Night Golf Project
I was inspired to photograph golf courses at night because of a starry trip back home to Biddeford, Maine in early 2014. I took my Canon camera to the beach and made photos of the Milky Way over the Atlantic Ocean. I enjoy following night photographers on Instagram and am moved by golfer/astrophotographer Jimmy Walker‘s Hubble-esque night sky photos.
Wondering if night golf course photos have ever been done before, I searched online only to find lit up par 3 courses and sunset wedding photos. I knew I was on to something. I have now photographed 30+ golf courses at night including Banff Springs in Canada, White Witch in Jamaica, Royal Troon in Scotland and dozens in the US.
Troon, Scotland | July 21, 2014. When staying at The Marine Hotel on the 18th hole to photograph Royal Troon in Scotland for NBC / Golf Channel in July 2014, I knew I had my opportunity to make a test photo. My videographer friend Mike DiCarlo and I headed out to the “Postage Stamp” hole with a golf cart, headlamps, flashlights, tripod and a bottle of Scottish whiskey at 11pm. The test photos taught me lessons about lighting, long exposures, moonlight, city lights, camera limits and much more.
I used the test photos to pitch the slideshow idea to Golf Digest photo editor Christian Iooss and web editor Sam Weinman. They enjoyed seeing the photos, but wanted to see more. So I waited for foliage season in the northeast and went back home to Maine on October 9th, 2014. I talked my dad into joining me on a road trip throughout New England. We’d drive to a course during the day, grab a cart, play a few holes and scout locations for the night photos. We’d wrap up between 11pm and 2am. We went to Sugarloaf Golf Club in Maine, Lake Winnipesaukee Golf Club in New Hampshire, Quechee Club in Vermont, Connecticut National, Crystal River in Rhode Island, Highland Links at the very tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts and back home to Biddeford – Saco CC on October 15th in Saco, Maine.
Seven courses, 900 + miles and no hotels. We slept in my mom’s mini-van on the first night at Sugarloaf, which also saw snow flurries and a visit from friend Kevin Bennett, one of Maine’s top photographers. We were also on the lookout for bears and moose, but thankfully didn’t see anything. Dad and I ditched that uncomfortable minivan for a bigger, more spacious conversion van owned by his friend for the following nights. At Lake Winnipesaukee, coyotes howling in the distanced felt like a few feet away. We played golf with two terrific board members at Quechee Club in Vermont. We scared the absolute hell out of the late night kitchen staff at Connecticut National. We huddled under a blanket at Highland Links while a cold wind was whipping through their nine hole oceanside course. We welcomed the help from my photography school buddy John Tavares at Crystal River. We were greeted by a police officer after photographing Biddeford – Saco Country Club. (Yes, we had permission.)
I jetted back home to Orlando happy with what we had captured, but I wanted to photograph more. The Golf Digest team enjoyed them and wanted to get a slideshow up. I asked them for more time. This was only the beginning.
Arizona | November 24, 2014. My fiancé and I set sail on a short “vacation” to Arizona for Thanksgiving 2014. We hit up We-Ko-Pa in Scottsdale followed by Quintero in Peoria and then Seven Canyons in Sedona. We discovered javelina in Arizona. It looks like a feral pig and when you almost run one over at 11pm, they get pissed off and growl at you. Quintero is a track I’ve played twice and I had to include it in my project. It’s desert golf with wonderful mountain views. Cold night temps in Sedona saw our first “let’s huddle in the rain shelter while the camera works for 30 minutes.” Sedona’s red rock is absolutely stunning, especially under moon light.
Boerne, TX | December 15, 2015. Matt Ginella is currently a Golf Channel morning show host and former photo editor at Sports Illustrated and Golf Digest. During a December 2014 dinner with Ginella and friends in Orlando, we chatted about the project and asked if he’d ever seen Jimmy Walker’s night photos. He had, and a light bulb went off. I’d love see Jimmy’s Hubble-esque work. He connected me with Jimmy, and the next day Jimmy texted me an invite to his home course in Boerne, Texas. The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch is a world class facility outside of San Antonio. Orlando videographer Craig Kotilinek and I met up with Jimmy at his beautiful home where we nerded out on night photography. Jimmy met us on the course a little later that night to share more insight about galaxies, camera limitations, solar systems and more. He told us that his camera system is atop a mountain in New Mexico and he can control its exposure and movements online. Jimmy said his exposures made with his 3900mm lens can last a few seconds to many minutes. It was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget. Make sure to check out Jimmy’s astrophotography work here.
