NBC's approach shots: Network making sure it shows viewers everything Sebonack has to offer
Those of us who have never been to Augusta National hear it every April: It is impossible to appreciate its beauty on a two-dimensional television screen, no matter how large or hi-def the image.
Coming as close as possible to capturing the real-life look on that and other famous courses is the ongoing challenge for golf producers and directors, one that this week faces NBC producer Tommy Roy.
Sebonack, all of 7 years old, does not have the history of most courses that have hosted national championships, but the site of the U.S. Women's Open can compete with any when it comes to scenery.
"This is one of the most spectacular courses ever," said Roy, who first visited in October. "It would be very similar to Pebble Beach, except in this case the greens aren't right next to the water."
Roy said giving viewers a sense of place is a priority. That includes shots from a blimp, which are not usually deployed for women's Opens, to show off the golfing neighborhood, including Shinnecock Hills and National Golf Links of America.
But the blimp camera also is there to illustrate the course itself. So are ground-based camera positions placed to best show off Peconic Bay.
For example, when golfers hit tee shots at the par-3 12th hole, the camera will be behind them, designed for a view of the bay in the background. On the 12th green the camera tower is angled such that it will not block the horizon view.
Of course, this is not a travelogue; it's a golf tournament. Hence the importance of another difficult element to convey on television: the contours of a course known for its undulations.
"Golf is basically a game played in three dimensions, and TV is a two-dimensional medium," Roy said.
To help, lower-angle shots can illustrate hills and valleys. Creative graphics fill in other gaps in depth perception.
Roy said even while NBC was televising the men's Open at Merion earlier this month towers were being constructed at Sebonack, and the operation has been ramping up ever since.
Even though the first two rounds are on ESPN2, NBC handles production. Roy is looking forward to his first crack at a course he said already has a "legendary" reputation among golfers. He will try to show us why.
NBC and its sister station, the Golf Channel, plan extensive coverage from Sebonack, culminating with the final two rounds on NBC Saturday and Sunday from 2:30 to 6 p.m.
Dan Hicks hosts, joined in the 18th tower by Annika Sorenstam and Gary Koch. Roger Maltbie, Kay Cockerill and Jane Crafter will report from the course.
The first two rounds are on ESPN2 from 3 to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, with Sean McDonough anchoring and analysis from Judy Rankin and Dottie Pepper.
Golf Channel highlights its coverage at 10 Wednesday with a panel discussion on the state of women's golf, moderated by Kelly Tilghman and featuring Sorenstam and LPGA commissioner Mike Whan.