Charles Lees was born in Cupar, Fife. He trained as a painter in Edinburgh with the eminent portraitist, Sir Henry Raeburn. After six months in Rome he returned to Edinburgh where he established himself as a portrait painter. Lees was elected a Royal Scottish Academician in 1830. From the 1840s Lees built himself a reputation as a specialist in depicting sporting subjects; 'The Golfers' was his first major sporting picture.