Driving Development Forward: How the PGA TOUR speeds up Development with the AWS CDK

Post Syndicated from Evgeny Karasik original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/devops/driving-development-forward-how-the-pga-tour-speeds-up-development-with-the-aws-cdk/

This post is written by Jeff Kammerer, Senior Solutions Architect.

The PGA TOUR is the world’s premier membership organization for touring professional golfers, co-sanctioning tournaments on the PGA TOUR along with several other developmental, senior, and international tournament series.

The PGA TOUR is passionate about bringing its fans closer to the players, tournaments, and courses. They developed a new mobile app and the PGATOUR.com website to give fans immersive, enhanced, and personalized access to near-real-time leaderboards, shot-by-shot data, video highlights, sports news, statistics, and 3D shot tracking. It is critical for PGA TOUR, which operates in a highly competitive space, to keep up with fans’ demands and deliver engaging content. The maturing DevOps culture, partnered with accelerating the development process, was crucial to the PGA TOUR’s fan engagement transformation.

The PGA TOUR’s fans want near real-time and highly accurate data. To deliver and evolve engaging fan experiences, the PGA TOUR needed to empower their team of developers to quickly release new updates and features. However, the TOUR’s previous architecture required separate code bases for their website and mobile app in a monolithic technology stack. Each update required changes in both code bases, causing feature turnaround time of a minimum of two weeks. The cost and time required to deliver features fans wanted to see in both the app and website were not sustainable. As a result, the TOUR redesigned their mobile app and website using AWS native services and a microservice based architecture to alleviate these pain points.

Accelerating Development with Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

The TOUR’s cloud infrastructure team used AWS CloudFormation for several years to model, provision, and manage their cloud infrastructure. However, the app and web development team within the PGA Tour were not familiar with and did not want to use the JSON and YAML templates that CloudFormation requires, and preferred the coding languages that the AWS Cloud Development Kit (CDK) supports. The developers use TypeScript to develop the new mobile app and website using services like AWS AppSync, AWS Lambda, AWS Step Functions, and AWS Batch.  Additionally, the PGA TOUR wanted to simplify how they assigned the correct and minimal IAM permissions needed. As a result, the TOUR developers started using the CDK for IaC because it offered a natural extension to how they were already writing code.

The TOUR leverages all three layers of the AWS CDK Construct Library. They take advantage of higher-layer Pattern Constructs for key services like AWS Lambda and AWS Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS). The CDK pattern constructs provide a reference architecture or design patterns intended to help complete common tasks. The pattern constructs for AWS Lambda, Amazon ECS, and existing patterns saved the TOUR hours and weeks of development time. They also use the lower-level Layer 2 and Layer 1 Constructs for services like Amazon DynamoDB and AWS AppSync.

PGA TOUR’s New Mobile App

Figure1. Welcome to the PGA TOUR’s New App

PGA TOUR Benefits From Using AWS CDK

Using AWS CDK enabled and empowered the platform and development teams and changed how the PGA TOUR operates their technical environments. They create and de-provision environments as needed to build, test, and deploy new features into production. Automating changes in their underlying infrastructure has become very easy for the PGA TOUR. As an example, the TOUR wanted to update their Lambda runtimes to release 18. With AWS CDK, this change was implemented with a single-line change in their Lambda Common stack and pushed to the over 300 Lambda functions they deployed.

The CDK provides flexibility and agility, which helps the TOUR manage constant change in the appearance of their mobile app and website content given they run different tournaments each week. The TOUR uses the CDK to provision parallel environments where they prepare for the next tournament with unique functions and content without risking impact to services during the current tournament. Once the current tournament is complete, they can flip to the new stack and de-provision the old. The CDK has allowed the TOUR to move from a bi-weekly three-hour maintenance window release schedule to multiple as needed releases per day that take approximately 7 minutes. It has enabled the TOUR to push production releases and fixes, even in the middle of tournament play which previously had been deemed too risky under the prior monolithic technology stack. In one case, the TOUR developers could go from identifying a bug to coding a fix with push through User Acceptance Testing (UAT) and into production in 42 minutes. This is a process that was previously measured in hours or days.

High level AWS CDK/App Architecture

Figure2. High level AWS CDK/App Architecture

Expressing the organizational capability change AWS CDK facilitates for the PGA TOUR Digital team in context of the widely accepted DevOps Research & Assessment (DORA) metrics which assesses organizational maturity in DevOps:

DORA Metrics

One of the best benefits the TOUR realized using AWS CDK was how much it helped reduce complexity of managing AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) permissions. The TOUR understands how important it is to maintain granular control of IAM trust policies, especially when working in a serverless architecture. David Provan, shared “AWS CDK encourages security by design and you end up considering security through the entire project rather than coming back to do security hardening after development”. AWS CDK automates the necessary IAM permissions at an atomic level in a manner where they are set and managed correctly. When the PGA TOUR takes resources down, AWS CDK removes the IAM permissions.

Lessons Learned and Looking Forward

The steepest learning curve for the PGA TOUR was in the granularity of their CDK Stacks. They initially started with a single large stack, but found that breaking the application into smaller stacks allowed them to be more surgical with granular deployments and updates. They found some services like AWS Lambda update very quickly, whereas DynamoDB deployed with global tables across multiple regions takes longer and benefit from being in their own stack. This balance is something the TOUR is still working on as they iterate after the initial launch.

Looking forward, the PGA TOUR sees longer-range benefits where the CDK will allow them to reuse their stacks and accelerate development for other departments or entities in the future. They also see benefit for reusing code and patterns across different workloads entirely.


The AWS Cloud Development Kit has been transformational to how the PGA TOUR is deploying their services on AWS and working to bring exciting and immersive experiences to fans. To learn more, review the AWS CDK Developer Guide to read about best practices for developing cloud applications, and review this blog that provides an overview of Working with the AWS Cloud Development kit and AWS Construct Library. Also, explore what CDK can do for you.