them TCU marketing majors, inside to help fans find applications for their iPhones and other mobile devices to help them follow the tournament.

That's a big change from recent years on the PGA Tour when fans would have phones confiscated at the door and held for them until they left the course. But now that phones are really mini-computers full of ways to communicate beyond simply talking, the PGA Tour is allowing fans to take them on the course with them.

So the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and the HP Byron Nelson Championship have jumped on board, joining the social media train that is taking sporting events to new levels of fan involvement. There are still limits, of course. Here are some you'll see starting this week at the Colonial (the PGA Tour altered its cell phone policy in February, so this is the first time fans at Colonial and the Nelson can carry them on the course):

* The Colonial has set up specific "cell phone zones" where fans can actually talk on the phones without bothering the golfers. No talking is allowed on the phones anywhere else. There are 10 of those zones.

* Texting and emailing is permitted outside of those zones, but not when a golfer is preparing to hit. When you see the "Quiet Please" signs, that means no texting or emailing.

* All phones must be on silent so that no ringer goes off.

* Most phones have cameras on them and the Tour specifically bans photos taken on the course, so you may not take photos with your phones. Officials have the right to take your phone and hold it at the main entrance if they see you doing that on the course (they are likely to issue a warning first).

The Colonial hopes fans will tweet during the event and keep track of the leaderboard on their phones as well.

The Nelson, with the help of Hewlett-Packard, is hoping to encourage a lot of fan interaction using the phones.

"We're trying to reach a younger demographic and we are also trying to become one of the most tech-savvy stops on the PGA Tour," said HP's Frank Accettulli, who is in charge of the social media initiatives at the Nelson.

Among the plans the Nelson has put together:

* Tweet Reports will be posting highlights of the day, scores, updates, schedules of events.

* "Buzz Control" is an initiative designed to gather all tweets from the tournament -- anything with words or letters like HP, Nelson, HPBNC, etc., -- will be picked up by a computer system. The posts will be moderated, of course, and then many will be scrolled on the bottom of the scoreboard screens around the course (called "Twicker") and it will also be shown on "Buzz" screens throughout the course and in the pavilion and other areas. The "buzz" screens will go full screen with tweets after play is completed or if there's a lull in the action.

People that tweet love to see their tweets and have other people see their tweets," Accettulli said. "Jordan Speith is 17 years old and has huge follwing, the number of tweets about him may knock this off the charts."