How our photographer shot these surreal photos of Pebble Beach’s iconic 7th hole

June 11, 2019

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — The 7th hole at Pebble Beach is arguably the most photographed hole in golf. Casual golfers and professional snappers alike have obsessed over the short par-3 for more than a century, which makes portraying the hole in a novel light a near-impossible task.

Count Christian Hafer among the photographers who actually have captured the 7th hole in a stunningly unique way.

When GOLF.com asked Hafer to photograph the 2019 U.S. Open, he immediately started thinking about how to showcase Pebble through a different lens — in particular, the 7th hole. “Ever since my first round at Pebble, which was about 10 years ago, I’ve had this idea in mind to capture the Milky Way above it,” Hafer said. “I knew that if the Milky Way were to line up straight over the 7th green I could create a photo unlike anyone else.”

Hafer woke up at 3:15 a.m. Tuesday, but only because he slept through his 2 a.m. alarm. He grabbed his Sony a73 camera, his 25MM f-2.0 lens and his tripod, and he hustled out to the 7th hole. Fortunately, the sky was clear and he could see the Milky Way with his naked eye — it looked like two clusters of stars. He set up the tripod in two spots: the first was just off the cart path on the left-hand side, nestled in the rough; the second was on the grandstand behind the hole. He snapped a few test images and saw that this shot required a 15-second exposure.

“If I’d set my camera to a five-second exposure, the photo would’ve been too dark,” Hafer said. “If I’d set it to a 30-second exposure, it would’ve been too light. The 15-second exposure allowed the light from the Milky Way to reach the sensor, which was really sensitive because the ISO was high and the f-stop was low.”

Hafer took six images (see two of them below), which he snapped in the 4:15 a.m. to 4:35 a.m. window. Had he arrived just 15 minutes later, the blue light from the rising sun would’ve washed away any visual evidence of the Milky Way.

“This wasn’t the first photo I took of the Milky Way, but I don’t often get the opportunity to take them at golf courses,” Hafer said. “And I got lucky with that shooting star that appeared to the right of the Milky Way.”

Hafer got lucky, and so did we.

The par-3 7th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links with the Mikly Way above, as shot by Christian Hafer.
Christian Hafer

The par-3 7th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links with the Mikly Way above, as shot by Christian Hafer.
Christian Hafer

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