Article for The Encounter magazine
A Panoramic Passion
As the early-morning sun peeks over the misty horizon, Patrick Drickey stands on the fairway of yet another world-renowned golf course, peering at the green in the distance.
When the conditions are just right, he takes his shot. Then another and another.
It’s all part of a day’s work for the Omaha native. But Drickey isn’t a pro golfer with a 5 iron in hand; he’s an innovative photographer with a growing reputation for his unique portraits of famous golf courses.
Drickey’s passion for golf-course photography led to the creation of Stonehouse Publishing Co., which has a stylish and spacious office and studio in a brick two-story at 15th and Leavenworth streets near The Old Market.
Drickey travels to the world’s best golf courses to capture their essence on film, and then sells his gorgeously rendered lithographs and limited-edition prints to avid golfers or just those who appreciate the game’s beauty. Stonehouse Publishing sells Drickey’s products at more than 300 locations worldwide and through the company’s website.
Drickey’s work is sold at many major golf events, and his list of clients in 2004 includes the Ladies Professional Golf Association, St. Andrews at Royal Troon, the Irish Open, the Ryder Cup and the Canadian Open.
Plenty of photographers have chronicled golf, but it was Drickey’s creative approach to a project in the late ’80s that transformed his career from landscape and architectural photographer to premier golf photographer.
Drickey had been hired to create a calendar featuring golf-course photos for Cushman Co. of Lincoln, whose business included manufacturing golf-course maintenance equipment.
“The idea was that wherever Cushman had equipment, they would have a photo,” Drickey recalls.
Inspired by a Nike shoe company television ad featuring shots of a jogger on city streets, Drickey decided to photograph the courses with a panoramic camera. The results were stunning.
“Panoramic to me was the first camera I used … where I felt like I was actually there,” Drickey says. “It’s because the view is how people see.”
Despite the great photographs, the project languished. Cushman had been sold by its parent company to an English company who turned the project over to its advertising agency.
The agency pitched the concept to Rain Bird Corp., an irrigation-equipment manufacturer, who liked the idea.
The project had new life.
Over the years, the calendars became popular with golfers. Today, they are even used to plan golf vacations, Drickey says.
“Some guys will try to golf every course in the Stonehouse calendar,” he says.
Drickey says he has photographed 72 of the world’s top 100 golf courses and 250 courses in all. Customer favorites include St. Andrews in Scotland and his most well-known photo: the No. 7 ocean-side hole at California’s famous Pebble Beach.
“They either have been there, or they have the dream to go there,” he says.
Drickey sells various versions of his photographs—he estimates 100,000 versions of his prints are in collections worldwide—but his trademark product is the $175 framed 12×24-inch portraits that grace the homes and offices of avid golfers worldwide.
Patrick Drickey’s route to a career in photography began in Vietnam. After his years at Omaha Burke High, Drickey joined the U.S. Navy and eventually spent 21 months in Saigon as a storekeeper. His shop attracted the attention of wire-service photographers covering the Vietnam War, and Drickey was attracted to them, fascinated by their stories and enthusiasm for their work.
After Vietnam, Drickey didn’t formally attend college, but began auditing photography classes at UNO, Creighton, Metro Community College and Iowa State. Drickey’s father, an Omaha-area builder, passed on his love of architecture to his son, and Drickey began photographing buildings. Early in his career, Drickey was employed by local architect firm HDR Inc. before working for Leo A. Daly Co., another local firm.
Today, Drickey, now 55 years old, still professionally dabbles in photography of landscapes, architecture and food (“a landscape only on a much-smaller scale”) but his golf-photography business consumes most of his time.
Now that Stonehouse Publishing is thriving, Drickey has ambitious plans for expanding his business. He recently hired the former director of marketing for Maxfli, the golf-equipment manufacturer. David Vogrin, working from his native Philadelphia, has developed marketing plans that will take Stonehouse Publishing “to the next level,” Drickey says.
Yes, Stonehouse Publishing is a business, but it’s the thrill of the photo shoot that most excites Drickey.
“My favorite place I want to be is on a golf course at dawn when the sun is rising, and there’s mist in the air,” Drickey says. “There is no place else in the world I would want to be. I’m totally at peace.”