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Quiet, please: Photographing golf

Quiet, please: Photographing golf

The U.S. Open championship at Congressional Country Club takes place this Father’s Day weekend and is one of four major golf tournaments that sets the average tour player apart from the elite. While golf is one of my favorite sports to watch on TV and play, it’s my least favorite to photograph. All I can think about is how I would rather be playing on one of these fabulously exclusive country clubs instead of trudging around a hilly golf course carrying very heavy, long lenses and cameras. All for that photo of a golfer tipping his hat or hugging his caddy on the 18th hole.

I’ve never had the same feeling watching a batter try to hit a 100-mile-an-hour fastball or being at a hockey game photographing a player getting a jarring check into the boards that later requires stitches. I will photograph the Lakers anytime instead of golf. Of course, who wouldn’t? The players actually sweat, bump into each over, jump in the air, run fast, argue with refs, even the fans are animated.

Another reason shooting a golf tournament is more work than fun is you can’t take photographs of the action when it happens, only after it happens. Have you ever noticed how many photos of golfers’ follow through you have seen or a reaction to sinking a putt?

Nobody gives the photographer much thought, but a photographer has to take the picture, then hustle to the next hole before the golfers tee up, and race to the green before they tap it in. There isn’t an assistant to carry all the gear, and the crowds don’t clear a path for the media to make it to where the action is.

This is one place where the weight of the gear combined with extreme weather conditions navigating the crowds and all the etiquette one must exercise can make it difficult for a photographer to get the shot of the day and make it look so easy.

It isn’t just a walk in the park, it is so much more. After the tournament, the pictures need to be turned in and edited, captions written, and just to make this sound as bad as possible, there isn’t a guarantee that the pictures will be published. Are you tired yet? I am.

Just think about how quiet you need to be. Every clicking noise is blamed on the closest photographer in sight. At what other sport are the spectators not allowed to bring point-and-shoot cameras into the event? Really, don’t click on that back swing. How hard do you have to concentrate on hitting a ball that’s standing still? Only photographers with a clearance to take photographs are allowed to shoot after the player swings at the ball. Tournaments usually allow fans to take pictures during practice rounds.

Did I mention how far you have to walk to capture your images? This year’s U.S. Open course tracks in at more than 7,500 yards. That’s more than 70 times the length of a football field and almost 250 times a basketball court. My feet are getting tired as I think about it.

I guess you could call me a complainer — go ahead, it won’t be the first time it’s happened. Just check with my wife.

Deciding who you’re going to cover is another problem. Those foursomes spread out all over the course. You’d have to be a clairvoyant and predict the future as you traverse the golf course. You can always follow Tiger Woods, it’s a lock that those picture will be some of the best. He is always in the news regardless of how good or bad he is playing.

Well, this weekend those photographers will have to cover somebody else. Woods is  scratched from the tournament because of an injury. Next on the who-to-cover list would be Phil Mickelson. He has never won the tournament but has placed second on five different occasions at this event.

OK, for my last complaint. The last photo at a tournament is the presentation of the trophy. I’m not sure how many of these you’ve seen, but boring describes it well. Boston just won the Stanley Cup — now that’s a trophy award presentation that yields some really great photos.

Have a great Father’s Day and try to get in a round of golf.

Top photo: A group of photographers flee from the course due to rain, which caused  a weather delay during round three of the 90th PGA Championship at Oakland Hills Country Club in 2008 in Bloomfield Township, Mich.  Credit: David Cannon/Getty Images

Second photo: Photographers cover the action during the first round of the 108th U.S. Open in 2008 at the Torrey Pines Golf Course  in San Diego. Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Third photo: Phil Mickelson hits from the third tee during the third round of the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C. He figures to be a favorite subject for photographers this weekend. Credit: AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Bottom photo: Tiger Woods displays the trophy to photographers after winning the British Open Golf Championship, on the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland in 2005. Credit: Laurent Rebours/Associated Press

Read more reviews and photography tips by Robert Lachman


  1. June 16, 2011, 11:57 pm

    My husband agrees that playing golf is more fun than shooting pictures even if you hook or slice a few.__Carrying 14 clubs is preferrable to carrying 14 items of photo equipment. And, you know what else they say, "A bad day golfing is still better than a day at work!" Thanks for this insight 🙂 Kellie & Bob

    By: Kellie
  2. June 17, 2011, 2:22 am

    This is hilarious!

  3. June 18, 2011, 1:10 pm

    terrific story, congrats on making the front page of the LA Times!

  4. June 18, 2011, 6:40 pm

    I have photographed a few golf tourneys and this article is so true. I've have a lot of respect for the guys that shoot live sporting events day after day. That's a lot of heavy gear to lug around on all types of terrain. Sports photographers usually don't have assistants helping them so I'm sure a career full of shooting the same sport, with all the heavy big lenses will result in some kind of permanent chronic pain.

    By: bobscottnyc
  5. June 20, 2011, 3:22 pm

    Thanks for this article, i follow the european tour and a lot of my phototographer friends says that golf photography is boring, but they stay all the day at the first tee to do all the players, but the true golf photographer it's ever ready to run to be ready for a good shot.

    Davide Da Ponte

  6. June 20, 2011, 7:47 pm

    This is an excellent post. I'm not a photographer, but I think I would just take a pic of each golfer taking a swing on each hole. Then I would proceed to the country club to get a few drinks and watch the rest of the round on the tv. Then, depending on whoever won, I would just show use that picture I took earlier. The only hitch would be if that golfer changed clothes. Also, you still would have to show up to take pics of the trophy at the end. Like I said, not a photographer but seems kinda ridiculous to even have that level of coverage.

    By: pfunc
  7. June 21, 2011, 6:37 pm

    You have to be kidding me…

    Playing golf is way much more of a snore than shooting it. Most boring game in the history of man besides soccer.


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