All eyes on 17th hole at NBC Sports Group’s Sawgrass Players Championship
A 139-yard par-3? Piece of cake, right? Not so much at TPC Sawgrass, where NBC Spots Group once again covered every conceivable angle of the storied 17th hole and its maddening island green last week. With a total of nine cameras fixed on 17, longtime NBC Sports golf producer Tommy Roy and his team hoped to once again capture the thrill of a birdie and the agony of a double-bogey at one of golf’s most infamous — and beloved — holes.
“The one great thing is, at some point when the leaders and other players on the leaderboard are walking in between shots, I can always go to the 17th tee,” said Roy. “It doesn’t matter who’s standing on that tee, even if it’s the guy in dead last place, it’s interesting to watch him grind over that shot, and hearing the murmur of the crowd creates more tension. It’s fantastic television.”
17 gets the Royal Treatment
The nine-camera complement at 17 included two elements that have become staples of NBC and Golf Channel’s Players Championship coverage: a microscopic lens embedded in the lip of the small bunker fronting the green and an ActionCam cable-suspended system flying over the lake between the 16th and 17th greens. In addition, to capture player reactions, NBC deployed a super-slo-mo camera system and once again marooned a camera operator on a small island near the 17th green for approximately eight hours during each day’s broadcast.
NBC’s coverage at 17 also included a manned crane at the right of the 16th fairway and lifted by a 150-ft.-tall crane, giving the camera a clear view over the tree line of 16, 17, and 18. A camera was also situated behind the 14th tee to provide a seldom seen, reverse ball-flight view for one of the more difficult tee shots on the course. As for the audio, often the most captivating aspect of the hole, NBC scattered more than 20 microphones throughout the 17th hole.
“My motto is, status quo is never good enough, so I’m always trying to improve it,” said Roy. “Several years ago, I used two periscope cameras; one was right by the drop area so that, as they hit their third shot into the green, it went right over the top of that camera. Then, we had another camera that was down by the walkway in the water to follow the players as they walked around [to the island green]. And they were good, but now that we have the [ActionCam], we get a much better angle for both that shot from the drop area and also the walkover. So I’ve killed [the periscope cameras].”
All over the course in Ponte Vedra Beach
Other tools in NBC Sports Group’s 55-camera arsenal included multiple jibs, bunker cam, seven robotic cameras, an additional super-slo-mo at 18, and an Inertia Unlimited X-Mo ultra-slo-mo system following the leaders as they made their way around the course. In addition, the NBCee It system once again allowed analysts to zoom in on various portions of the swing on replays. Audio-wise, NBC rolled out 120 microphones to capture the sounds of Sawgrass.
NBC’s NEP ND4 gold trucks (A, B, and C units) were in the compound, along with NEP SS24, which arrived straight from Churchill Downs following the previous weekend’s Kentucky Derby.
NBC also used its new super telestrator, which follows the arc of the ball, and the Protracer system, which tracks the path of the ball and confirms the trajectory and shot shape. In addition, the production team deployed a separate Protracer system halfway between the tee and the green on the golfer’s left side on 17 to illustrate the trajectory of the ball from the side.
“I’m hoping for a really windy day with a few guys fighting the ball down or [going] ahead and [taking] it up into the sky,” said Roy. “I’m not 100% sure this is going to work. We think it is. We’re going to be testing it on Wednesday, and I think, if it does work and we do get a windy day, it’s going to be really enlightening for the viewers.”