AmbienteThe signature 13th hole at JW Marriott Camelback Inn's award-winning new course, Ambiente, designed by Jason Straka, of Fry Straka Global Golf Design
Even though the golf industry has been in questionable shape for the past few years, there is a segment of it that has continued to thrive, and an even larger segment that continues to compete actively in the marketplace. Happily, because of those clubs, 2013 was a great year for my photography. As the year progressed, I had the opportunity to shoot an increasing number of highly regarded golf courses, like Peachtree Golf Club; Liberty National Golf Club; Ambiente, at JW Marriott's Camelback Inn Resort and more. And my images were used in some high profile publications. I provided all but two of the images of Liberty National Golf Club used in the official program for The Barclay's Championship, and landed one of my images of Ambiente on the cover of The ASCGA's By Design Magazine. All in all, I kept very busy shooting some wonderful courses from the Southeast to the Northeast to the Midwest to Arizona. Not bad for an old guy. Here's a brief look at some details…
In January I met Jason Straka, half of the new design firm, Fry Straka Global Golf Course Design, when I drove to Dublin, Ohio from my second residence in Indianapolis to have lunch with him. We hit it off instantly. I love Jason's design work, and he has said of my photography, "Dave's work is some of the finest golf course photography I have ever seen!" It's pretty hard not to like someone who has such great taste in photography! (A NOTE: Both Jason and Dana Fry were part of the highly regarded Hurdzan Fry Environmental Golf Course Design, and had recently split off to form their own enterprise, while Michael Hurdzan and his son, Chris, established their own new company, Hurdzan Golf.)
Jason and I stayed in close contact, and he put in a lot of effort to convince Eagle Golf to invite me to shoot his renovation of Columbia Country Club, in Columbia, Missouri; as well as a similar amount of work to get Marriott Golf to invite me to photograph his award-winning new design, the Ambiente Course at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Both courses, by the way, won Design Excellence Awards from the ASGCA and appeared in the society's winter edition of By Design Magazine. Eight of my images of those courses were used in the magazine and one of the Ambiente images was selected for its cover. The Boardroom Magazine, the official publication of the Association of Private Club Directors, has also named Fry Straka Global Golf Course Design The 2013 Golf Course Design Firm of The Year. My congratulations to Jason and Dana on a much deserved honor.
In May, Heritage Charity Auctions and Awards, in Cumming, Georgia achieved status as a licensed vendor for the PGA Tour for… among other things… photography. At the same time, they asked me to begin photographing golf courses for them. I remain completely independent, but when one of their clients needs or wants new images of their course, Heritage sends me out. I have worked with Heritage for a few years, having them do my framing, and I have the highest regard for the quality of their products. We also have become good friends. But until May they had used another photographer, with whom they had a long-standing relationship. From the time I met Dennis, the company's founder, I wanted to shoot for them, so when they offered me the gig I accepted gladly. They had me photograph some of the clubs they work with in the Metro Atlanta area at first, and in September, they sent me to New Jersey to photograph Liberty National Golf Club. What an amazing property owner Paul Fireman has built. It took 13 years to build Liberty National and cost somewhere around $250 million to complete. Designers Bob Cupp and Tom Kite turned a toxic land fill into a dream of a golf course and superintendent Greg James is a genius. The course is spectacular, and the conditioning couldn't be better. What a joy it was to photograph.
Speaking of Bob Cupp, after photographing Liberty National and a few other Bob Cupp designs this year, I discovered that he lives about 5 miles from my Atlanta home. I got in touch, we had lunch, and we've developed a great friendship. We come from very different directions in life, he's clearly much older than I (that's a joke, Bob!) and he's much more accomplished than I ever expect to be. But we have much in common outside of the golf industry and I can't get enough Bob Cupp in my life. Bob is incredibly creative on many levels, generous to a fault and a treat to hang out with.
The year wrapped up with a lightning round of Fall shooting, which included 9 golf courses in 3 weeks. Along with Columbia Country Club and Ambiente, in Scottsdale, I also photographed Dunwoody Country Club in Atlanta; 5 gorgeous clubs in the Highlands/Cashiers, North Carolina area; and The Reserve at Lake Keowee, where I shot more Fall images of the lake and the community than of the golf course. Sadly, the Jack Nicklaus Signature course was a little too deep into its transition to dormancy when I was there, but I'll be back at Lake Keowee in early summer to catch this beautiful property at its peak.
As 2014 gets underway, I can't wait until Spring shooting gets underway. So many doors opened in 2013 that I'm confident 2014 will be my most satisfying year yet. At least that's my story, and I'm sticking to it!