Tee time: golf enthusiasts bring their love of the links from the course to their homes with a range of golf-inspired art
Whether a soothing landscape of a world-renowned green, a sculpture a favorite figure or a cartoon character stuck in a sand trap, art inspired by the sport of golf takes on many forms and feelings, encompassing the varied experiences of those who set foot on the fairway. Artists, publishers and gallery owners who include golf-themed art in their mix say it is the depictions that speak to the emotions experienced while swinging the club and negotiating the course that are selling well to collectors.
Humor and Handicaps
The sentiments that arise from tee time can take on many forms. Particularly for novices, the first feeling is often frustration. It’s an emotion that lends itself well to exploring the comical aspects of the sport. “Everybody has a different experience playing golf,” said Jerry Gladstone, president of American Royal Arts in Boca Raton, Fla., who recently moved to a golf community and is working on his game. “As a golfer, you have to have a sense of humor or you’ll go crazy.” At American Royal Arts, golf art is the most popular theme category and often involves beloved cartoon characters, like Garfield, in poses golfers can relate to and laugh about.
Artist Clifford Bailey mainly makes art about music but has also released some golf-inspired works. “I have seen ‘Caddyshack’ many times,” he said. “Humor is the root–a healthy artistic experiment which qualifies and resonates with many an Arnold Palmer.”
Artist Michael Bedard, who readily admitted that his own limited experiences playing golf turned out poorly, said he doesn’t mind people laughing at his work, including recently released pieces like “Foreplay.” “I’m sure there are moments on the golf course where a healthy sense of humor could come in handy,” he said.
But while some golf-art collectors enjoy laughing at the sport’s frustrations, others prefer to recall the serenity of a particular course, to remember the beautiful complexity of a particular hole or to evoke fond memories of playing at a particular club. For them, golf art that more closely resembles traditional landscape art finds favor. “Golf art has a nice aesthetic value,” said Butch Miller, owner of Framing Fox Art Gallery, which carries a variety of collectible art, including golf art. “There’s a soothing appeal to it” which Miller said can engage both the women who traditionally decorate a home and make art purchases, as well as men, who participate in the sport in greater numbers.
“When you’re a golfer, half of it is about being outside. You’re hob-knobbing and chatting. There’s a warm feeling of camaraderie,” explained Gregory MacBain, owner of Gregory MacBain Fine Art, which sells Impressionistic views of fairways and greens in its mix. “When avid golfers are not on the course, they are thinking about being on the course,” which makes golf art in its many forms a desired addition to the walls of players’ offices or studies.
At Burchfield’s Golf Gallery in Pinehurst, N.C., owners Sally and Tim Gold focus on “all things golf,” including antiques, limited-edition prints and original works, with price points ranging from $10 to $10,000. Tim, who tees off three or four times each week, explained the appeal of both the sport and of surrounding oneself with art that invokes it. “Not only is golf cerebral, but it is spiritual in nature,” he said. “When you play golf, you are baring your soul. You come to understand a person’s personality when you play golf with them. And you also explore your own inner psyche and the demons that are driving you at that time.”
A Green Golf Market
Gold said his collectors primarily purchase images from three golf-art categories: courses they have played, like St. Andrews, Pinehurst or Pebble Beach; famous names in golf, like Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods; and the great matches of the world, including the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship and the British Open.
No matter what collectors are purchasing, those who sell golf art agreed that the customer base tends to be golfers or their friends and family members. They also agreed that the number of golf-art collectors is growing alongside the number of golfers in the United States. According to a Gallup poll from spring 2000, seven percent of Americans said they play golf regularly, and 13 percent said they play golf occasionally. Meanwhile, 13 percent of men aged 18 and older said they play golf regularly, as do two percent of women. “Interest in golf art has picked up in huge numbers in the last five to 10 years,” said Miller. “There are more people golfing, which means more interest in golf art.”
At American Royal Arts, Gladstone described his general customer base as “60 percent male, ages 25 to 45. For golf art” he said, “it’s close to 80 percent.” Gladstone agreed that golf-art collectors are people who golf or who know someone who golfs. “But,” he added, “you never know who you are going to touch with it.”
“Sometimes, one can discover art through an activity that interests them,” said Bedard. “For example, one might be attracted to a piece of art because its theme is about golf, but this could springboard into a broader appreciation of art that could lead to unexpected places. If an art piece is multi-layered, it doesn’t matter what the initial attraction is as long as there is discovery beyond the obvious.”
Like the decision to carry any genre of art, gallery owners should pay attention to their marketplace and evaluate the quality of the golf art before adding it to their gallery mix, said those who sell it. “Not all golf art is collectible or sellable,” cautioned Miller. “You have to make sure you are selling the work of good artists who have a following of people who collect them.”
However, the number of people who collect golf art, the varied styles found in the genre and the ability to use it as a way to move collectors into other areas, make art that depicts the frustrations of the fairway and the grandeur of the greens an appealing addition to many galleries, said publishers and artists.
* American Royal Arts, 800-888-9449
* Clifford Bailey, www.cliffordbailey.com
* Burchfield’s Golf Gallery, (910) 295-6842
* Framing Fox Art Gallery, 800-237-6077
* Gregory MacBain Fine Art, (615) 453-9999
* OXO Fine Art, (310) 455-9569
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