If You Want Something Done Right

Barry Grimes taught himself to be one of golf’s distinctive lensmen

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Or, if you’re Barry Grimes, when life snatches away your golf apparel company’s favorite lifestyle photographer, you buy a camera and start shooting your own brand of world-class photography. Grimes, a designer and artist who helped build the Ashworth clothing brand from the start, including creating the iconic “Golfman” logo, was working on promotional shoots for the company in the early 1990s. For one particularly large shoot, the company flew golf pros, clothing and camera equipment to Hawaii, but Grimes’ regular photographer announced, out of the blue, that he’d doubled his daily rate. Aghast, Ashworth bit the bullet and paid the fee, while Grimes immediately started looking for a replacement. Somehow, he ended up being the man for the job. 

“All the photographers I talked to were good, but they had their own styles and I knew they’d force their own visions onto the shoots,” Grimes says. He’d studied art at Troy University in his home state of Alabama, had been a graphic designer in one form or another since his teens and believed that he had the specific eye for Ashworth’s singular look. Photography was a completely new medium from a technical standpoint, but Grimes was undaunted. “I figured what the hell, I’d just do it myself. I could make this work,” he says. Not only did Grimes make it work, but he also discovered a profound love of photography. 

Barry Grimes takes photo in desert.
Grimes (left) finds a willing subject in Peter Beames stranded in the California desert. Photo: John Ashworth

His subsequent success in the industry proves just how right he was, as do the images on the following pages. In the process, Grimes has produced one of the game’s most arresting portfolios. Much of his work consists of intimate, tight shots taken in black and white or muted sepia tones, creating drama and moodiness in his subjects. Grimes insists that this was a stylistic choice with a bonus: It saved money on lifestyle and product shoots. 

“When I first started taking photos, most other shots out there were these deep-field-of-focus, full-color images where everything looked too perfect,” he says. “I hated it. I really like small-depth-of-field, shallow-focus images—maybe because I’m nearsighted—so I focused on those.” Plus, using just two colors in photos saved a ton on printing. “Black and white was key because of cost, but it looked great too. Necessity was the mother of invention there,” he says.

For years, Grimes put together Ashworth’s Yardage Book annual, handling all the photography and layouts, turning what could have been an ordinary clothing catalog into a piece of art. When the company sold in the mid-2000s, Grimes turned most of his attention to a design and branding consulting business he runs today with his wife in Southern California.  

But golf photography remains a passion. Shooting the game has been an opportunity for Grimes—who came to golf only just before he started photographing it—to travel to some of the world’s best courses. He considers it something close to a blessing. Those adventures have led to a wonderfully eclectic life in the game, from dinners with legendary Scottish teacher John Stark to handling Bobby Jones’ tournament-winning clubs in private collections. 

Ernie Els
Ernie Els, Muirfield, East Lothian, Scotland, 1995. We were in Scotland for the Open [Championship] doing an Ashworth shoot, so we rented a helicopter and flew Ernie to a spot outside the Muirfield course. We were really into grips at the time, so I just asked Ernie to show me his grip here.
Nantz, Ernie Els, Fred Couples and John Cook in convertible
This was the cover shot for Yardage Book No. 4. That’s John Ashworth’s old Cutlass in Santa Monica, and Jim Nantz was actually driving when I took that shot. (Nantz’s entourage includes, clockwise from Nantz, Ernie Els, Fred Couples and John Cook.)
Tree at Nanea Golf Club
Nanea Golf Club, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, 2003. My wife and kid were down at the beach, where it was about 90 degrees. Meanwhile, I’m up on the hill in the wind, wearing a sweater and a scarf. It was like Scotland weather up there on the course.
Fred Couples swings behind a swing set
Fred Couples, Dallas, Texas, 1994. This shot was meant to be a play on words, with Fred swinging from behind a swing set.
Old Course at St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland, 1999
Old Course at St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland, 1999. That little fire in the distance is coming from a cottage near the boundary of the course.
John Stark smoking cigar
John Stark, Crieff, Scotland, 1994. That’s the late John Stark, former head pro at the Crieff Golf Club. He just loved smoking those little cheap cigars.
Machrihanish Golf Club Flag
Machrihanish Golf Club, Machrihanish, Scotland, 1999. I remember wandering around Machrihanish with my wife, both of us bundled in sweaters, just saying to each other “Look at this!” every time we’d see something beautiful.
Thorns at Muirfield
Muirfield, East Lothian, Scotland, 2008. I caddied for John Ashworth in a tournament at Muirfield the day before this photo. [It was] the kind of day when you play in the morning, have a lunch of a pint of Guinness and split-pea soup, then get out there again. It’s a beautiful place, but then you’ll have these little zones that are like briar patches—real skin-shredders.
Fred Couples dumps golf balls out of wheel barrow.
Fred Couples, Dallas, Texas, 1994. That’s a whole barrel full of Maxfli balls Fred’s dumping out. He was always so agreeable when we’d ask him to do stuff like this. Man, those balls went everywhere.
Lahinch Golf Club
Lahinch Golf Club, Lahinch, Ireland, 2000. This wall is a section of the remains of an old castle [Dough Castle, original construction circa 1306] and I think it’s actually part of the course there at Lahinch. Amazing image.
rock wall
Lahinch Golf Club, Lahinch, Ireland, 2000. This wall is a section of the remains of an old castle [Dough Castle, original construction circa 1306] and I think it’s actually part of the course there at Lahinch. Amazing image.
Old Course St. Andrews
Old Course at St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland, 1995. This is the 16th hole at St. Andrews. John Cook was playing in the Open Championship, and we just spent the week following him around, trying to get interesting shots.
golf ball in rocks
Auchnafree Golf Course, Auchnafree, Scotland, 1994. Auchnafree is a sort of hidden, secret, primitive course on private land that was run by a friend of John Stark’s. The guy was a shepherd who laid the course out himself. We played the course this day with these incredibly old wooden-shaft clubs.
Machrihanish Golf Club, Machrihanish, Scotland, 1999. Machrihanish has to be one of the most beautiful undeveloped links experiences in the world. From most of the course you can’t see anything but this wild, windswept land.