January 8th, 2015 brought me to Tom Doak designed Streamsong, a Florida resort off the beaten path between Orlando and Tampa. Ginella would join me at Streamsong, one of his favorite courses to play. They have a handful of rooms available to guests above the clubhouse, a golfers dream come true. We set up well beyond sunset at the spectacular seventh on their Blue Course, a downhill par 3 over a pond. The first test photo on the tee got Ginella excited to make a great photo. “Let me go set up the lights on the bridge and green,” he said. I insisted on helping him a few times but he ultimately left with four lights. I watched his lights disappear close to the bridge when I heard him yelling. I shouted back to him, “Keep going!” He kept yelling, so I called his cell phone. It rang on the cart seat next to me. I quickly drove down to see him. Three of the four lights were on the ground. “Did you see it? Did you fucking see that thing?” He said his flashlight caught the eyes of a large lynx in the marsh below just as he stepped on the bridge. Ginella backed up and the cat jumped on the bridge and crossed the pond. Together, we set the lights.
January 19th, 2015- Since Ginella and I only photographed one hole at Streamsong, I was feeling duped. The place is too special to only photograph one hole, so I went back with my snow bird dad. We saw deer, alligators and a beautiful white owl, but no cats. We photographed Coore and Crenshaw’s Red 6,17 and 18. It’s an amazing place place unlike anything in Florida that I hope you get to enjoy with your dad.
February 24, 2015 | Montego Bay, Jamaica. White Witch Golf Course was the setting for Golf Channel’s new show Altered Course. On one of the last days of filming, I organized a night shot of their breathtaking 17th hole. It’s a downhill par three with a solo tree behind the green that drops into the Caribbean Sea. Libon, a props guy on the show, introduced me to Richard, an older Jamaican security guard at the course. Richard and I got in a cart with no lights and when I took out my headlamp he said, “put that away, mon.” It was DARK, and Richard was perfectly navigating the hilly cart part. I set up a small LED light on the 17th green and my camera on the tee. I enjoyed talking with Richard and showing him my photos. When I zoomed into stars in the photo, he said “satellites, mon!” I laughed it off at first, but after thinking about it, he’s probably right for a few of those “stars”. After he safely got us back to the clubhouse, I thanked him and gave him my flashlight.
April 15 – 16, 2015. Pebble Beach Golf Links. I picked two perfect nights to photograph Pebble Beach. I knew it was going to be a good trip when I randomly chatted up the Ferrari Club president and a gentleman that gave me his “summer residence” business card. This was my first time to Pebble Beach. I concentrated on holes 7 and 8 for my project. They’re away from the brighter lights of the clubhouse
and I was able to aim my camera into the dark night sky over the Pacific Ocean. To achieve the long streaking of stars, I set my camera on a tripod and used an intervalometer to make 20 second exposures for an hour. When you’re ready, import the photos into StarStax or similar software to let it work its magic.
July 22, 2015. Belgrade Lakes Golf Course, Maine. Belgrade Lakes is one of the top golf courses in Maine, as voted by Golf Digest. The 9th and 18th holes share a green and that’s what I focused on. I also got a time-lapse going on the putting green, which has views of the lake below. That time-lapse, facing north, was the first time I have ever captured an Aurora Borealis. I was sleeping in my car when it was happening, but at least I got it.
July 23, 2015. Samoset Resort, Maine. There are so many pretty holes on the ocean at Samoset, it’s mind boggling. I concentrated on the 3rd, 4th and 5th holes. Samoset also has views of the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse. A guest that I chatted up told me that Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield was staying at the resort that night. I set up two time-lapse cameras overlooking the water and lighthouse and tried not to wake up Wakefield with my lights.
August 19, 2015. Arrowhead Golf Club, Colorado. While researching places to photograph, Arrowhead caught my eye. Towering rock shot into the sky like shards of glass. I had to photograph it. The staff couldn’t have been nicer. A few holes looked at downtown Denver, but I went with the Milky Way views behind the 12th green. Dena Davis, Assistant pro Ben Orr and his wife joined me for a few hours on the course that night. It was cool to see their reactions when I hit the “play” button on the back of the camera.
August 21, 2015. Teton Pines Country Club, Wyoming. After a flight to Salt Lake City and a long drive to Wilson, Wyoming, I was rewarded with a fantastic night at Teton Pines. I set up cameras on the Arnold Palmer designed 2nd and 5th holes. But truly, I could’ve picked any of them. Both holes offered spectacular views of the teton mountain range. Unfortunately, I traveled to the area during the wildfires that burned out west which obstructed my views of the Grand Teton. Upon retrieving my cameras in the morning, I happened upon a moose and two calves and followed them through the course and neighborhood for an hour.
August 22, 2015. Teton Reserve, Idaho. I crossed the Tetons to Victor, Idaho to photograph a unique golf course originally designed by Hal Irwin to play forward and backwards. It’s an open track with beautiful views of the teton range. Temperatures were cold on this night, my tripod legs were frozen when I retried my camera at sunrise.
August 24, 2015. Spanish Peaks Mountain Club, Big Sky, Montana.