All major golf tournaments are television travelogues of a sort, with producers, directors and announcers making the most of the scenery to give viewers a feel of what it is like to be there.
Shinnecock Hills, site of next week’s U.S. Open, is no exception, and Fox has been hard at work archiving images that it will share with America during the event.
Producer Mark Loomis was looking over footage in his office recently when he said, “It’s just incredible video of how pretty and open that whole area is. There’s Shinnecock and there’s National and there’s Sebonack; there’s one great golf course after the next.”
Shinnecock’s broad, mostly tree-less expanses offer both TV viewers and those watching in person an advantage beyond scenic vistas. They enable everyone to see more, and more easily.
“It really doesn’t have any trees anymore,” Loomis said. “It’s one of those courses where one camera can see three different things. In some ways that’s a good thing, to be able to see all sorts of different angles.”
Said host Joe Buck, “You walk out the back of the clubhouse and it’s like, wow, it’s just massive . . . You can’t do it justice, the elevation change, the way those greens sit up, and with nothing around them and no trees to really frame the golf course. It’s one of the reasons why Oakmont is so hard.
“But it’s visually unnerving, and I think that has to come across and I don’t know how best to do that other than to really kind of get a shot and pull back and look at what the golfer’s looking at because it is so big.”
The lack of trees does have one TV disadvantage. On a traditional, heavily wooded course, the hospitality tents that are part of every Open landscape are easier to hide.
“If you went there when it wasn’t the week of the U.S. Open or the month of the U.S. Open, it’s very links-y looking,” Fox analyst Brad Faxon said. “But it’s actually littered with all kinds of white corporate tents. It’s a very different look looking out over the landscape.
“From the top of the clubhouse down it looks like a lot of corporate village white tents — I don’t know if I’d call them eyesores — but it’s unfortunate that it has to be there. I understand it. But it really has a dramatic look on the golf course.”
This will be Fox’s fourth U.S. Open, and all four have been on mostly tree-less courses. So at least everyone has experience with this sort of thing.
But every year is a new adventure, for the television people as well as viewers. Even though this will be the fourth Open at Shinnecock in the past 32 years, the course has changed, and a new generation of viewers has come along.
“It’s not like everybody around the country has played Shinnecock, unlike an Augusta where people see it every year and they know the holes,” Loomis said. “Our challenge is to make sure the person at home becomes as familiar as they can be with Shinnecock.”
Loomis is convinced they will like what they see. He played there in high school in the mid-1980s and returned for the first time last year.
“When I got off the course, I played with the head pro, Jack Druga, and I said, ‘That may be the best golf course in the world,’” Loomis said. “It’s an incredible golf course. It has, especially for the United States, such a diverse feeling to it. It’s almost got a links feel to it, even though it’s not a traditional links golf course.
“No two holes are alike. The par 3s are all going in different directions with the wind. There are a million things to like about it, so for me it’s always exciting to go to a course like Shinnecock that you know and people know is great golf course. I think that really makes the U.S. Open pop even more.”