As It Lies: Artistic Photography of Lost Golf Balls

As It Lies began unexpectedly on a late afternoon in June 2020. My 8-year-old daughter asked me to go with her to the creek to find some golf balls. Her older brother went with a friend earlier and she wanted to catch up and find some of her own. I grabbed my camera and we headed out.

UPDATED May 2024

As It Lies book cover photo. Lost golf ball in the creek with reeds and reflections

I planned to take some photos of the kids doing what they do, but I soon found some interesting compositions with the lost golf balls. They landed among reeds or were illuminated by a sunbeam penetrating the canopy.

Underneath the water, they appeared to shift in shape with the ripples on the surface and take on an impressionistic quality with the water’s reflections.

A lost golf ball underwater in a creek with black and white reflections of the trees. From the As It Lies book

Before I knew it, I was the one leading the charge to the creek. I was totally immersed in the search. I found myself thinking about what other interesting images were out there for me to find.

Fall leaves float on the water with a lost golf ball underneath the surface

As It Lies: Play Your Ball From Wherever It Lands

The title of this series, As It Lies, comes from the golf rule that you must play your ball from wherever it lands. This also describes my approach to these images: I shoot each ball as found. I don’t touch or move the ball, or change the scene in any way for the photos.

Deeper Themes Emerge

I feel there’s a larger collaboration happening to create these images. It starts with a golfer taking an errant shot. Then nature receives it. The ball is held in place, or moved by wind and water over a period of hours, days, months or even years. Only after all that do I find it and document it.

I’m not a golfer, so it felt a bit odd to start taking photos of lost golf balls. At first, I was attracted to the beauty of the scenes. However, after seeing the resulting images and reflecting on them, I saw some themes…

a dirty golf ball with the name titleist visible through dust on the ball
Black & white photo of a golf ball stuck in a tree's root system just above a creek. the ball reads 0 Top Flite XL. From the As It Lies photo book.

Whether in sports, business, relationships or creative endeavors, we all know the feeling of taking a big shot and shanking it into the woods. It’s so off-course that it’s not even worth the effort pursue it.

I like the idea of taking someone’s missed shot and making something beautiful out of it. I hope that means the things we try and fail at can lead to inspiration and success for others

a lost golf ball in lush green undergrowth with spider webs with dew drops on them
Cover photo of the As It Lies book laying on top of recovered golf balls in a bin

As It Lies – The Book

In spring of 2021, I published this series of images as a book. It was extremely gratifying to see a project through to its conclusion. Except I’m not sure that it’s completely over because I still like to go out and take new photos from time to time.

Click here to get your copy!

As it lies, a golf ball in a shallow creek bed with out of focus leaves in the foreground
a golf ball stuck in the dirt within a tree's root system. only a small amount of the ball is visible, leading us to believe it has been covered for a long period of time

Related Content

This is a crazy time of life & it’s been a great opportunity for interesting photojournalism. Here are links to more of my photo stories that have spawned from these times of social distancing and quarantine.

Author: Zach Dobson

Zach Dobson is a documentary and commercial photographer based in Indianapolis. He holds a degree in journalism from Indiana University with a concentration in photography. Since starting his business in 2006, Zach has focused on documenting people’s lives and businesses in action. Zach’s client list includes the Indiana Pacers, Coca-Cola, the AARP, ZipCar, Indiana University, Visit Bloomington, Hamilton County Tourism, Land O’Lakes, RIOT LA Comedy Festival, Indianapolis Public Schools, Indiana High School Athletic Association. Zach is a Professional Member of the American Society of Media Photographers [ASMP]. He resides in Carmel, Ind. with his wife and business partner, Courtney, and their five children.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *