An Eye for Big Moments, Matt Hahn is a Blossoming Golf Photography Star
By Adam Stanley
Matt Hahn.(Andew Wevers)
In the pursuit of happiness, Matt Hahn has been lucky enough to travel all over planet golf.
Without knowing it, you’ve probably seen Hahn’s work in print, online, or on TV. He had all the tools for a big Wall Street job but a chance opportunity to start photographing golf courses and golf events has segued into a full-on new career path. From credit and currency to clicks of a camera, Hahn’s career pivot has brought him to plenty of cool places.
With no signs of slowing down.
“This year has been wild," Hahn says, "with where I've been, and the places I've seen."
Planting the photography seed
Hahn, 28, was a baseball player growing up but admits he got burnt out with how much baseball he played. The summers before both his sophomore and junior years of high school he had a game every day – sometimes two. He started playing golf at a local par-3 course with a few of his friends and joined his school’s golf team in his junior year. He played all winter on frozen greens and got better and better. He says he dropped about 20 shots off his average score between his junior and senior years.
Hahn likely could have gone to a D-II or D-III school to play golf, but he wanted a full-package college experience and not just sports. He decided on the University of Delaware, and as a low single-digit handicap he joined the club golf team there where he eventually became president. He did drone and GoPro content to help promote the club on social media.
Because of the success at Delaware, he eventually became the president of the National Collegiate Club Golf Association (now owned by the PGA of America) where he was the face of the organization that boasted more than 13,000 members.
After graduating with a degree in finance and economics, Hahn was quickly hired by Topgolf where he worked for nearly five years in a wide range of business functions.
Matt Hahn's 3 Tips for Great Golf Photos
1. Good light is the king.
“If you’re somewhere and have the ability to go out at sunrise and sunset to capture images, that's what you need to take advantage of: good light. It's the most important thing for capturing great images on course.”
2. Get a new perspective.
“If you’re going to a spot where it’s heavily photographed, try to move yourself around and get a different perspective. If I see a group of people standing in one spot at a major event, that's typically a sign for me that I need to head in the opposite direction. Bringing different perspectives will help your work standout from the crowd.”
3. Use your phone’s grid.
“Turn the grid on for your phone's camera. Next time you're taking a photo on-course, try putting the subject of the photo in each of the nine quadrants. The best composition for a photo often has the subject out of center frame, and this will help you experiment with different compositions and images. ”
While working at Topgolf, he travelled to some cool places and would often extend his work trips to check out new courses. His full-on photography career started thanks to PGA TOUR player Zac Blair and his annual event called “The Ringer.” Hahn got into that event via a social-media connection and headed to the 2019 edition at North Carolina’s Dormie Club. At the event Hahn was paired with the Chief Marketing Officer of the Dormie Network, a collection of private clubs with a singular membership fee structure.
“I sent a Dropbox (link) of stuff that I took and (the CMO) was like, ‘You’re pretty good at this. Do you ever think of getting paid for this?’” Hahn says with a laugh.
He was hired by the Dormie Network to shoot a couple properties and that was client No. 1. Client No. 2 was the PGA of America, as it had Hahn shoot the new campus at PGA Frisco.
“The Dormie stuff I was doing was […] marketing-collateral style images. What helped me from the start is that I had a bit of an eye for more than a typical golf-course photo and that got me to build out a bit of a portfolio,” Hahn says. “There was a different value proposition to bring me out because you're not just getting photos of the course, you'd get images of the whole experience.”
Capturing golf's biggest moments
Through the uncertain time at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hahn got furloughed at Topgolf and built more of a portfolio of photography, so much so that by the spring of 2021 he saw a seven or eight-month schedule of jobs ahead of him. He posted on social. He networked. Things kept happening, and he decided to leave Topgolf in June 2021.
“This jump was a risk, but it was a calculated risk. I had already run the numbers with my finance background,” Hahn says, smiling. “I had a plan and knew it was going to work out.
“The new world for me was on December 31 of 2021. In 2022, you had to start all over again.”
Hahn, however, had a “great” year in 2022. He’s now done plenty more brand shoots, destination shoots, and tournament shoots. Hahn shot the PGA Championships at Southern Hills and this year at Oak Hill, as well as some work for the United States Golf Association, including tee-to-green drone flyover videos of Pebble Beach which appeared on the broadcast of the 2023 U.S. Women’s Open.
All that momentum carried over into 2023 and now he has an eye on the future. He shot two of the four men's majors along with the U.S. Women's Open and Ryder Cup – “I want to make sure I’m part of that crew for the foreseeable future. You get like 15 majors worth of emotions in that first morning session," Hahn says about the biennial event – and is eager to get more into shooting women’s golf, especially with the Solheim Cup returning to the United States next year, and the other two men’s majors.
“The majors and the Ryder Cup . . . it’s a whole different animal. There are so many different things to focus in on. The crowds. The players. The bags. The details. That lends to the fun of shooting those,” Hahn says.
“You could capture a moment that becomes very significant to the history of the game, and you brought it to life on people’s screens.”
When Hahn caught the golf bug in high school and progressively became more of a golf junkie, he didn’t plan on it becoming a career in the way that is has. But he’s never been happier – or more creatively fulfilled.
"If you would go back and tell high school or college me that I'd be doing what I was today, I'd never believe it," Hahn says. "To have the opportunity to bring the places and moments to life in the game that I've seen is a really special opportunity . . . one that I don' take for granted."