Quantum 5X, PWS To Intro Golf Hole Mic at U.S. Open

With players, backboards, helmets, and seemingly every possible position on a track, field, and court already wired for sound, you might wonder, where else can sports producers stick a microphone?

The answer will come next week, with the start of the USGA’s 115th U.S. Open at Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place, WA (June 18-21). There, one of the world’s first golf-hole microphones will be heard on Fox Sports broadcasts (the true first golf mic was put to use by NBC Sports nearly 35 years ago). The prosaically named Golf Hole Mic is a joint venture of Fox Sports; Quantum 5X, the Canadian manufacturer of RF transmitters designed specifically for use on athletes to capture close-up audio and dialog; and Orlando-based Professional Wireless Systems (PWS), which supplies and supports wireless systems for venues and broadcast.

The Golf Hole Mic takes a standard cast-aluminum golf-hole insert and adds a transmitter and battery pack developed by Quantum 5X and an auxiliary lithium-ion battery that will allow the transmitter to work an entire day of golf without battery changes. Included are a microphone element and an antenna, the latter attached to the metal cup, using it to enhance the transmitter’s range. The packaging of the elements in the Golf Hole Mic and its distribution to and use at events will be managed by PWS.

Voices and Effects
The Golf Hole Mic is intended to capture the atmosphere around the green, such as putters contacting with golf balls. The manufacturer estimates a useful pickup range of about 100 ft. in circumference around the hole. All 18 holes at the U.S. Open will use the Golf Hole Mic; however, each hole’s audio will need to be manually monitored, since the gain will be maximized up to final putts to capture as much audio from the green as possible. Otherwise, the sound of a ball landing in the wired hole would be “explosive,” according to a Quantum spokesman.

Although the assembly is designed not to exceed the circumference of a standard golf hole, the holes on courses where the Golf Hole Mic is used will have to be dug slightly deeper to accommodate the transmitter and batteries. Fox Sports had used the Golf Hole Mic in trials in March at Chambers Bay. This will be the first network-broadcast deployment of the unit.

“The tests that were conducted in ‎March demonstrated that we could capture good audio from all over the green with a mic element placed in the hole,” says Quantum 5X CEO Paul Johnson.

The transmitters will sit beneath the cup in a specially designed chamber and will be installed each morning by the greenskeepers, under the direction of PWS, as they position the holes for the day. The Q5X transmitters will be retrieved and recharged overnight.

Johnson says joint ventures like this one have been used in the past to migrate products into sports verticals. He cites his company’s first sports product, the Q5X 256 PlayerMic, which was designed in conjunction with CP Communications and first used for MLB shows 14 years ago. “We have relationships with and work closely with a number of rental companies and RF providers,” he adds.

Although the U.S. Open will be the first use of the Golf Hole Mic, Johnson says the underlying technology — the transmitter and extended battery pack — is currently undergoing testing on rugby broadcasts by BBC Sports and Sky Sports in the UK. In that application, the technology is used inside a compression vest worn under a player’s jersey and allows on-player audio to be available for an entire game without a battery change.