Camera gear for tournaments
I use either a mirrorless camera set on silent or a camera with a really long lens so that I don’t distract any players during the event.
If I am using a long and heavy lens, I use a monopod.
I always have a second fully charged battery, extra memory cards, and a rain cover for my camera.
I often use a zoom lens so I can get up close or be far away. With a DSLR it’s a 28-300, with a mirrorless it’s a 24-240, but I have shot with long glass too like at 400mm and parked myself far away from the action.
The night before the event
I charge my batteries, make sure I have extra cards, pack my camera bag, and put it by the door.
I make sure I know the location of the tournament and if necessary check my Google maps app to ensure I will be able to find it.
I verify the tee time. This can be sort of a pain in the neck. If there are only 2 teams competing, they may start as soon as both teams are there.
I get there about an hour before the expected tee time. This gives me time to get an iced tea, a golf cart if they’re available, shoot the environment, get driving range and short game shots.
I am at the tee 10 minutes before the 1st group is scheduled to go off.
Camera settings for tournaments
ISO – auto set to 1/1000 of a second
f-stop – the lowest the camera / lens provides, so if that is f-2.8, that’s what I use, if it’s 5.6 that’s what I use.
White balance – daylight if it’s sunny, cloudy if the day is overcast.
I switch constantly between high speed continuous shooting and single frame shooting.
One memory card slot is set to shoot in raw, and the 2nd is set to shoot in jpg fine.
Focus spot is set to single and moveable.
Focus is set to continuous, and release priority.
If I’m using a long lens on a monopod, I turn off the vibration assistance on the lens.
The most important shots:
The ball coming off the face of the club for tee shots, fairway shots, bunker shots (my favorite), and chip shots. Ideally the ball is within a few feet of the player.
The putt actually going in the hole. This one is hard to get and requires a lot of images to be captured. The guys really like it, but it wastes a lot of space on my hard drive.
Other worthwhile shots:
The players practicing on the driving range and putting green.
Emotion shots, where the player is clearly happy or upset about something. For instance, the fist pump right after a long putt is sunk, the club slap after an important putt gets missed, old friends greeting at the beginning of the day…
Environment shots, these are the shots that show the tournament environment, the buses lined up in the parking lot, the clubhouse, any golf course artwork, the scoring area, the driving range and putting green from a distance. The final scoreboard, I have forgotten this on a couple of occasions and it stinks to miss this shot.
Story telling shots, the coaches greeting the parents, parents greeting the kids, golf carts carrying competitors to the shotgun start holes.
This may all seem stupid to a photographer that is used to shooting other sports, but it is very important. You can get in trouble, yelled at by a coach, player or parent if you don’t follow these rules. You can even get in trouble with the tournament. Just because someone else (including a player) doesn’t follow the rules does not make it okay for you to ignore them.
Movement and noise – everyone in the immediate vicinity of play, including photographers has to be quite and immobile when a golfer is addressing (standing over) the ball. This goes for the tee, fairway, bunkers and the green. If you can hear the golfer, he can hear you. If you walk around when he is standing over the ball and distract him, you may get in trouble. Do not be a noisy distraction to the players. That means either use a mirrorless camera set on silent, or a DSLR with a long lens and locate yourself far enough away from all competitors that they can’t hear you.
Don’t stand in the player’s line. To visualize this, draw an imaginary line from the player’s ball to the hole, now extend this line out in both directions. If you are standing on this line, it is considered rude, you are a distraction and you need to move.
If you want to see loads of examples you can check out Tenna’s archive. It includes photographs from middle school and high school, golf tournaments and practice days.