He makes the world’s best golf courses *look* their best. Here’s how he does it
Every job in golf is a good job. But some gigs — like this course photographer (below) — make us especially envious! To browse more Best Jobs in Golf, click each link here: USGA Museum Curator | TaylorMade content creator | Luxury helicopter pilot | Titleist club builder | Superintendent’s dog | Course designer | Gold Putter Vault guardian | Social media content creator | St. Andrews Starter | Callaway equipment innovator | Pinehurst bartender | TravisMathew executive
If you read this website even occasionally, you likely know Evan Schiller’s name. In fact, if you care about golf, it’s difficult not to know his name.
Schiller owns the odd distinction of being one of golf’s most anonymous celebrities — the rare man who is both seen by everyone and recognized by no one. He has been invited to Pebble Beach and Augusta National, seen courses from South Africa to Anguilla, and at every stop along the way, he has smuggled home a piece of the golf world to share with the rest of us.
It is not a stretch to say Schiller is a visionary. His contributions to golf have changed the perspective of the sport, its landmarks and its most famous venues among the playing public.
That is, after all, what a great photographer does, and when it comes to photographing golf courses, Schiller is among the best.
Schiller’s journey to photography began, naturally, on a golf course.
It was the mid-80s, and Schiller was a Westchester, New York, kid with a dream. He’d graduated from the University of Miami a few years earlier, where he starred on the golf team, and decided to test his skills in the pro game. For a handful of years, he traveled the world on the fringes of the PGA Tour bubble, sustaining his life on odd jobs and occasional Monday qualifiers.
One week, at an event in Palm Springs, Calif., a friend approached Schiller with a recommendation.
“Somebody said, ‘You guys should go play this new course that just opened up the road in La Quinta,'” he remembers. “It was the stadium course at PGA West. You know, the sister course to Sawgrass.”
The next day, Schiller booked a time.
“We made it down to the 9th hole and there’s this beautiful scene in front of us,” he says, recalling the vista in his mind’s eye. “The hole wraps around the water, and there’s a sand trap the length of the fairway with railroad ties, separating the sand from the water. Next to the sand was a beautiful lake and it was dead still, and there was this great mountain off in the distance.
There was a perfect reflection of the mountain in the water,” he continued. “Incidentally, the hole was called ‘reflection.'”
The visual before Schiller belonged on a postcard, if only someone had the gumption to grab a photo of it.
“I looked at this thing and there were no cell phones, and I didn’t have a camera,” he says, the pain of the missed-shot still in his voice. “I decided at that moment. I gotta start bringing a camera with me to the golf course. This is too good.”
Soon Schiller’s passion and hobby had fused. He’d moved on from pro golf, now working as an assistant pro back home at Westchester Country Club, but his photos remained plastered to the walls of his room. Eventually, a coworker posed a dangerous question: Had he considered selling them?
“I laughed,” Schiller said. “I thought, ‘who the heck’s gonna buy these things?'”
“Well, anyway, we put them up and they sold out,” he says. “And the rest is history.”
Today, Schiller has photographed many — if not most — of the best golf courses on earth.
He is one of the few photographers licensed to shoot photos at Pebble Beach, and is one of the only ones who can say he was hired by the Masters to shoot Augusta National.
His style is best described as dazzling, and in the right light, he produces the sort of drool-worthy eye candy you’d expect to see on the glossy pages of a travel magazine. Light is a key word for Schiller, who shoots exclusively during the “golden hour” windows at the beginning and end of each day. (You can find his work at his website, https://evanschillerphotography.com.)
“Shadows are important because you find stuff,” he said. “That’s why you shoot early in the morning or late in the afternoon, because the shadows help to find things that you can’t ordinarily see.”
Still, life on the other side of the lens isn’t always as glamorous. The days are long and the hours are unconventional. Clients can be exacting, and playing golf is not as much a part of his creative process as it once was. Occasionally, he says, he will get to bring his sticks out and play after he is done shooting, but “not nearly as often as you’d think.” Travel, once a perk of the gig, has become one of Schiller’s least-favorite activities — even if the list of places he’s been for golf rivals that of a touring professional, and his frequent flyer benefits are prodigious. (Delta, he says, is his preferred airline.)
“I’ve got good status and all that, but it’s still a trap,” he says. “You’ve still gotta get on the plane.”
This year, he estimates he’ll travel to shoot 40 different courses in more than a dozen states and a handful of countries. In just the last few months, his work has brought him from the East Coast (Baltusrol) to the West Coast (Bandon Dunes), with a few brief stop-offs in between (Mexico’s Cabo del Sol was one particular highlight).
His drone and his eye are in high demand. When a new course opens or a renovation is completed, he often finds himself on the receiving end of the phone call. In the coming weeks, he will tour the new home of the PGA of America in Frisco, Texas, before hopping on a flight bound for Anguilla and the island’s new Greg Norman design.
It’s exhausting work. But even some 30 years after his first introduction to photography, Schiller is in no hurry to slow down. The problem, he says, is that he loves it, and loving it makes it very hard to say no.
“I love the creative aspect of it,” he said. “The creativity of it. I love the conversations I have when I’m out there — especially with the superintendents. I really love being out there late in the day or early in the morning. You’re sitting there waiting and wondering, ‘OK, what’s it gonna look like? Am I in the right place? Do I need to be somewhere else?’ I can’t explain it, I just love it.”
Fortunately for Schiller, he doesn’t need to. Some things are better seen.