As a pre-internet child I was captivated by the marvellous course illustrations in The World Atlas of Golf and I travelled to those far away places via the only means at my disposal - my imagination.
Such places had mystique in those days. My mind’s eye painted in the details - a quiet and stately clubhouse, freshly cut fairways, peak season foliage. Exotic items like heather, gorse, pines and fescues. Things that simply don’t exist in a country NSW landscape of dry clay hills and eucalypts.
Such grand playing fields exist on an imaginary plane, just like their illustrations - blurry at the edges - vignetted into foreign sounding place names like Surrey, Long Island, St Andrews and The Sandbelt.
And so on to the internet age where there has never been more content to strip away that mystique - Instagram photos, hole-by-hole flyovers, golf club atlas write-ups. With Google Earth Pro I can even simulate the effects of the sun to see what direction the shadows are cast on the 12th at Pine Valley on Winter afternoons (yes I’ve done that).
And yet, even after consuming all that material there is ample room for imagination, I simply have to turn off all the screens and sit and think.
Did it hurt my anticipation of Portmarnock to know that the first tee has a quirky tilt to it from back to front? No, it enhanced the experience of seeing it in person and made for an even more pleasurable memory.
Did The Masters have any less mystique for me that I knew in advance about every item for sale at the concessions? Not at all, it made that pimento cheese taste all the more bizarrely delicious.
And so now before visiting somewhere I study up… weird spoilers and all. The more I know, the more curious I am to see it all in real life.
This is the essence of what I try to share through my photography. I’m not trying to “document” a golf course in precise detail, I’m trying to convey what it was like to stand in a certain spot and what it feels like to think back on that experience.
My photos shouldn’t de-mystify a course, they should simply extend the canvas on which your imagination paints the details. And for me they trigger reflections on a place, months or even years after the visit.
My photos contribute in a small way to the wealth of content that hopefully feeds the mind more than the eyeballs.
Even with the world in isolation there’s no quarantine on our mind’s eye. There’s abundant opportunity for us to re-mystify golf’s famous and not-so-famous playing fields, all we need is a bit of quiet reflection where we can travel to some other place without even leaving home.