The 16th hole at the Cordillera Ranch Jack Nicklaus Signature Course has been recognized as the Most Beautiful Hole in Texas for many years. It is a stunning Par-3 that is also challenging for so many reasons. How do you best capture that beauty and tell the story of what makes that hole so special while at the same time helping preserve history? The answer: you commission Graeme Baxter, Official Artist to some of the world’s most important golf tournaments, including the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup, the Open Championship, the PGA Championship and numerous other PGA Tour events. With his work displayed at some of the most famous clubhouses in the world like St. Andrews, Augusta and Pebble Beach, Graeme possesses a unique ability to historically record golf landscapes and portraits that capture his passion for the game.
I recently sat down with Graeme to discuss his work and the project at Cordillera Ranch.
How did you get started in painting?
I studied art in High School, and my father had an art gallery. I used to buy and sell paintings at the age of 14 and became an Art Dealer prior to painting. I began painting golf courses 32 years ago, combining my love of golf with my passion for painting. At that time there were no other artists painting golf landscapes and there were no prints of golf courses available for sale in galleries, so I guess I was the first to create this combination. My first painting was of St. Andrews and my father took it to show Michael Bonallack, secretary of the The R&A (Royal and Ancient). He loved it, and it all started from there in 1986.
What was your first big break?
I think my first big break was when I sold my first original of Christy O’Connor playing in the Ryder Cup in ‘89 at The Belfry, to Chris De Burgh, the famous singer (Lady in Red). It was the first painting I sold for over $10,000.
What other paintings have you done in the world of sports?
I was commissioned to paint the last two Triple Crown Champions by Bob and Jill Baffert, the world’s top horse trainer. I was also commissioned by a member of Her Majesty The Queen’s Royal household to paint her eldest son HRH Prince Charles on his Polo horse. The Queen owns Guards Polo Club in Windsor Park, London where I was honored to be invited to meet HRH Prince Charles and have him unveil my portrait of him in The Royal Box. Additionally, in 1991 I was thrilled to be appointed by Wimbledon to paint the official painting for The Women’s Centenary Year.
What separates you as an artist?
I guess I was one of the first artists to paint golf landscapes and produce Lithographic prints from them. I believe that my love of golf combined with my passion for painting allows me to create a true rendition from a golfer’s perspective, showing the real undulations of the greens and fairways and capturing the beauty and history of the scene. I believe my gift is to record the history of golf through my painting. My artwork is not graphic; I do not use a pencil to draw the composition in, or use a ruler or straight edge. My paintings are traditional oil on canvas. I was told some years ago by an R&A member that as artist for The Open Championship for the last 25 years, I had been recording golf history.
When did you move to the United States and how did you get to the Texas Hill Country?
I moved to California 15 years ago where I had a gallery and studio in the Palm Springs area, and over the last few years, my family and I have visited the San Antonio area several times, falling in love with its beauty and its great people. We moved here two years ago and bought a small horse ranch where my daughter operates her equestrian business.
What is the most exciting project you have ever been involved with?
In 1995 I did a large 7’ x 11’ painting which was unveiled by Sir Peter Thompson (5 Times Open Champion). I became the first traditional, living, British artist to sell a painting over a six-figure sum. That painting now resides in The Old Course Hotel in St. Andrews, Scotland for all visitors to see.
What were your first impressions of Cordillera Ranch?
I was aware of Cordillera Ranch before I came to live in Texas. I am on the panel for Platinum Clubs of the World and I know it was in the top five Country Clubs in the U.S. Now I believe it is #1 as an overall Country Club facility.
You have seen many great golf holes. What makes #16 special to paint?
I have always been a huge fan of Jack Nicklaus courses, and this being a Nicklaus Signature Course, it is simply beautiful with its rolling Hill Country setting. My only challenge was there were so many spectacular views I could paint, but when I saw the 16th hole, my decision was made. With its natural rock face and valley/gorge setting, it would make the most stunning composition and is unquestionably one of the best scenes and settings for a golf hole. I am very excited to do this painting.
What does the future hold for Graeme Baxter?
I have painted at this point 52 of the world’s top 100 courses, and I paint only eight golf paintings a year, each one taking more than a month to complete. For me to paint and record only the best courses in the world, and to add Cordillera Ranch into my catalogue resume, is indeed an honor. Having been lucky enough to have painted courses in most countries over the last 32 years, my wish list still includes India, New Zealand, Russia and Hawaii.
Visit www.graemebaxter.com to learn more about the artist and view his portfolio.
Marc DeWall, PGA, is the General Manager of The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 830.336.9000.