In May of this year, underpinned by canceled travel and global uncertainty, Erik Anders Lang introduced a new video series to his YouTube channel: the course vlog. A departure from his typical style-piece films that we’ve come to expect, Erik’s course vlogs are dialed back on production, barring the industry-best shot (and divot) tracer. The videos follow Erik shot-by-shot on a single camera—an iPhone, no less—through his favorite courses, as he provides in-depth commentary on his play: the mental approaches he takes, followed closely by self-deprecating barbs when things don’t go according to plan.
More than a fun piece of content to inhale during COVID-induced pajama Fridays, Erik’s vlogs track the inner monologue of the common golfer. A flubbed chip, to the tune of “I have absolutely no clue what I was thinking there.” And, if only on occasion, “that was a really, really great shot I just hit.”
I had the fortune of joining Erik to film five course vlogs at Bandon Dunes. I should mention that I’m not a professional videographer. Beyond a few college film course projects, this was the first—and certainly most widely-viewed—material I’d ever captured on camera. But Erik’s iPhone, a tripod, and a steady hand would be the only tools I’d need to record the magic. So instead of a typical cinematographer’s résumé, this trip landed in my lap in Tom Watson fashion, with some good luck. I was ready to jam.
Here’s another catch: it was my first time setting foot on the sacred grounds of Bandon Dunes. The crazy part is that there have been few genuine barriers in my way. I’ve lived in Oregon for eight years, played college golf where we toured around the whole Pacific Northwest, and I’d still never been to Bandon. Sure, it’s a four-hour drive from Portland. Fine, it’s costly to play, particularly if you do it the right way and play every course. But as someone who grew up traveling the world, constantly searching for awe-striking experiences, I have, like, zero excuses for not making it happen. The only defense I can conjure is by likening the trip in some way to Vegas: you don’t want to go with just $20 in your pocket. If I’m going down there, I want to soak in everything that behemoth has to offer.
The day before jetting off in my powder blue Hyundai, “Carlos,” with expired registration tags, I triggered back and forth on what my mental approach to the trip should be to aid Erik’s on-course experience. Do I dig into Bandon Dunes like a maniac? Make hole-by-hole flashcards for each of its courses? Leaf through studies that detail local ecological biodiversity and agronomy data? Or, do I go in blind, unadulterated? I opted for the latter, drooling for some surprise in our typical sea of information-overloading.
In that vein, I’ve kept my description of Bandon Dunes on the slim—you’ll have to wait to get there yourself for the David McLay Kidd-style reveal. And instead of sharing my experience trying to get each golf shot in frame, I’ll detail my take on the guy hitting them. Erik is a proper journalist, a nomad searching the world for stories. He has a voracious and insatiable appetite for people and their experiences, thereby uncovering the meaning of things beyond what’s manifestly presented to him. He lifts rocks, makes accusations, and asks questions of everyone, including of himself: What motivates you? What makes you feel happy? Where’s the best coffee around here?
Erik’s course vlogs are his most introspective documentaries to date. They lay bare, vulnerable, begging for harassment from the ever-ready internet troll. We discussed at length the point of carrying on with this form, oftentimes spurred by an errant shot. “Why do I do this to myself?” he’d mutter, more as a statement than a question. I offered that these films were the most relatable he’d produced, and that his viewers—regardless of where in the world they resided—would feel as though they were walking along with us. That’s a tough feeling to evoke from just a 14-minute cut, a testament to Erik’s persona.
I was Erik’s caddie for the week, wielding a camera in lieu of his golf bag. As such, I, along with our photographer, Jake—who meticulously worked on buzzing drones over our heads from tee to green—was treated to travel stories, sobriety stories, mild L.A. celebrity gossip, and an inside look at how this guy so tediously plans, creates, and iterates on his work. “It might look like I’m out here eating dessert, but I take these vlogs as seriously as anything else,” he reminded me. We talked about Erik’s newfound relationship with quasi-fame, and the social exchanges that come with it: the joy he gets when people approach him in admiration, how it weirds him out when they don’t actually introduce themselves. Another testament to the perceptiveness and hunger for connection that Erik carries.
Here’s an example. We took a break on our first day of filming after shooting at Old Macdonald, and I headed off to get some lunch alone—an effort to soak it all in. Just when I’d wrapped up, Erik walked in, plopped down with me, and put in for some fish tacos.
I asked Erik what he was looking forward to in the near future. Here’s someone who, to me, has countless engagements and bucket list-worthy travel plans on the horizon. It turned out to be a harder question to answer than I’d intended. He volleyed the inquiry right back to me. “Better be a good fucking list,” he jabbed with a grin from behind sunglasses.
Quickly, I offered that I was looking forward to stepping foot on Sheep Ranch. Good, attainable—I’d check that box in 30 minutes or so. A truthful answer, but deflective to be sure, and Erik—ever the investigator—wasn’t buying it. I pushed myself harder. What was I actually looking forward to? Her picture flashed in my head like an old carousel slide projector.
I’d lost a friend recently. At the time, I still felt a searing pain behind the eyes when I thought about her. Grief manifests differently in COVID times. It’s lonelier. I think Erik understood that. So, I told him that I looked—and still look—forward to a time when we can go out and feel something together. When we can gain closure.
Erik and I caught a moment alone later that day, tromping down one of the rugged fairways on Sheep Ranch. He thanked me for opening up to him earlier, that it put some of his woes in perspective. We picked our heads up from gazing at our shoes and drank in the infinite stretch of Pacific Ocean in front of us. We were in a special place, making something special, and it was important for both of us to remember that.
We talked to the mastermind behind EAL’s Course Vlogs to learn his story and his creative process.