CBS Sports’ PGA Championship Recipe Calls for 35 Miles of Cable
The walking distance for 18 holes at Whistling Straits, home of this year’s PGA Championship, is approximately 5 miles. However, CBS Sports needs more than 35 miles of cable to connect the TV compound with the 45 cameras scattered throughout the golf course. In fact, the grounds in Kohler, WI, are so spread out that another golf course separates CBS’s production compound from the Whistling Straits course, where the championship will be played.
“We have to cable through the Irish Course to get to Whistling Straits,” explains Nick Muro, senior engineer for CBS Sports. “We’re in excess of 35 miles of cable. It’s over 12,000 ft. just to the fourth green. It’s incredible.”
Two Ways To Cable a Course
Whistling Straits is a links course, with the holes laid out end-to-end, and features 2 miles of uninterrupted shore line along Lake Michigan. The result is a breathtaking course with some spectacular vistas, and enormous amounts of space separating the greens. To connect the cameras on all 18 holes to the production trucks, CBS chose two cable setups: a hub-and-spoke arrangement for the front nine, direct runs on the back nine.
“We built a front-nine hub, where we had 7,000-ft. TAC-12 cables made,” Muro says. “We ran home runs to a centrally located point on the front nine and ran spokes out from the centralized hub to all the front-nine greens. That minimized the amount of fiber connections that we have.”
On the back nine, his team used a combination of TAC-12 runs and expanded beam runs but, instead of a hub setup, ran cable directly to the individual holes.
“So far, we’ve been very successful with firing the cameras,” Muro says. “The cameras are behaving like they’re plugged in at the side of the truck when actually they’re 2 or 3 miles away.”
In the Trenches, Literally
A cable crew has been on-site in Kohler and laying cable since Aug. 2. The production trucks parked on Aug. 6, and all of the cable was in place by Aug. 9. Since then, CBS Sports has undertaken an extensive trenching project to keep spectators from using the production cables as a rudimentary pulley system.
“This course is very hilly, and, the last time we were here, people were using camera cables to pull themselves up these hills,” Muro explains. “As you can imagine, that caused a lot of problems. We’ve eliminated that as much as we can by doing extensive trenching. We’ve hired some local people to cut trenches in walkways, along edges, and through cart paths.”
One such trench, affectionately referred to as the Big Dig, is 450 ft. long and houses all of the cables for the back nine. The cables have been laid into the trench and covered over with dirt to protect them. When the tournament is over, the crew will pull all of those cables out of the trench and rewrap them.
The 35-plus miles of cable that CBS has been working with for the past few weeks is the largest fiber install that the network has undertaken.
“The Masters has more fiber, but that’s a different animal because it’s a permanent install in a conduit underground,” Muro explains. “It stays there, and we use it again next year. This is the largest temporary install that we do.”
A Production on the Rocks
As if cable-tugging fans and 35 miles of fiber to install and bury were not enough to keep CBS Sports busy at Whistling Straits, the weather has tossed in another obstacle. Over the past few weeks, the Milwaukee area has been hit with extensive rains, and the Super Bowl-size television compound is located in an empty grass field. CBS decided to lay down gravel throughout the 100,000-sq.-ft. compound about 8 in. deep, which seems to have saved the entire production.
“Had we not laid in this gravel, we would literally be under water right now,” Muro says. “Even with 8 in. of gravel down, there are still some small pockets of water. But we’re filling them in with more gravel, and that’s draining pretty well now.”
CBS Sports’ 20th consecutive year of coverage of the PGA Championship tees off this Saturday at 2 p.m. ET.