- Young tech-savvy sports fans increasingly reliant on smartphone apps
- Spectators able to use mobiles at British Open for first time in six years after ban lifted
- R&A bosses hope new phone rules will increase uptake of Open Championship apps
- Decision follows U.S. PGA Tour, which lifted its phone ban last year
You'd be hard-pressed to find a major sporting event these days without its own dedicated smartphone app.
No longer is it enough to simply watch the action, devoted fans are now demanding a blow-by-blow account, interactive maps and player profiles all in the palm of their hands.
For young fans especially, such apps have become the must-have accessories -- and British golfing bosses have finally caught on.
For the first time in six years, spectators will be able to use their mobile phones at the Open Championship this summer after organizers lifted a ban on Monday.
Mobiles had been barred at the golf season's third of four major tournaments -- this year to be held at Royal Lytham & St. Annes -- since 2006 after players complained about distracting ringtones.
But ruling body the R&A has now relaxed the ban for the July 15-22 event, and fans will be able to make calls in designated areas -- though photography and video recording is still banned.
And to coincide with this, the tournament now offers its own mobile experience.
"We are offering spectators access to an enhanced range of apps for Android, iPhone and iPad that will offer live video of play and other attractions at The Open and will keep them up to date with essential championship information including scoring, tee times, news and an interactive course guide," R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said on the R&A website.
"There is no denying the attachment people feel to their mobile phones both in terms of gathering information and staying in touch with family and friends. We understand this and allowing their use at the championship will enrich The Open experience."
The decision follows a PGA Tour announcement in February last year that ithe U.S. circuit would finally be lifting its phone ban. After allowing mobiles at five test events, chief of operations Andy Pazder said at the time: "Allowing mobile devices on-site at Tour events was a tremendous fan enhancement, and did not affect the integrity of the competition."
However, the phone rules only apply to PGA Tour events, not the other three majors -- the Masters, U.S. Open or PGA Championship.
The R&A said it will continue to monitor the decision.
"We understand there will be concerns over this change in policy but we will be liaising with spectators at the championship to ensure calls are not taking place near play," Dawson said.
"Our spectators are very knowledgeable and understand golf, and so we are confident they will respect the players."