Asked & Answered

A Q&A With Photographer Christian Hafer

By Michael WilliamsMarch 16, 2021Photos by Christian Hafer

Sometimes the Instagram explore page just feels like you are getting punched. The overhead views of the church pews at Oakmont Country Club with green green grass and perfect light started to feel painful. The overhead images would constantly cycle into my feed and I desperately wanted to see them in person. Beautiful Oakmont is a good example of the way in which golf photography has assumed a greater role in our lives — especially during the winter.

Our ability to be transported places (at least mentally) and to connect with photographers has never been easier and more inspiring. That's a big part of how Christian Hafer's work has shaped the way many of us dream about golf in 2021. His point of view on golf has opened our minds to the simple things that make the game so enjoyable. Through sheer passion and dedication to his craft Christian has become one of golf's most beloved photographers. He has a loyal following on Instagram and in 2019 became the Chief Photographer at Golf Magazine. He's also someone who's interested in golf style which is another reason to pay attention to what he is doing. 

In real life he's funny and unpretentious. The old saying that you need to know the rules to break them applies to Christian. He understands the formality of the game, but manages to seamlessly operate in any space regardless of how traditional or casual the situation. His photos highlight the iconic grounds and the hardworking local courses with equal appreciation and care. On social media he's outspoken and open about his beliefs. He's not afraid to challenge golf to be better and set an example for us to follow.

Photography as a medium is compelling because the equipment is almost universal. Everyone could theoretically take the same photo, but it's the photographer's unique eye, point-of-view and creativity that differentiate a good photo from a bad. Christian's style has brought something unique to golf photography and we are all better for it.

Through his work Christian has made us long for trips to Scotland, Pennsylvania and of course, to Augusta National. He's made us appreciate a quiet walk alone or one with your family.

We spoke about how he learned photography, how he came to love golf and what it's like to capture Tiger winning the Masters. 

ACL GOLF: How did you get your start with photography?

Christian Hafer: I was lucky enough to find myself in Colorado as a freshman in high school. I was so out of my element coming from Florida and Chicago that I needed a way to fit in. Everyone snowboarded and while I skated I couldn’t hang on snow for the first year or two. But I took a photography class and immediately fell in love with the process. Loading film, shooting, developing and then making my own prints in the dark room. I also found my place as the designated documentarian of the group.

Golf seems tribal in a lot of ways. What's your take on that and where do you fit in?

The world of golf is a strange place in the best way. I’ve met more people from more varied walks of life than at any point before. I’m not sure where I fit in or if I even really do. I’ve seen so many little groupings of like minded folks pop up over that few years. I’ve got friends from all of these walks of life that I’ve gained from golf specially but I don’t think I’d say I belong to one or the other.

A Prestwick local out for a walk.

Do you get to play often? What's your routine?

Sadly not as much as I want to but the trade off is ok. Those days when I do get to play I usually am at home and get in nine holes really quick either by myself or with my son and/or father in law. I tuck a Leica in the pocket but I don’t shoot anything unless I have an urge to. The game was always more of a way to disconnect from the day to day than a sport for me. So I try to keep that when I play in the moments when I just need fresh air and to think.

One of the things I love about your photo style is your versatility — your ability to shoot sports, landscape and portraits etc. Is there one thing outside of golf that you love to shoot more than anything else?

I grew up chewing on the great street photographers and for a few years that’s all I shot. I loved the ability to go out and make a story totally out of context with reality. These days shooting my kids growing up or getting back to documenting the world around me outside of golf courses is where I’m focusing more time.

Who inspires you?

Cliche as this may sound almost everyone. I think in order to constantly be motivated to make creative based work you have to have a curiosity about the world around you. And being curios leads me to inspiration - often in odd places or people. My wife is the cornerstone of it all though. That love for exploration and seeking inspiration is something I get from her love and support. Even my dumbest ideas she says “yeah that sounds cool”...

What brands outside of golf are you into?

Noah is by far and away my favorite brand right now and for some time to be honest. Everything they are doing is amazing. But Foreign Rider and what Ralph is building is also getting me excited to see what’s next. I’m also a huge fan of vintage Hamilton watches. They used to manufacture everything in Lancaster where I live so I’m going down that rabbit hole.

How did you get your son interested in golf?

Slowly. As you know kids have extremely short clock for anything let alone golf. But over time he started to find what he liked best about it. Never pushed it on him. But having Rory McIlroy send you a shout out video doesn’t hurt.

What was it like shooting Tiger during the 2019 Masters?

Surreal. It sort of snuck up on me that week and when I thought about the fact I’m going to be chasing tiger around on Sunday I was a little brain dead. When they got to 12... I’ve never felt an electricity at a sporting event like I did there. Until 16. Then until 18... it was special.

Ok I have to ask. You won the media lottery at the Masters and had the chance to play Augusta National. How was it as a mortal?

Yeah that was a trip. Everyone was extremely gracious and accommodating. The course itself was harder than you think. As someone that does not really care too much about score it was one of the rare rounds where I did keep score. 10 of 10 would play again.

What's your favorite public golf course and who are the other three people in your dream foursome?

Oh man that’s the hardest question of all. Any Bandon course is my choice. Followed by a few little tracks like Sweetens Cove, Jeffersonville GC and what will become of Cobbs Creek is intriguing. As for the grouping? When my baby girl is old enough I hope she throws a few darts with Dad, Mom and her brother to round out the foursome.