After combing every inch of 20 virtual golf courses around the world, Jack Wylie was tempted to give the sport a crack — this time in real life.

The 22-year-old Otago Polytechnic Te Pukenga student began his internship with Virtual Eye in March last year as a graphics operator.

Virtual Eye is the sports division of Dunedin-based computer graphics production facility Animation Research Ltd.

Since then, he had travelled to work on-site at golf tournaments in Malaysia, Australia, Dubai and the United States.

“I’ve just started [playing golf] because of this job really. I hadn’t done it before, but I’m giving it a go now.”

Mr Wylie explained a graphics operator constructed virtual golf courses to be aired live on televised golf tournaments.

He took a blank virtual course and populated it with models based on real-life golf courses, featuring details as small as a piece of shrubbery to a grandstand or concrete architecture.

He then combined the virtual golf course with real-time statistics from golf tournaments to create the action-replay graphics shown on television.

This made it easier for viewers to understand what was happening, and bridged the gaps that any real-life coverage may have missed.

Out of four hours of live footage, about five minutes could feature a virtual course — about 30 different 20-second snippets.

They tried to represent the golf tournaments “as realistically as possible”, including the exact arc and position of the golf balls, Mr Wylie said.

“It’s really satisfying getting the course and sort of comparing it to real life.

“One of my favourite things about the US was I hadn’t been over there before and had seen all these courses in the office.

“To go there in real life and see just how accurate we actually make these courses is pretty amazing.”

Immersing himself in a virtual recreation of a golf course gave him as close to a front-row seat as you could get,” Mr Wylie said.

He had operated the graphics on several notable US golf tournaments, including the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the WM Phoenix Open, he said.

While they had to sit in the broadcasting compound while the tournament was happening, he was able to explore the course earlier to ensure accuracy of the models.

It also gave him the chance for a behind-the-scenes look at professional sports.

A standout memory was watching Tiger Woods “at arm’s distance” on his practice round at the Genesis Invitational.

Mr Wylie will now bring his skills back to home soil, to map the virtual course for the New Zealand Open, in Millbrook, beginning on Thursday.

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