So, you’ve landed a gig (or hope to land a gig) with your DMO’s golf course partner to produce drone footage. Maybe you’ve been practicing with your drone capturing city scapes, your local tarn, sandy beaches or vast green fields filled with maple leaves. You’re beginning to feel confident about your UAV skills. Or maybe you’ve been producing professional drone footage since before “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk hit the airwaves. You’re a natural. The point is, you’re interested in producing drone footage for a golf course for the first time, and you’re left asking yourself, “Where do I begin?” We’ll help you get started and save you from a great deal of potential headaches you may have encountered had you not landed here in this article. You’re in the right place. You can breathe a sigh of relief.

We’ve put together some easy steps below for you to follow to ensure your first execution of filming drone footage of a golf course runs smoothly.

Consult

The tendency for many in the creative field is to throw the equipment bag over the shoulder, dive in head first, wing it and see how it goes (with the lingering notion that you can correct your mistakes with your bag of post-production editing magic tricks that you may or may not possess yet). Believe us when we tell you that while this may be beneficial in the beginning practicum stages of learning a new skill, this won’t serve you well when it comes to capturing film and producing high-quality drone footage for a golf course. You’ll need to have a plan in place, and that starts with a consultation.

So, first things first: consult with your partner. We’ll assume you know how to properly set up a meeting with them that meets with their time schedule (Remember, they’re your partner, and you really want to do great work for them-and if their only availability for a consultation is on Saturday morning at 5:30 A.M., be prepared to be up and ready to chat on Saturday at 5:30 A.M. If you truly love what you do, sacrifice is essential). Before your consultation, it’s important to remember that your partner (likely) isn’t creative, doesn’t fly drones and probably won’t have more than a few minutes to chat. You’ll need to be prepared to direct the conversation. Have a list of questions at hand. Here are some potential questions in no particular order that you may want to have ready to get down to the nitty gritty of what they want you to accomplish for them and to plan for your arrival:

  1. What is your ideal timeline for having this footage produced?
  2. What is your budget?
  3. Do you have a plan to measure ROI?
  4. Will the video be part of a bigger plan or a stand-alone piece?
  5. Are there particular holes that you’d like featured, and, if so, what holes are they and what is special about these particular holes?
  6. Do you have preexisting logo/animations/branding materials or do you need these produced/edited? If preexisting, who may I reach out to to begin gathering these as soon as possible?
  7. Where will this video live in its final format (i.e., if just for web/social vs. for potential broadcast?)
  8. What’s the approval process looking like? Will the final product be reviewed by a single person or will it run through a chain of command?
  9. Can you describe any experiences you’ve had with video in the past that might help narrow the focus for this project?
  10. What is your expected duration of video? (A 30 sec clip v.s. a 10 minute clip)
  11. Do you envision the footage having captions of specific information about the course such as course history, course accolades, hole distance, par information, etc.?
  12. Do you want this video to be more informative or to be more exhibitive (quicker cuts, shorter)?
  13. Would it be helpful to see a storyboard of the shots we plan to take?
  14. Above all else, what can we do to make you love this video?
  15. What day(s) and time(s) will I be allowed to film? Will there be golfers on the course that day? If so, will I need to avoid filming holes while the golfers are present?
  16. Will I have access to a golf cart and who should I plan to contact upon arrival in order to gain access to said golf cart?
  17. Is there a possibility of visiting and surveying the course before the day of the film shoot?
  18. Is there a course map that is available online that you know of or can I get my hands on a printed version o from your establishment?

Whatever contacts are mentioned throughout the consultation process either for acquiring branding materials or golf carts, make sure that you are keeping a running list for use later.

Research

Once you have an idea of what your partner wants, it’s time to move to the research phase. At this point, all you may have been able to get out of your partner is “Make us look cool”, and that’s okay! That was your plan from the beginning anyway, so all the better. More often than not, though, your partner will have at least provided some specific holes on the course that for one reason or another are the key holes you’ll be aiming to capture.

With this information, get your hands on a course map, either online or from the establishment. This will help you in the planning phase. If there is no course map available, do your best to get out to the course in person if possible and take notes, sketches or even film overview footage of each location you plan to shoot. Learn as much as you can about the holes-which ones have interesting features such as deep bunkers, water features such as streams or fountains and anything else that makes them unique.

If you know what time of day you’ll be allowed to film, use Google Maps to determine which direction the course holes are oriented and be sure that your lighting environment will be in congruence with your film process. You don’t want to land in a situation where all of your drone footage includes the drone’s shadow in the frame. Early mornings are typically best for avoiding such a situation. This is important, and one shouldn’t plan to “Get Lucky” with ideal conditions.

If you want to write a great novel, a good starting point is to read a great novel. The same holds true for drone footage of a golf course. Begin watching drone footage of golf courses by those who have come before you. Take note of specific shots that are done well and, perhaps even more importantly, what’s been done badly. Keep a log of links to these videos so that you may revisit them during the storyboarding and shot list phase.

Last, but certainly not least, be sure that the golf course lies in a zone that doesn’t conflict with any neighboring restricted airspace. If it does, be sure that you take the necessary steps in ensuring that you submit a request with the FAA so that you’re shooting within legal bounds. Don’t forget to notify any neighboring airspace facilities, such as Naval bases, that you will be flying in the area as well. We are assuming that you possess a UAV license, a necessity if you’re flying your drone in any capacity for commercial purposes (steep fines await you if you fail to acquire a license before attempting to fly commercially).

Plan

So, you’ve consulted with your partner, you have an idea of the layout of the holes you’ll be capturing, and now it’s time to start planning your shoot. For this phase, you’ll need to develop a shot list and storyboard for the film. We’ve included links at the bottom of this article to printable PDF’s for you to use as templates for creating these for your convenience in case you need them.

To ensure that you maximize your time at each hole, you’ll want the specific shots you wish to capture for each hole before you arrive for the day of the shoot. To ensure consistency, you’ll want to capture a run of similarly executed shots for each hole, and a few shots unique to each hole based on their specific features. When you move to the post-production editing phase or pass your footage off to a post-production editor, you’ll want to be sure that your shots at each hole flow together seamlessly. This will take the guesswork out of your process, will save you a ton of time and allow you enter the day of your shoot with maximum ease and relaxation. Unless the course will be completely empty, you’ll have a limited amount of time at each hole to begin with, and having this plan together will ensure that you won’t be idle on the sidelines of the golf course holes waiting thirty minutes for Old Bob McGuillicutty to find his ball and complete the hole so you can go back to shooting drone footage.

So, you can use the outlines we’ve provided or your own to map out the specific shots you want to achieve, print them out and have them ready the day of to check off each shoot as you finish it. This will ensure you keep track of all of the footage you’re shooting, what order you’re shooting each hole in and-let’s face it, there’s a certain satisfaction boost that comes with striking a check through a “to-do” box no matter what task you’re looking to accomplish. You can even keep a time log for each hole so that when you go out for shooting your next project, you’ll have a better idea of how long the film process will take and can plan accordingly.

It can also be helpful, if you’ve logged a series of video links of example footage that you wish to emulate, to download and edit together a video sequence of footage that you can upload to your mobile device you’ll have on hand the day of the film shoot. You can download the Youtube or Vimeo reference videos using a free online service such as KeepVid and cut the video clips using your preferred editing software, whether it be Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe After Effects or Final Cut Pro.

The day before the shoot, you may want to put together a check-list of hardware and equipment preparation to ensure you can walk out the door the day of the shoot without any loose ends. This list should probably include things like making sure that you have all of your memory cards cleared, all of your batteries charged and all of your necessary equipment components packed and ready to roll. Speaking of batteries, you should have at least two more batteries than you think you might need. Drone batteries have notoriously short lives, and you don’t want to end up on the course without any power. We cannot emphasize enough how important this is. If you’re an experienced drone pilot, you probably know this.

You may want to plan on bringing an external storage device to your shoot, in case you run out of memory. If you’re shooting in 4K, the memory can go quickly just as with the drone batteries. Always be prepared to run back into the clubhouse to charge your batteries you aren’t using while you run back out to continue filming or to do a data dump from your drone memory to your laptop. Again, this may not be necessary, but you have to be prepared for the worst case scenario, just in case.

Lastly, be sure that you have that list of names and phone numbers of your partner and anyone else involved printed out or stored in your mobile device to ensure you will be able to get in contact with them during your shoot should you find yourself in a situation where you need to contact them. You never know when you might be driven up a tree on the course by a menacing black swan that’s laid claim to Hole 13 and need to call the course manager for help.

Execute

The day has come. You’re prepared for the shoot, you have all of your necessary documentation on hand. You get to the course early and you’re ready to set flight. There may be temptation to start experimenting, ideas may be flying wildly around in your head, you may even be fearful. Refer to your shot list, start with your first shot and execute. Cast aside your aspirations for perfection. Just do it. Execute your first shot, check off the box and move on to the next shot. If you’ve done the prep work up to this point, you’ll be just fine. Stick to the plan, take the risks necessary to achieve each shot and just get it done. You’ll learn a lot from this first shoot, and your second one will be even better than the first. But you have to execute and stick to the plan for this first one. And you have to cast aside the idea of perfection. If you get hung up on perfection, you’ll never leave the first hole, and you’ll find yourself steamrolled by the golfers on the course coming up from behind.

Learn

Be sure to take physical or mental notes of what worked and what didn’t during your first drone footage execution of a golf course. The point is to get it done, learn from your mistakes and make your next execution better than the first. As with any creative production process, you must learn from your process what worked and what didn’t, and seek to improve upon it for the next go-round in continuation of providing the highest quality product for your partner that you can. Do the best you possibly can and move forward.

Post-Production

It goes without saying that you’ll need to log all of your RAW files in a safe place, whether that be in cloud storage or on an external drive. Regarding any other post-production processes, the possibilities here are endless. Here, you are free to experiment and have fun with intros and outros, title sequences, hole information display animations or anything you can imagine. If you’ve done the preparation work up to this point, you will already have on hand the logos, websites, course information, hole descriptions or any other pertinent information or content that you need to zip up your production into a neatly packaged video production.

Be sure that you are following best practices when rendering your video for web or for broadcast. There are endless resources out there available that detail the optimization settings for producing video for specific media outlets.

I could go on and on about the seemingly infinite possibilities of how to add spark to your final cut, but that’s a whole other article. I will say this, however, as a guiding principle for most any creative process: Less is more.

We Can Help

Want to save yourself the trouble of all of this and have Digital Edge produce drone footage for you? We’re up for that. Are you a client with no drone capabilities that has arrived here looking for someone to capture drone, video, 360 video or photography for your purposes? We do more than just golf courses.

Contact Us and let’s get to work. Check out our photo and video capabilities here.

Download Shot List Template
Download Storyboard Template

Check out an example of our work below:

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