Artist Turns Golf Bags Into Works of Art

By John Coyne


Copyright © John Coyne. All rights reserved.

Artist Turns Golf Bags Into Works of Art 1
Charles McGill and his golf bag art.

IN 1996, YOUNG ARTIST CHARLES MCGILL was working at a golf pro shop on 49th and Madison Avenue in New York City when one day while straightening up golf bags he thought it would be “cool” if he could combine a vintage recording of Malcolm X with one of the very opulent and durable-looking golf bags.

“I thought the contrast would be interesting,” McGill says today. “That was the very first thought of the possibility of using a golf bag as an object or subject in my art.”

Although not the typical artist motif, McGill has found that a golf bag reveals more than its original function suggests. It is a contextually powerful object that is ripe with its own significant baggage. His interest in the golf bag as an artistic object was fostered by his interest in the game itself.

“I love golf,” says McGill, who received his BFA from School of Visual Arts in New York City, and his MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. “I love to play it and watch it on television. I was even thinking about turning pro at one point so that I could be a teaching pro.”

Working in Rye, New York, in the Apprentice Program at Westchester Country Club as a young man, he was greatly influenced by the membership.

“I was able to see how members were as people as opposed to what I imagined or assume rich members to be and how they might act. I think a lot of people think members of country clubs are snooty with an aversion to anyone who isn’t white or rich or privileged. That wasn’t my experience. I met some of the nicest and most generous people I’ve ever encountered. And they were consistently pleasant. They were often grounded in faith and lived by it.”

Today, many of his golf objects are displayed in country clubs. Robert Rubin, who built The Bridge Country Club in Bridgehampton, New York, was one of the first country club owners to feature McGill’s work. An avid collector of contemporary art, Rubin came across McGill’s golf bag constructions and according to McGill, “it was a match made in artist/patron heaven. The club house at the Bridge Club is a perfect setting for my work and Mr. Rubin even made me an honorary member of the club which is great because I can’t afford that kind of cabbage.”

McGill’s talent for golf art also goes beyond golf bags. In 2005 he illustrated Tom Patri’s The Six-Spoke Approach to Golf published by Lyons Press in 2005. These pen-and-ink drawings show his skill not only as an artist, but also as one who loves the game.

Today, McGill lives in Peekskill, New York, and teaches art at Norwalk Community College in Norwalk, Connecticut.

John Coyne is a bestselling author whose latest book is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

Photo of author
Neil Sagebiel

2 thoughts on “Artist Turns Golf Bags Into Works of Art”

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.