BRETT’S BEST – a summer of sweet golf photography

Roy Fleming
April 7, 2021

The world of sports photography has its legends, people who always seem to bring home a million-dollar image no matter how challenging the assignment. That’s why I was pretty thrilled to be working alongside Brett Costello for this year’s NSW Open at Concord, Sydney.

I’ve been covering the event as a journalist for the past five years, and throughout every event, Golf NSW Media Manager David Tease (DT) has always hired brilliant photographers, such is the premium he places on images and the stories they tell. 

So we thought it only prudent to ask Brett to pick five from his archives to showcase his summer. There’s themes to everything he does, and it all begins with being there early and reacting to opportunity.   

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A crow steals Andrew Dodt’s ball during the Golf Challenge NSW Open second round at Concord Golf Club, Sydney. 26-3-21. Picture: Brett Costello

Shot 1: Crow steals golf ball

I’d been following the leader at the time and Queensland golfer Andrew Dodt was two shots back and making a bit of a charge. He (Dodt) was coming up 18 and I suddenly heard people yelling, and when I turned around this crow was having a look at the ball. I’m thinking ‘No, it’s not is it?’ wondering if it would steal the ball. 

Crows steal golf balls all the time but not at a professional golf event, surely? 

Next thing you know he’s flying away with Andrew Dodt’s ball. I thought it was quite funny and anytime you can take a picture like this it shows people how broad the game is, and also quite relatable for amateur golfers.

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Professional golfer Aaron Pike exhales a rainbow while waiting to tee off in the third round during the Golf Challenge NSW Open Round at Concord Golf Club, Sydney. 27-3-21. Picture: Brett Costello

Shot 2: Aaron Pike’s tie-dye beard

The really big question about this image, and one that his colleagues were divided upon, was whether Brett knew there’d be filtered colour in the mist around Aaron’s beard. Of course he did, in fact, he went back to the media centre and changed for a 400mm lens to get even closer on the shot. 

“Often in the morning I’d go out early looking for that first bit of nice light. Any dawn or sunset light can give you something special. With golfers out this early, it can make for really nice pictures. I’m thinking I might get a silhouette or a scene shot. As I went out with my small camera, I noticed the golfers were breathing steam, which is the first sign of autumn here in Sydney, those chilly mornings. 

“The light was amazing and I quickly grabbed my 400mm telephoto lens. I use this lens for most of my sport action photos. I could see the steam and the colour of the light coming through was amazing. There is a hedge behind in the shot that goes completely dark which helped make the background work.”

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Matt Dowling hits from a bunker on the 1st hole during the third round of the Golf Challenge NSW Open at Concord Golf Club, Sydney. 27-3-21. Picture: Brett Costello

Shot 3: Symmetry of a perfect golf shot

Again, the time of day helped a lot with this shot as well with the way the light is falling on the sand. As a photographer you have to be aware of your foreground and background. The background of your photo can really help. 

The dark shadows in this background create contrast with how bright the light is on the sand. The background in this shot is one I’m really happy with, the dark lines and shadows work so well together.

Golfers will hate me saying this, but photographers love golfers going into bunkers (chortles). You just know there is a great chance of taking a dynamic photo. 

Scott Arnold on the driving range at sunrise before the opening round of the Golf Challenge NSW Open at Concord Golf Club, Sydney. 25-3-21. Picture: Brett Costello

Shot 4: First sunrise after the Sydney storms

How much do you love the special angle of light in this image, falling on the golfer’s shoulders like a soft laser beam from an alien spacecraft. 

“Another early shot,” says Brett. (If it isn’t clear already, you need early nights). “I got really lucky with the sky this day. We had massive rains the day before and this was the first stunning sunrise we’d had. As soon as I saw the clouds and colour I’m thinking ‘I should be on here’. 

“This golfer is on the range and it’s still quite dark. He’s under the awning of the range, so there was artificial light as well, and I thought it would be interesting to see how they worked together. 

“His red shirt makes the picture pop a bit more, and I was just lucky with that. A darker shirt wouldn’t have worked. The perfect angles of the golfer’s arms and the way the club is positioned also caught my eye. It is literally perfection in motion and it freezes the moment for a golfer who I’m sure would be happy to study the shot.”

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The Hunter Valley’s Dylan Perry during practice for the Golf Challenge NSW Open at Concord Golf Club, Sydney. 24-3-21. Picture: Brett Costello

Shot 5: Just for something different

“The light works well here. When you see golfers go through their swing, there’s usually a split second where the light gleams off the club. It doesn’t always happen, it depends on where you are shooting from. 

“Again there’s a nice clean background, and he has sand raining all around him and light hitting pretty close to the middle of the club shaft. I was really happy to get this shot. Without the gleam it’s still a nice photo but the gleam adds something special or different to it. I’m always trying to do things a little differently, a little abstract if I can. That’s always my focus.”

To check out more of Brett’s fantastic sports photography be sure to visit his website at

– with Roy Fleming

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