NBC Sports Covers Iconic 17th Hole From Every Angle at The Players Championship

10 HD cameras on the ground and an overhead system capture the shot and player reactions

One of the most iconic holes in golf is getting the all-star treatment at The Players Championship, under way at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. NBC Sports Group has surrounded the challenging island green of the 17th hole with 10 cameras on the ground, a cable-suspended camera system overhead, and tech tools to track wind speeds in real time as well as ball trajectory from traditional and reverse-flight angles.

The legendary 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass

“We have been covering [the 17th hole] quite well for years, and we’re continuing,” says Tommy Roy, lead golf producer, NBC Sports. “We have 10 cameras that surround a hole that’s 137 yards on the card; that’s sort of unheard of. On a typical hole like that out on the course, there’d be two cameras, but the nature of this hole is that it’s surrounded by water, it’s the second-to-last hole, and it’s played in a championship of this magnitude. We have to cover this much better than we normally would.”

Among the 10 HD broadcast cameras surrounding the hole is one stationed — with its operator — on a small island accessible only by boat. A crane camera is lifted 150 ft. above the tree line, and a small camera lens is embedded in the lip of the tiny bunker fronting the green. The goal in having so many cameras on one hole is to ensure that, no matter where the ball lands — on the green or in the water — NBC has a clear shot. The camera operator on the island, marooned there for hours at a time to get the best angle on the player’s face, is responsible for reaction shots.

“[That camera operator is] capturing tight face shots as [the players] prepare to hit the shot and then the tight face shots as part of their reaction, whether the ball lands on land or splashes down,” Roy explains. “We always get great stuff: it’s either a big sigh of relief or anger.”

NBC Sports’ popular cable-suspended “Supra Cam” returns to The Players Championship this year, flying for 150 yards over the body of water between the 16th- and 17th-hole greens.

The island green of the 17th hole

In total, NBC Sports is deploying 51 cameras around TPC Sawgrass, operating out of its main golf truck, NEP Double Eagle. For the first time, The Players Championship is being covered in 5.1 audio with multiple surround arrays totaling 16 Audio-Technica AT4050 stereo mics.

Also new for this year’s tournament is the use of wind-direction technology to track conditions in real time, including on the tee box at golfer level and at the apex of the ball’s flight high above the 17th hole.

“Not only are we tracking how hard the wind is blowing and what direction it’s blowing from, but there’s also a drop-down graphic to show the adjusted yardage: if it’s blowing 20 miles an hour from behind, even though it’s a 137-yard shot, it’s really only going to play like 110,” says Roy. “And, as the wind gusts, that graphic will change in sync with the wind graphic.”

NBC Sports is also using 3D follow animation, along with Top Tracer technology, on five holes throughout the course, pairing an animated model of the golfer’s shot with the actual footage. On the 17th hole, ball-trajectory tracking includes a reverse-flight angle from behind the green.