The beauty of golf for me always was being able to play different courses. Don’t get me wrong, smashing the ball straight down the fairway, hitting an iron approach pin high or holing any putt are all great feelings but there is nothing like experiencing a new course for the first time. There aren’t too many sports that offer the variety and challenge that golf does but what does this have to with anything?
Rewinding a bit, it was the early nineties when I first started to play golf. I joined up to a club called Windlesham in Surrey and played there for a couple of years. My golf got better but life got in the way and the playing stopped. I always wanted to play the top courses but back then this seemed an impossibility. I mean how does a 20 year old play Wentworth or Sunningdale if not a scratch golfer? I continued to play a couple of times a year but golf took a back seat whilst life took over seeing me emigrate to Australia. Drastic I know but the weather is a lot better in Oz.
My Dad is a consistent golfer and over the years has worked tirelessly to build up Reading Hockey Club on a voluntary basis. I’ve been pretty slack on birthdays but this year wanted to do something special for Father’s Day and came up with an idea for him to play both Sunningdale courses. To begin with I thought this would be nigh on impossible but was wrong and able to get them (Dad + 1) on and both had a fantastic day out.
This stoked my curiosity and I came across the following site ranking the world’s top golf courses. How cool would it be to play all 100 and write about the experience? Surely this hadn’t been done before? But alas it has and quite excellently so by John Sabino in his blog here. Clearly John had the time of his life playing the world’s best courses and this shines through when reading his posts. It reinforces what a crazy challenge this is but what fun it would be.
So I’ve joined a club in Australia, handicap is on the way down and now looking to get stuck into the best that the world has to offer. More importantly is to play as many with my Dad as possible. We of course live in opposite parts of the world now but hopefully can knock off several over the next ten years and is a good opportunity to make up for lost time.
So thats the story. I’ve added some Q&A below to add some more context to the challenge.
1. Recommend a course to play outside the top 100
You might have noticed that the challenge is to play 101 of the world’s top golf courses. I’ve always had this thing to do one more leg\lap than is necessary whether it be swimming\running or whatever, so have included in the challenge. Our intention is to play as many of the best courses as possible but wanted to get some recommendations (assuming anyone finds this blog!) for courses we should play. So I’ve added a poll below with a few renowned courses outside of the top 100. Poll will stay active until we have played 80 of the courses then we’ll pick the highest ranked. If there are any gems I’ve missed then please let me know and I’ll add.
2. What courses are you most looking forward to play?
Easiest answer here is Augusta, I think this would top most golfer’s lists! My dream courses to play when I was younger were Sunningdale, St Andrews, Loch Lomond, Valderrama, Wentworth and Kiawah Island. Of course, this was largely influenced by watching the Ryder Cup and other televised events.
If asked the same question now then I would go for Royal County Down, Sunningdale, Cypress Point, St Andrews and NSW.
But then there is Augusta…
3. What is the best golf course you’ve played so far?
Stoke Poges and Windlesham in the UK, Bali National outside of the UK.
4. Why not use the Top 100 list from the other publications?
Simply because the top100golfcourses was the first list I came across when researching the project. For me its more about the journey and clearly we are going to be playing world class golf courses whatever list we choose. List will stay static even though its dated Dec 2013 but no doubt we will attempt to play the others along the way.
5. What timeframe do you estimate to complete the challenge?
Ideally 101 days! In all seriousness it’s a 10-20 year pilgrimage really, unfortunately life gets in the way and its a logistical nightmare being based in Australia. We’ll aim for 10 courses a year and target those ones in Asia and Great Britain first.
6. How do you plan to play the exclusive US private courses?
With great difficulty! I don’t have any contacts in the US so will target the public courses first and see how it goes. Luckily I work for a US company so will harass a few people there.
But I’ll make an offer here to any members willing to invite us to play their course in the US – I’ll reciprocate with a round at my own course Pennant Hills PLUS a round on one of the Australian courses listed in the top 100.
7. Others have completed a similar challenge and written about it, why replicate?
Solely because it will be an incredible experience. I love travelling and love playing golf so this combines the very best of both worlds. I’ll be writing more about the experience on the day rather than critiquing the golf club as I don’t feel I’m worthy to do so.
I’ve really enjoyed reading about John and Graylyn’s journeys from their blogs (see links page) so will continue in that spirit.
8. What is your handicap?
Late teens at the moment but hope to reduce in the coming year. Dad plays off 16.
9. How do you fund this?
Don’t tell the missus!
10. What if you cannot complete the challenge?
I’m a realist and under no illusion that playing the likes of Augusta, Cypress Point and Chicago will be incredibly difficult. But that’s why its a challenge. If we don’t manage to play a few of the courses and end up on say 95 then that’s ok as we would have had an absolute blast trying.
On a sidenote, the Open at St Andrews was on the work TVs this week. I was talking to someone and stupidly mentioned the plan to play the 100. His reaction – ‘You’ll never play Augusta’, this makes me more determined!
11. What are your plans if you do complete the challenge?
I will keep playing and hopefully be able to revisit a few played with Dad with Alexander when he’s older. Plan is also to go back to where it began – Hurst Golf Club in Dinton Pastures and play that once the challenge is complete. Will provide a nice symmetry.