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|| News Item: Posted 2002-12-10

Swinging Back: Robert Beck's rules for shooting golf
Don't shoot the backswing!

By Robert Beck, Sports Illustrated

Photo by Jay Drowns

Photo by Jay Drowns

Robert Beck brings a surfboard into an elevator at the 2002 Sports Shooter Workshop & Luau, yet everyone looks like this is normal. Oh wait, maybe it is in Manhattan Beach.
I once shot on a guys backswing. Once.

Many moons ago. It was on an absolutely gorgeous day at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in Palm Springs. It was Saturday, in fact, at the Indian Hills course. Ninth hole. Paul Goydos was my victim. He was a PGA struggler who was a substitute school teacher in Long Beach during the weeks he missed the cut.

Up until this point it had been a great week for him. He was on the leader board in the SECOND spot. He was hot. He was going to cash in on this baby. He thought so. So did I.

I found him on this tee box with trees crowning him against the snow capped mountains and a bright sky to silhouette him against. I took the view finder off of my F4 and set it on the ground behind Paul as he lined up his shot.

There were only about ten "fans" around and his playing partners and caddies. There were no other photographers. I framed up my picture and tried to awaken my camera. It wouldn't go on. At this point I stopped paying attention to what Paul was doing and kept trying to get my camera to go on.

I finally pushed the shutter too hard and the thing fired off ...ONE SHOT... right when Paul was on his back swing. I watched the flight of the ball in terror. It sliced out of bounds on the right. Paul turned and glared but said nothing. His caddy screamed "What the f*ck are you thinking!" I was still on my knees stunned.

I just said, "I'm sorry." He trudged off toward his ball and I headed for the clubhouse. I felt so bad I didn't shoot anything for the next hour or so.

I looked for Paul on the range at the end of the day and only found his caddy. I introduced myself and apologized again. He told me not worry about it. "You weren't that bad," he said. "Another guy did it earlier in the day and it was worse."

I didn't want to hear the details of that one. I couldn't imagine how it could have been worse. Paul finished around tenth and I would never have forgiven myself except he won a tour event a couple of weeks later.

I have never shot him since.

He plays golf once in a while with my brother-in-law and they joke about it.

I can't fault somebody for shooting on a golfer's backswing. It will happen. But ...photographer must accept the consequences of his/her actions. The camera shouldn't go in the drink but the shooter will probably have his credential yanked.

The rule is this: You may not shoot a picture until the golfer has struck the ball. We all fudge with blimps, wind, crowd noise and distance factors. But fudge at your own risk.

There are regular photographers on the tour. Watch what they do for a few holes and see how things work. Check with the media officials inside and get a line on the do's and don'ts.

I've seen overanxious photographers shooting a tour event for the first time run around like they are going to shoot something that has never been shot. They usually end up on the wrong end of a golfer's rant. Golf is a difficult sport to shoot. More difficult than you can imagine. The hardest part may be shooting by "their" rules.

The only other tip I can give you is this...If you do shoot on someone's backswing, look at the photographer next to you. Everyone else will too.

(Robert Beck is a staff photographer with Sports Illustrated based in Southern California. He was a featured speaker at the recent Sports Shooter Workshop & Luau. You can view his work on at:

Related Links:
Beck's member gallery

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