If you read any issue of Golf Digest or spend any time on GolfDigest.com, it’s obvious that our articles are meticulously written, thoroughly edited, always fact checked and consistently held to a standard we are proud to put our name on. What you may not know is that every photo that accompanies these articles goes through the same rigorous pressure test as the words you read. There is a team of photography editors at Golf Digest who spend countless hours researching our subjects, producing the photo shoots, editing the photos and presenting them in a way that brings visual life to these stories. What you see below is just a small selection of our favorite images of 2020, a showcase of portraits that give character to the characters you’ve read about. —Ben Walton
Photo above: Jon Rahm was our cover subject for Issue 1, when he opened up about trying to find his way after having early success as a pro golfer. Later in the summer, he’d achieve what he told us was a lifelong goal: becoming World No. 1. (Photo by Peter Yang)
Former NFL running back Reggie Bush was new to golf when he took up the sport almost seven years ago after he and his wife hosted a tournament as a fundraiser for his junior football camp. Like many pro athletes, Bush turned the game into more of an obsession than a hobby. “Just because I’m not playing football doesn’t mean the athlete in me stops,” Bush told us this summer. “I still have that drive and determination to want to be great at just about everything I do. I love that I found golf. I wish I found it earlier.”
Colt Knost, only 34, called it a career on the PGA Tour in January, injuries making the grind too grindy for the former U.S. Amateur champion. Our Q&A with him—and the photos that accompanied it—captured good-natured spirit of the man nicknamed Big Gravy.
Having defending Masters champion Tiger Woods on the cover of our spring Masters preview made perfect sense … until COVID-19 forced Augusta National to postpone the Masters until November. The cover was already at the printers when the announcement was made. We pressed forward with Issue 4, hopeful readers at least would get some surrogate joy from our articles in what was a dismal start to the major season.
Chloe Garner was among a handful of long-driver talents we profiled for a package in early 2020. As we learned, there was more to the South African native than her body art and love for Metallica. She was a college golfer who became so frustrated with the game she quit for three years before giving long drive a try.
Stop if you’ve heard this one before: A Hall of Fame-caliber baseball pitcher who is also a talented golfer. Yes, Justin Verlander, 5-handicap, fits that mode. But golf fans might take some solace in the fact that while the Houston Astros ace is comfortable standing on the mound with the World Series on the line in front a sold-out crowd and millions watching him at home, “With golf, if there are five people and a ball on the ground, I’m like, Oh, God.”
Christopher Smith, a PGA pro, shot his personal-best score of 65 in 2005. And he did it in a round that lasted 44 minutes. This mark is still in the Guinness Book of World Records for lowest Speedgolf score. Smith shared in an article in Issue 10 why playing fasters will help you play better.
Google the name Scott Stallings and you’ll quickly notice just how different he looks now compared to his former self. He spoke with us in Issue 1 about the decision a few years ago to change his diet and adopt a healthier lifestyle, and shared his secrets to transforming from a 240-pound “biggun” to a 185-pound piece of granite.
Admittedly, there’s not much of a connection between Old Tom Morris and Shane Lowry, beyond the fact they both are Open Championship winners. But when we were preparing for our British Open preview issue, the idea of doing something a little different with the 2019 champ sounded like fun, and the Irishman was game. For this shoot, we used the same London-based costume company that supplied the outfits for the excruciatingly authentic film “Tommy’s Honour.” Said Lowry: “I can’t imagine how they played in this stuff. If I wore this at Memphis, I’d lose two stone!” When the R&A cancelled the Open in 2020, we gave thought to holding on to the images until next year, but they were too good to hold back.
We learned this spring from Evan Geiselman that golf pairs nicely with a pro surfer’s life of traveling to sunny coastlines around the globe. “It captured me right away, how it humbled me in ways I’d never imagined,” said Geiselman, a 5-handicap.
We interviewed Harold Varner III as a Golf Digest cover subject not long after the death of George Floyd triggered a summer of protests over racial injustice. What we discovered about Varner was that his “nice guy” reputation on tour is well deserved, but also why he describes himself as “super-opinionated.”
Playing golf wasn’t on basketball Hall of Famer James Worthy’s radar growing up in North Carolina in the 1970s, even though he caddied a bit at his local course, Gaston Country Club, the same place Harold Varner III would learn the game in the 2000s. Nor was it something he got into in college even as his UNC teammate Michael Jordan started to get hooked. Only after nearing retirement from the NBA in the 1990s.
It had been a whirlwind few months after Andy Ogletree won the 2019 U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst. Late that fall, he finally got a chance to go back to his home in Union, Miss., for the first time since his breakthrough victory. Yet that turned into a whirlwind weekend for Ogletree, who was honored at a high school football game and was the guest speaker at a luncheon in his honor at the course he’d grown up learning the game. Thankfully, though, there were a few moments, like this on the couch in the living room of his family home, where he could relax, if only briefly.
Asha Rangappa’s résumé is so overcrowded—the former FBI counterintelligence agent and mother of two is a senior lecturer at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and a CNN contributor—it’s hard to figure out how she squeezes in time for golf. But she explained in Issue 5 how the game helps reduce the stress of a sometimes cluttered life. “Whenever I do play, I always find that it kind of hits me: I don’t do this enough. It’s just a great way to unplug and be in nature with people I like.”
The play of Jessica and Nelly Korda on the LPGA Tour made them more than worthy of the Golf Digest cover story that appeared in Issue 11, but the moment was a unique—and overdue—one for us. For the first time in our magazine’s history, a female photographer (Mackenzie Stroh) teamed with a female writer (Keely Levins) to capture female subjects.
For our instruction cover story with Patrick Cantlay in Issue 5, we got to learn the language he shares with his instructor, Jamie Mulligan, to make his swing more efficient, intuitive and repeatable after Cantlay fractured his back and was sidelined for three years.