‘Look at this thing run:’ NBC debuting new drone camera at Tournament of Champions

A still from NBC's Saturday broadcast of the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Some drives Saturday rolled for more than 40 seconds at Kapalua.


New year, new camera angles.

NBC is debuting a new live drone camera for its broadcasts this week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Live drone cameras have been used before for golf coverage, but never like this and never in a setting like Maui. With all the slopes at Kapalua’s Plantation course that have led to numerous 400-yard-plus drives over the years, NBC is using the camera to follow the ball roll, which can be up to 40 seconds sometimes.

A drone shot of a Matthias Schwab tee shot.
WATCH: Pro’s tee shot hits a moving drone, and the drone records from the water
By: Nick Piastowski

Saturday’s broadcast followed Collin Morikawa’s tee shot rollout for more than 80 yards on the 7th hole, looking straight out to the backdrop of the mountains of the Hawaiian island Molokai.

The drone camera was able to show the dramatic slopes of the fairway and especially when Morikawa’s tee shot caught one and found a divot in the right rough. The lie turned out to be not much of an issue for the 25-year-old — like everything else this week — but with balls often funneling to the same spots at Kapalua, the drone follows are adding a new level of anxiety to fans wondering if a shot will find a divot.

CBS has used live drone footage for its coverage of the PGA Championship, most notably at the 2021 event when crowds swarmed the 18th green for Phil Mickelson’s win. At that event, Mickelson had to ask CBS to move a drone he said was in his line Saturday.

NBC seems to be taking a different approach for its drone use. Instead of trying to get a different vantage of balls in the air, it’s taking advantage of the unique bounces and speed slots of the Plantation course.

How much NBC plans to use the drone the rest of the year remains to be seen as it seems uniquely suited to Kapalua.

Jack Hirsh

Golf.com Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at jack.hirsh@golf.com.