Live from the US Open: Evolution of microphone-in-hole technology shows why it matters

Five years ago when Fox Sports announced that it was going to put microphones in the cups on each hole many wondered if it would prove to be a worthwhile innovation worthy of keeping around for year two. Five years later it is an example of a technical innovation that has evolved since year one to prove out its worth and also overcome a serious misunderstanding: that the microphones in the cups are there to capture the sound of the ball clanking in the bottom of the cup.

The use of microphones in holes allows the Fox Sports production team to get better audio coverage for key moments like Gary Woodland’s long putt on the 12th hole during the third round.

“If that was the purpose then we have the microphone in the wrong spot as it is located at the lip of the cup,” said Brad Cheney, Fox Sports, VP, field operations and engineering. “We want to hear what is going on outside of the hole and it gives us a good 10 yards of coverage on the green.”

This year Fox Sports is using a third generation of the hole mic system for the second year. “Jim VanWinkle and the team at Professional Wireless have done a masterful job of modifying the hole with the team from Quantum,” said Cheney.

“It can operate for 14 hours and the mic element is a Countryman mic that sits at the top of the hole. We have duplicate sets, so we pull one set out, insert the other set, and then recharge the first set. We also use them at the USGA Women’s US Open and Senior Open so it’s part of our complete arsenal.”

The hole mics are complemented by 22 RF microphones that are out on the course. “The goal is to capture as much audio as possible so viewers can hear certain things,” said Cheney. “Parabolic mics get the sounds for the second and third shots and every camera also has isolated audio so we can mix it live but also adjust it so that if it is being played as a replay they can boost the hole mic or the shotgun before it is released.”

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