Golf Course Photography

By David Roy CCM 

During my time as a greenkeeper, I took many photos of golf courses and was often amazed at how a particularly lovely view of an inviting, challenging and picturesque golf hole looked more like a football field when I developed the film.

The introduction of digital cameras came with the promise that if you take enough photos, eventually one will turn out well. I have yet to experience this good fortune.

It is well known that good photography sells a club and I therefore submitted to the Crail GS Marketing Committee that funds would be wisely invested by employing a professional golf course photographer. This was met by a distinct lack of enthusiasm at the thought that a few images of a specifically scenic golf course should cost more than £3,000, after all “how hard can it be?”, asked one member.

Luckily, I was backed by another committee member who had experience in this area and consequently over the last ten years about £10,000 has now been spent on building up a library of images. The following is a summary of points to note:

  • Being local is an advantage. The weather and height of the sun are the biggest factors in creating great images. Photographers use the phrase ‘The Golden Hour’, which refers to the time just as the sun rises or sets. A local photographer can make multiple visits to your course to capture the best light conditions, whereas a photographer that has to travel more than a couple of hours to your site is less likely to catch the correct conditions.
  • Write a tight brief. It is not enough to ask for ‘some nice photos’ and yet this is what most contracts comprise of. In extreme cases, the club may end up with 20 images of the one highly scenic golf hole on the course (and I have seen this done). What is more useful is to ask for something like six specific golf holes to be photographed from the perspective of the golfer, with each image illustrating the particular challenge of the hole. One photographer we have worked with only supplies six images, at a cost of £600 per photo. This works very well because it is easy to dictate which aspects of the course he has to cover.
  • Height can be good. Some golf holes will be better captured when taken from a height of more than 2 metres. We once used a hydraulic lift (cherry picker) but a very tall step ladder can also be very effective.
  • Understand composition and what makes your course special. With the right lens, filter and exposure, a professional photographer can ensure that very dramatic shots can be captured. Utilise the backdrop of a stunning range of hills, whilst ensuring that the foreground is in perfect clarity.

The availability of a stock of great images, available on cloud storage as very high resolution TIFF files has ensured that Crail is often used in magazine articles, or as a backdrop to a Visit Scotland stand as well as being showcased on any number of Golf Tour operator websites. 

David is the Manager of Crail Golfing Society but started his working life as a Greenkeeper before the likes of ride-on mowers, metal woods and the Stimp meter transformed the game globally. Moving from the sheds to the clubhouse office as a Secretary before the turn of the century, David is now the most experienced Club Manager in the Scottish golf industry.President of the Scottish Region of the CMAE from 2008 to 2010 and Vice-President of CMAE from 2016-2017, he has served the CMAE as an office bearer for almost 10 years. He gained his CCM in 2014 and was awarded the inaugural ‘Scottish Golf Club Manager of the Year’ in 2016.