Linda Hartough Outlasts Tiger and Paints Her 23rd U.S. Open

With Linda Hartough at her gallery exhibition on Hilton Head Island.This edition of Golf Writer Andy Reistetter’s exclusive series entitled “Meet Golfers the Write Way” features someone you don’t know as a golfer. You know her through her work when you see a collectable print of The Masters, a United States Open or the British Open. Reistetter first met and interviewed world-renowned golf-landscape artist Linda Hartough at the 2010 PGA Show which was her 22nd. Since then their paths have crossed several times, most recently at the RBC Heritage on Hilton Head Island where her artwork was exhibited at the Karis Art & Design Gallery. Join Andy for an intimate conversation with Linda and gain some insight as to how she creates her masterpieces and why her longevity is greater than Tiger when it comes to the USGA’s premier event- the United States Open.

Linda Hartough has been doing U.S. Open Championship paintings for a long time. She painted her first one in 1990 before Tiger Woods won his first USGA event in 1991- the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at age 15. Tiger went on to win the Junior Am three consecutive years and then added three consecutive U.S. Amateur championships. Linda went on to be commissioned by the USGA to create annual paintings and prints of U.S. Open venues for the last 23 years.

Even though her longevity exceeds that of Woods she is known as the “Rembrandt of the Back Nine” instead of the “Tiger of Artists.” More appropriately at The Masters she is known as the “Rembrandt of the Second Nine. Her first USGA painting was the par-3 13th hole at Medinah Country Club. That was the year Hale Irwin was a special invitee, won his third US Open and did a victory lap around the 18th green high-fiving everyone in the gallery.

Linda Hartough's 8th hole at Olympic Club. Photograph used with the permission of Linda Hartough Golf Landscapes.

Linda Hartough’s 8th hole at Olympic Club. Photograph used with the permission of Linda Hartough Golf Landscapes.

The massive Moorish clubhouse at Medinah did not make it into the 1990 artwork but sometimes clubhouses have in the intervening years. In the 1998 U.S. Open at Olympic Club Linda’s painting captured the par-4 18th hole with the clubhouse in the background up on the hill. That was the year No. 18 created some controversy and debate when the second round hole location was on top of a mound. The late Payne Stewart’s six foot uphill putt went past the hole and then rolled past it again ending up 20 feet down the hill.

The hole selected at the Olympic Club for this year is the newly lengthened par-3 8th hole. The majestic clubhouse designed by Arthur Brown, Jr. is prominently present in the latest Hartough golfing masterpiece.

The landscape of a golf hole, maybe a clubhouse yet no people or golfers. Why? “People change the focus of a painting,” Hartough said. “All of a sudden, it becomes a narrative. With an empty course, people like to imagine themselves in it. For them, it’s a perfect moment, a spiritual thing, like Nirvana.”

Author in Vecci Fashions knickers at 2012 Masters with linda Hartough. The azelas in her painting of the 13th were in bloom!

Author in Vecci Fashions knickers at 2012 Masters with linda Hartough. The azelas in her painting of the 13th were in bloom!

How did Linda come to paint golf-landscapes? Originally she painted landscapes of the Low Country near her home in South Carolina. Fortunately the game of golf came to her. Like a lot of betterments in golf she was discovered by Augusta National who liked her landscape paintings and asked if she would paint the 13th hole for them. In reality painting golf landscapes is her “true love” and how many times does your true love come find you?

That first Masters gig was a long time ago. Only the year before at The Masters was the first time invited professional golfers were allowed to bring their own caddies. That year Ben Crenshaw stayed with his original Masters caddie Carl Jackson and won the first of his two Masters. The year was 1984. You can bet Crenshaw; a historian of the game of golf owns a few Hartough originals. Jack Nicklaus has seven.

Linda Hartough with her older brother Dale at the 2010 PGA Show.

Linda Hartough with her older brother Dale at the 2010 PGA Show.

Linda knew what she wanted to do at age 10. She painted her first portrait of her older brother Dale when she was 3 years old. “These are my children,” Hartough will tell you. “I am like a medium; I take in information and translate it.”

She is visually oriented and has an uncanny ability is to see things, distinguish important features and spatially manipulate a beach, golf course, mountains and sky to achieve a unique combination of tradition and natural beauty in golf. The right lighting is the key to creating memorable artwork and Linda will stay out there on the golf course longer than most golfers to get the right light for a picture

Hartough creates a new reality by leaving a lot out. Surf is typically dead calm, not alive. Seaweed is absent so as to not clutter her pictures. She sees how things work together in 3D space and starts with the parts that are furthest away. Typically they touch the sky and occupy the middle third of the painting. Depending on what is in the scene Hartough takes two to six months to produce a piece.

With Linda Hartough at the 2010 PGA Show.

With Linda Hartough at the 2010 PGA Show.

The U.S. Open champion of painters recalls that no one ever told her what to do so her advice to budding artists is that “you have to find your own way, be open to opportunities, just work and produce”… as Linda has for the last 23 years for the USGA and longer for The Masters.

Woods last major triumph was legendary as he defeated Rocco Mediate in a playoff a ways down the California coast from Olympic Club at Torrey Pines. Sounds like Linda’s advice is relevant even for Tiger Woods as he attempts to win his first major in four years.