It never hurts to try to improve your image. Therefore, I am not going to Augusta for the Masters Tournament this spring. I’m going there for the art.
It’s not a lie, like claiming you read Playboy for the articles. The Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Ga., is holding a major exhibition, “The Academy of Golf Art: Artists of the Game.” It is already in progress and will run until May 13, so there’s finally something else to do in Augusta during Masters week but, yes, I might force myself to go watch golf and write about it … if, sigh, I must.
The exhibition will feature 27 works, including some by Linda Hartough. If the Academy of Golf Art has a star on the order of Meryl Streep, it’s Hartough. She has done dozens of paintings of Augusta National holes and did the U.S. Open painting for 25 consecutive years and the British Open art for nine straight years. She founded the Academy of Golf Art 15 years ago.
COURTESY OF LINDA HARTOUGH GOLF LANDSCAPES
Linda Hartough will be displaying her paintings of Augusta National through May 13 at the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Ga.
You can see some of Hartough’s work inside the Augusta National clubhouse … if you can figure out a way to get in. Hartough created a large painting of the famed 13th hole that is 78 inches wide and hangs over the bar in the men’s grill. “That one took a while,” she said. “Over six months.”
Hartough lives in Okatie, S.C., and was making a living as a landscape painter when golf discovered her. Some important Augusta National folks saw her work at a Hilton Head Island gallery, called her in 1984 and asked if she could paint a golf course. Sure, she said.
She had played the game when she was young but didn’t stick with it because she “considered it discipline, and I already had one in my life.” The artist was an avid watcher of the game, though, and had a golf background. “I got it,” she said. “I knew the Masters was very special.”
Painting a finely manicured, pristine course wasn’t so easy, she learned. “Golf was a little different, especially painting Augusta National,” Hartough said. “I was used to doing a lot of texture with landscape. I had to change the way I saw fairways and greens and grass. I had to think of them as skin, not grass, and paint them that way.”
COURTESY OF ACADEMY OF GOLF ART
The painting ‘Bay Hill 17th’ by Richard Chorley, a member of the Academy of Golf Art, will be among the works on display in Augusta, Ga.
She photographed the 13th hole, borrowed some club photos and painted the hole. Hartough remembers bringing her finished work to the main clubhouse.
“They were thrilled with it,” she said. “They sold prints at the ’85 Masters, and they sold out in a flash. Of course, they were charging only $50, which was OK.”
She had no idea that it would be a career-changing moment. She did the 16th hole for 1987 and the 18th hole for ’88. Then, Hartough said, club officials decided that they wanted a painting every year. When the Masters anoints you, you have arrived.
“In retrospect, I probably would not have spent a whole career painting golf landscapes had I not started with them,” Hartough said.
By 1990, Hartough was doing her first U.S. Open-commissioned series for the USGA and her British Open annual series for the R&A and was permanently embedded in golf art. She did a Ryder Cup piece, but with commitments to three major tournaments annually, her schedule was booked. “I can do two to three or maybe four paintings a year,” she said. “That’s a totally full year. The paintings take a very long time for me, three or four months, up to six months.”
Hartough has painted Augusta National’s photogenic par-5 13th hole seven times. “Different angles, different views, different years, different lighting,” she said.
Every hole on the back nine except the 14th and 17th holes have gotten her treatment. “They’re not that photogenic or recognizable,” she said. “You’d have to be pretty experienced to be able to pick out those two holes in a painting and say, Oh, that’s Augusta.”
For the same reason, she has done only three holes on the front nine. She considered the club’s adjacent par-3 course as a candidate, too. “I’ve taken pictures, and it’s beautiful,” she said, “but it’s not marketable.” She painted the clubhouse several times, twice from the back, the side that faces the course.
You can see discover her work at www.Hartough.com. Her golf paintings can be seen in two out-of-print (but still findable) books, “Hallowed Ground: Golf’s Greatest Places,” and “Green Glory.”
Currently, she has three pieces in progress for the RSM Classic, views of the course at the Sea Island (Ga.) Golf Club. Those will keep her busy until year’s end.
Meanwhile, she’s looking forward to the exhibition and the Masters.
“What better place to have this than Augusta during a week with an event like the Masters?” she said.
Come for the art, stay for the golf … if you can score tournament tickets.