NEWS

Catching Golf’s Motion in a Still Photo


The photographer Doug Mills went to the P.G.A. Championship with a silent, mirrorless camera to document the sport’s speed and energy.

Justin Thomas was caught in a blur of energy at the P.G.A. Championship at Bellerive Country Club in Missouri.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

TOWN AND COUNTRY, Mo. — Golf is a game of energy, motion and speed — three qualities that are hard to capture with a camera. Nonetheless, I spent the first couple of days of the P.G.A. Championship at Bellerive Country Club outside St. Louis trying to do just that.

The strength and speed with which the golfers hit the ball seem to increase each year. It’s hard to capture that in still photos and with the restrictions placed on photographers covering the PGA Tour.

So I took a silent, mirrorless camera with me this year, and I was free to capture golf at any given moment on the course, without any fear of distracting the players with the sound of my camera shutter.

I could make photographs I couldn’t make before. Justin Thomas, top, was one of those caught in motion on the first day of action.

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Tiger Woods hit out of a bunker on Thursday.Credit
Sand sprayed after a golfer hit out of a bunker on Friday.Credit
Russell Knox’s birdie putt dropped into the cup on the fifth hole on Friday.Credit

Golf photographers are prohibited from taking photos before the club head makes contact with the ball. In fact, I’ve seen golfers and caddies call out photographers who have taken photos during a golfer’s backswing. The mirrorless camera, however, allows me to take photos silently and discreetly. And I’m not alone: More and more golf photographers are using this type of camera at this type of event.

Children in the gallery tried to attract Woods’s attention so he would sign autographs for them on Thursday.Credit

The energy of the crowd is palpable. Fans are five, six, sometimes seven deep, especially when clamoring for a view of their favorite players. Children surge into the pathway asking for autographs. A sea of spectators moves like lava from one tee box to the next.

John Daly had a cigarette after hitting his approach shot on the first hole on Friday.Credit
The spray of grass blades can be imperceptible to those watching golf, but it is easily captured by a slow shutter speed.Credit
Woods in action.Credit

Doug Mills has worked as a photographer in the Washington bureau since 2002. He previously worked at The Associated Press, where he won two Pulitzer Prizes for his photography. 



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