Live From the U.S. Open: Evolving Technology Shows Why Miked Holes Matter

Combined with parabs and camera mics, third-generation hole mics offer a wide range of audio

Five years ago, when Fox Sports announced that its golf coverage was going to put a microphone in the cup on each hole, many wondered if it was an innovation worthy a second year. Five years later, it is an example of a technical innovation whose evolution has proved its worth and also overcome a serious misunderstanding: that the microphones in the holes 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 for key moments, such as Gary Woodland’s long putt on Hole 12 during the third round of the U.S. Open.

“If that was the purpose, then we have the microphone in the wrong spot, as it is located at the lip of the cup,” says Brad Cheney, VP, field operations and engineering, Fox Sports. “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.

[GM] Jim VanWinkle and the team at Professional Wireless have done a masterful job of modifying the hole with the team from Quantum,” says 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 U.S. 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,” says 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.”