PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club

Tech talk

PGA Championship 2023: Why you can't beat a good bunker cam

May 18, 2023

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — It's been a good year for golf coverage on TV, with networks taking more risks and actually using technological innovation to improve the viewer experience. At this week's PGA Championship, though, we're witnessing a feature that is not exactly new, but still pretty rare in the world of coverage: The blessed bunker cam. Take a look at this shot, and tell me it's not sublime:

That's Justin Thomas on 14, and the reason the bunker cam is so good is that it does what a human with a camera or even a drone can't, in most cases: It gets the viewer incredibly close to the action in a way that feels more intimate than you could even get in person. Plus, it's just a novel angle; how often do you get to see a player take a shot from mere feet away in front of him?

The tech here is pretty simple: They just stick a camera in the grass in the steep bank leading down to the sand, as you see in this photo from 15:

It works particularly well at Oak Hill because a big focus of Andrew Green's restoration was building the bunkers to their former depths (Green was even worried that the players would complain about the difficulty). What that means is that the camera is often close to eye level with the player, as you see in the JT shot above, which makes the head-on POV even better. It's like you're sitting comfortably in a lawn chair looking down at the player, but without the risk that you might be decapitated by a golf ball and/or blinded by sand.

None of this is revolutionary, but it's extremely good, and frankly it's one of the few ways to get in front of the player without being a million miles away, a la any given tee shot. It's a whole new perspective on the game, and we need more of it. All hail the bunker cam.