Linda Hartough makes career out of bringing golf’s great holes to life

Linda Hartough makes career out of bringing golf’s great holes to life

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Linda Hartough makes career out of bringing golf’s great holes to life

Linda Hartough doesn’t play golf, nor did she set out to have a career in golf. But if you have any connection to the game, you almost certainly know her work.

For more than three decades, Hartough’s paintings of the world’s most famous golf holes have been the standard in the golf-landscape genre. For much of that time she was the go-to artist for the U.S. Golf Association and R&A. On top of her commercial success, she can count a new honor: On April 1, the Spring Island, S.C., resident will be inducted to the Low Country Golf Hall of Fame in Hilton Head, S.C.

As with many Masters champions, it was Augusta National that changed Hartough’s life. The club reached out to her in 1984 with a request to paint the par-5 13th hole.

“Had I been commissioned by any other course, it probably would have been one and done,” Hartough said. “But because it was Augusta, I immediately got commissions from other clubs.”

Soon she specialized in golf landscapes. By 1990 she secured the commissions to paint the British Open and U.S. Open venues. (She kept the British Open commission until 1999 and the U.S. Open commission until 2014.)

“She really is the gold standard of modern golf art,” said Tom Stewart, proprietor of Old Sport & Gallery in Pinehurst, N.C. “And the sheer volume of her work is incredible.”

Nos. 11 and 12 at Augusta National

Nos. 11 and 12 at Augusta National

Hartough is perhaps best known for her paintings of Augusta National and Pebble Beach – she currently is working on Augusta’s 11th for a club member – and she counts Shinnecock Hills as one of her personal favorites. She also developed a renewed appreciation for Pinehurst No. 2 after Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw renovated it before the 2014 U.S. Open – her third time painting the course for the USGA.

“That made a big difference there,” she said. “I used to use Pinehurst as an example of how hard it was to find a subject because it was so much the same everywhere you looked – grass, pine trees. It was really hard to find a subject. The light had to make the whole scene. Plus, there’s no big signature hole there. After the renovation, the ninth hole just hit me like, ‘Oh, this is easy.’ It looks like Pine Valley now.”

Coore and Crenshaw also are restoring Seminole Golf Club, which Hartough has been commissioned to paint. (That will be a 2018 project.) Like many golf architecture buffs, she has become a big fan of their work.

“When you look at a hole, it’s like they’re painting it,” she said. “I love what they do. I look at a hole and the balance and composition and what makes it interesting. All of those elements make a great painting to me, and if they’re not there, I have to invent them as far as finding certain lighting or angles. What they do is no problem (for me). They frame it just like I would.”

Some of Hartough’s early golf landscapes included golfers, but then she had her “Golf in the Kingdom” moment, when the Old World’s links landscapes touched something deeper in her soul.

“After I went to Scotland, you tune into this other element of golf, that metaphysical feeling, the history, the tradition,” she said. “All of a sudden those people didn’t belong there.”

No. 7 at Pebble Beach

No. 7 at Pebble Beach

Stewart has sold Hartough’s paintings for more than 20 years, even when he was representing the artist Richard Chorley, one of Hartough’s most prominent competitors. Stewart sees a subtle progression in Hartough’s work.

“Her work has gotten tighter, more realistic, more what the golfer sees,” Stewart said.

She will, however, take some artistic license. In her portrayal of the Postage Stamp at Troon, for example, she shifted the Isle of Arran into the backdrop, reasoning “it’s part of your remembrance of that hole.” Stewart noticed in her new painting of Ekwanok Country Club in Manchester, Vt., that an iconic church steeple was repositioned to be a part of the landscape.

“To me, that makes it a little easier to sell the picture,” Stewart said. “She’s smart enough to know that.”

Hartough’s creative process is always the same. She’ll spend one to two weeks on site, taking thousands of photos that include every inch of the hole she plans to paint. She shoots in mornings and evenings when the light is best.

Each photo, she said, “is like a pixel – a part of that scene.” Back in her studio, she visualizes the entire painting. “I don’t start until I’ve done that,” she said.

One of the tricks she has learned over the years is to place a mirror on an easel facing her canvas.

“When you see it backwards, it’s like a whole different image,” she said. “If there’s anything wrong with it, it’s going to pop out.”

Once she starts, “it’s like meditation” – she immerses herself in the portrait for hours at a time. One painting can take up to four months to complete.

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