Imagine a symphony, a hundred different musicians, all playing their instrument with precision and vigor to make a beautiful sound. As everyone works together showcasing their unique talent, the end result is magnificent. These musicians are artists, and so are the many who work in golf television.
Most consider watching golf as the perfect opportunity for a nap, but follow me behind the scenes so you can see how it is anything but relaxing.
1. Not all Production and Technical Managers wear capes
Production and Tech Managers are the first to arrive on site. They provide everything needed to have a successful week. Responsible for the set-up of trailers used as office space, a week’s worth of snacks and drinks (including one catered meal a day), a glorious row of port-o-lets and all other supplies needed. Production Managers book travel, hotel rooms and rental cars for all employees on site. And they do it all while working on multiple tournaments from their future and past schedule all while taking care of business on site at the current event. They partner with the Tech Manager, who acts in similar fashion to a foreman on a construction site as they oversee all crew members. If a problem on site arises, the PMs and TMs are the first ones to see. Monday-Sunday, they are high in demand!
2. Nothing is Built Prior to Broadcast
A field, gravel parking lot or maintenance area. This is the blank canvas for what will be turned into our work space for the week, most commonly known as The Compound. Set-up for a Thursday-Sunday tournament starts on Monday with “Park and Power”. Truck drivers/engineers anchor 18-wheelers in the compound and open them, almost like an expandable RV, becoming Command Central for the broadcast. Once parked, the engineers unload and organize their trucks to make them the perfect work atmosphere. They are hooked up to the main generator, powered on, and await their occupants to arrive. Keep in mind only eight or nine days later, the area will turn back into an empty lot, as if it never existed at all.
3. It Takes An Army
About 80-100 people are needed to put on a golf show: 65 technicians, 10 production team members and 5 announcers work in unison to produce a weekly telecast. These men and women are artists, using knowledge and tricks they’ve learned from many years in the business and they are some of the hardest working people you could meet. They seem to have a solution for anything and can fix problems in record time, not to mention their creativity while doing so. From Camera Men, Audio Engineers, Editing Geniuses to Graphic Operators (leaderboards, etc.) , Utilities (who run about 25,000 yards of fiber (cable) throughout the course), Mic Ops and Runners. The group works together and hope the passion for what is done shows through each and every golf telecast. Interesting side note: the crew and production folks go through around 50 cases of water per week, and on some hot weeks as much as 122 cases!
4. The Stadium Analogy
One of the production managers, Kelly Rands (who is also a good friend and co-worker), uses the stadium analogy when explaining how golf is produced. Instead of one stadium like in Baseball, Basketball and Football there are 18 of them. The inside of a Production Truck mimics NASA’s command center with wall-to-wall monitors, all showing golf shots happening at the same exact time. The talents of the producer and director are exhibited here while assessing all options available to them and choosing what fits best in the show during that exact moment.
5. Where is Everyone?
You hear many voices while watching a golf broadcast, but you may not know where these people are stationed. The Broadcast Booth is a traveling studio. It’s where the announcers are shown on camera to welcome you to the broadcast at the start of the show and thank you for watching at the end. The booth, parked somewhere on the course, is where the host and analyst (usually a former player) call the action. A production assistant and hole announcer sit to their left along with a camera operator. Two announcers (usually former players) are on-course following players explaining the action first hand. The crew are mostly all out on the course following the action with those announcers or stationed on holes 9-18. You can’t forget about the people working in Command Central and all that is done back in the Truck.
6. The Voice Inside my Head
During the show, everyone is on “headset” and tuned into the broadcast in different ways. All technical folks out on the golf course hear our director, the announcers hear only the producer and what the show sounds like and people working in the truck have the capability to reach out to whomever they like. But the most difficult job when it comes to being on headset is reserved for the announcers. Not only do they have to speak eloquently on air, but they have the producer in their ear at all times. While explaining the here and now of one golf shot, they are being told what is going to be shown next. Insanity!
You may be surprised to know that these volunteers, who are normally retired golf fans and golfers from the local area are instrumental in helping us in the broadcast and without them it would be very difficult to put on a show. The Broadcast relies heavily on them to tell the Scoring/Spotting position who’s hitting next and what shot it is for that player. They keep our team informed and organized. Volunteers are also utilized on course to shuttle camera men and announcers around the course. The broadcast team truly loves the volunteers who are so enthusiastic about contributing to the shows.
8. Live vs. Tape Delay
With so many golf shots happening at once, it is impossible to show every single shot live. Therefore, producers show many shots off tape. The announcer calling this delayed shot must remember what just happened and describe it by pure memory. Those famous whispers everyone makes fun of golf announcers for, are much needed when an on-course announcer is speaking while a group is playing right in front of them. Want to know if a shot is live or on tape delay? Listen for the key words, “A moment ago…” at the start of an announcers call of a shot, and you can identify if the shot you’re witnessing is live or recorded.
9. Tear-Down or Strike
Once a show is off the air, the work isn’t over. The organized chaos begins again as everything must be picked up and put away, yes even the 25,000 yards of fiber. Because the trucks are scheduled to travel to another show, everything must be packed away in it’s place by Monday morning. This includes cameras, all supplies and footage that was sent to us from the Orlando studio or shot that week must be sent back. The trucks will head to the next golf course and the process starts again, making it truly, “The Show that Never Ends.”
10. More Than Golf
It’s more than just showing golf shots for those who work on the broadcast. It’s showcasing whatever town is hosting the event, sharing the stories of the players and their triumphs and struggles and highlighting the charity work done in the communities sponsored by these organizations. The men and women in charge of producing and editing these clips in the tape room do a phenomenal job incorporating this into the show.
Just like a symphony, many talented artists work simultaneously with the passion they have for golf and television hoping the viewer at home will see the story of the game and beyond. Next time you watch a golf tournament on TV and start to yawn, even if sleep is inevitable, dream of the moving parts behind the scenes and appreciate those dedicated to bringing you the wonderful game of golf. I hope I have cured your curiosity and intrigued you, but what role do I play? You’ll have to follow along to find out. If you ever find yourself at a televised golf event, I encourage you to find your way to the compound and see the action first hand.
GIVER HER A FOLLOW: