Protracer is one of the greatest things to happen to golf on TV since Frank Chirkinian came up with the idea of showing golf scores as over and under par. Seeing the ball flight of a golf shot in real time is amazing. You can see how pros execute shots, and it makes it a world easier to follow the golf ball. Protracer is better than sliced bread.
So, how does Protracer work?
Well, Protracer, which was created by a Swedish group, uses a custom-built CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) sensor that can detect the golf ball and, using the Protracer software, can track the object through the entire shot. That flight-tracking capability is then converted into a graphic that can be made visible on TV in real-time.
From a television production perspective, you'll also notice that Protracer shots are aired with a somewhat stationary camera. In other words, the camera is fixed behind the golfer as they hit. It doesn't move until the shot is finished. That's done for a few reasons. First, it would likely throw off the sensor. Second, it would mess up how a viewer sees the Protracer graphic and ruin their experience of seeing the shot fly in real-time.
Fortunately, Protracer has become so well integrated into golf on TV now that using Protracer isn't limited to just tee shots. However, you'll often see Protracer and TrackMan used on tee shots on the same hole, with a fixed mount for both. As TrackMan becomes more common on golf telecasts, expect to see Protracer and TrackMan go hand-in-hand.