Appeared in the Winter 2011 issue of LINKS.
Not long ago, I realized this is my 50th year as a golfer. Other than eat, sleep and breathe, I don’t think there’s anything I have done continuously for such an extended time, and the past half century has brought a precious trove of memories.
Like me, you no doubt have many warm memories from years of playing golf. And like me, you still have several items you want to check off your list. For one, I’d love to shoot my age. So far I haven’t come within 10 strokes, so I have some practicing—and aging—to do.
Although I’ve been fortunate enough to play nearly 700 courses, there are some great ones missing from my portfolio. The current top 10 on my “best courses I’ve never played” list
includes Crystal Downs, Prairie Dunes, Camargo, Myopia Hunt and Old Macdonald in the United States; Ganton, Rye and Walton Heath in the United Kingdom; Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand; and Royal Adelaide in Australia. I’m determined to get to all of them.
Despite living in St. Andrews—on the same latitude as Moscow—I’ve never headed just a bit farther north to play golf at midnight during the summer solstice. That’s definitely on the agenda.
What follows is a list of 100 things every LINKS reader should try to do before hanging up the spikes. Chances are you’ve experienced well over half of them.
I doubt, however, that anyone has notched them all. A few are decidedly aspirational, demanding more than you may have of time, talent, connections and/or financial wherewithal. Others call for nothing but luck—good and bad—while in many cases the only requirement is either character or a passion for the game.
I’m up to 87 of the 100. Of the remaining 13, about a dozen are very tall assignments, so I don’t think I’ll get around to all of them. In a way I hope I don’t. That, after all, is the nature of golf—no matter what you may accomplish, you can never master the game. Whatever grief and glory may come your way, there’s always plenty more out there.
So have a look, check your progress and chart your course for the years ahead. Maybe we’ll cross paths somewhere along the way.
So you can bore people with your stories:
1. Play Augusta National
2. Play Pine Valley.
3. Play Pebble Beach.
4. Play the Old Course.
5. Play at least one course in each of the 50 states. (OK, admittedly this is a tough one—if you’ve already done this, I’m not sure whether I’m envious or afraid of you.)
6. Play two courses in different states in the same day. (It’s a lot easier in the Northeast than, say, Hawaii.)
7. Play at least one course in Europe, Africa, Australia, Asia and South America.
8. Play at least 54 holes in one day—and walk them if possible. (You likely did this a long time ago—and likely can’t do it now.)
9. Play at least five courses for every year you have lived. (If you’re really into course collecting, go for 10.)
10. Play Greenland’s Sondie Arctic Desert Golf Course, the world’s most northerly course.
11. Play Argentina’s Ushuaia Golf Club, the world’s southernmost course.
12. Play Furnace Creek Golf Club in Death Valley, California. At 214 feet below sea level, it is the world’s lowest course.
13. Play La Paz (Bolivia) Golf Club, the world’s highest course at an elevation of 10,800 feet.
14. Get a private lesson from Hank Haney,Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter, Jim McLean or Dave Pelz. (And be prepared to pay dearly for the privilege.)
15. Meet and shake hands with Arnold Palmer. (At 81, the King is still as charismatic as ever.)
16. Witness a double eagle, even if you have to see it on television. (But make sure it’s live TV—no Sports Center replays.)
17. Get up and down, exploding your first shot from a ball submerged in water.
18. Go to the Masters.
Because it's the right thing to do:
19. Introduce someone to the game.
20. Call a penalty on yourself.
21. Caddie for a family member or friend in an important event.
22. Give something back to the game. (Volunteer as a marshal at a tournament, work for a golf charity, donate your old clubs.)
23. Get yourself custom-fitted.
24. Read the Rules of Golf. (This may be the most challenging assignment of all.)
25. Go to the British Open—preferably in Scotland, ideally in St. Andrews.
26. Go back and play the course where you played your very first round.
27. Play 18 holes without consulting any yardage markers, books or devices.
28. Play 18 holes with hickory clubs.
29. Go to a golf school—or get a series of lessons.
30. Visit the World Golf Hall of Fame.
31. Visit the graves of Old and Young Tom Morris.
32. Visit the Pinehurst Resort.
33. Play 10 holes alone.
34. Have your swing video-taped. (It’s like hearing your voice on tape for the first time.)
35. Play 18 holes in 2½ hours or less—walking.
36. If you’re a dog owner, find a course that allows you to take Fido along, and then play it, just the two of you.
37. Learn and understand Equitable Stroke Control.
38. Learn and understand the Slope system.
39. Determine the exact distance you hit the ball in the air with each of your clubs.
40. Spend several hours practicing nothing but bunker shots.
41. Start a golf collection of some kind. (Here’s an easy one: Do your best to make a list of all the courses you’ve played in your life—year played, companions, any salient details. Then keep adding to it. Years from now, you’ll love perusing it.)
42. Learn how to regrip a club.
43. Fall in love with a funky putter.
44. Read at least one book by Bobby Jones.
45. Read at least one book by Bernard Darwin.
Because it builds character:
73. Choke on the last hole to lose a tournament.
74. Play 18 holes in a hard, steady rain.
75. Five-putt—while actually trying on each attempt.
76. Survive a bout with the shanks.
77. Suffer through the yips.
78. Play a Scottish or Irish links in a wind of at least 40 miles per hour.
79. Lose a tournament on a match of cards.
80. Play a foursome (alternate shot) match—ideally with your significant other.
81. Win a sudden-death playoff.
82. Play a U.S. Open course from the championship tees.
83. Lose because of a Rules infraction.
84. Give up the game.
Because, despite the embarrassment, they’re all part of golf’s colorful tapestry:
85. Finish last in a tournament.
86. Call in sick so you can play golf.
87. Play the wrong ball in a tournament.
88. Break a club in anger.
89. Sneak on and play a course—all 18 holes—without being caught (the more illustrious the course, the better).
90. Do damage to your home or its contents while practicing your swing indoors.
91. Hit—but not hurt—someone with a golf shot.
92. Be hit—but not hurt—by someone else’s golf shot.
93. Hit at least three consecutive shots into a water hazard.
94. Hit at least three consecutive shots out of bounds.
95. Find yourself in need of a toilet (not just a tree) and not find one in time.
96. Tumble into a bunker or water hazard.
97. Sign an incorrect scorecard.
98. Oversleep and miss your tee time.
99. Break a window (or windshield) with a ball you’ve struck.
100.Run out of balls.