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Golf Peach blogs on the beauty of ticking off some of the world's best and most famous golf courses
Blog: Collecting Golf Courses Is A Rich Man's Game
I’m not talking about collecting courses like Donald Trump collects them. Signing mega cheques to buy prime golfing real estate around the world is a very, very rich man’s game.
My version of that game is finding the money, the time and the connections to enjoy the privilege of playing some of the most famous golf courses on the planet.
Earlier this month, the West Course at Wentworth… next month, the Ailsa at Turnberry.
I have only been a golfer for five years but already I’ve teed it up on 29 of Golf Monthly’s top 100 courses in the UK and Ireland.
Look out Magnolia Lane, you are on my radar.
My appetite for the quest was sharpened by playing 18 holes on my home course recently with Jimmie James. If you are not familiar with the story of the 59-year old Texan, try to get familiar. Jimmie set himself the challenge of playing America’s top 100 in the space of twelve months and achieved it last year.
It is a feat that is staggering in its own right. The sheer exclusivity of clubs like Augusta, Cypress Point and Shinnecock Hills make them rare vintages to try to add to any cellar, but it was the way that Jimmie completed his collection that captured my imagination.
This was no conquest, no campaign. Jimmie was on a journey to make friends and share experiences in the true spirit of golf. His invitations to play the elite clubs of the USA came warmly, willingly because the members he met were charmed by the man as much as his mission.
My man and I play a lot of ‘roll up’ golf on vacations to courses on our own worldwide wish-list. We didn’t know who we were going to be sharing Harbour Town or Fancourt Links or West Cliffs with until our allotted partners turned up on the first tee.
Sometimes, we didn’t even share a common language but somehow the conversation always began with a universal ‘where else have you played?’
As participants in this global treasure hunt, we invariably collect shirts, hats or visors from the courses that have left the most indelible marks on us. We wear them proudly like badges of honour and they immediately spark debate and discussion as other golfers take the cue to tell you of their own experience of the same 18 holes carved into a piece of earth many time zones away.
Some pursue the ‘ticking off’ of golf’s most famous venues with a boastful zeal. Their world is one long ‘Top Trumps’ game of beating your best course with an even better one of their own. I don’t ‘do’ that.
Neither do I try to rate or rank the last one against the next. How do you compare a raw links lay-out to a manicured parkland landscape?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. With due respect to the doyens of Golf Monthly’s judging panel, Top 100 lists are only a means to start a wonderful argument.
Every round of golf we play is different from the last one. The conditions, the climate, the company, the fickle nature of golfing form and luck can all dictate our pleasure ratings as much as the setting.
Many of us know that feeling of spoiling a £250 round on an A-list golf course by playing like a drain.
Watching the Scottish Open on television recently reminded me of my one round at Renaissance GC. It was blowing a ‘hooley’ of a kind that would have suspended play in a Tour event but not only did we soldier on regardless, I drove the 307-yard 4th ‘down gale’ (and, yes, 3-putted!). Memories.
Time spent on any golf course is prized quality time doing something you really want to do and are really, really lucky to do. Time on a special golf course is doubly precious.
You’ve got to smell the flowers. You’ve got to take something away with you beyond your score or your selfies. New and lasting sporting soul-mates are the best prize of all. Golf is a passion shared.
At the start of this month, I celebrated my mother’s birthday with my family in St Andrews. Golfers and non-golfers alike, we played the famed Himalayas putting course and then strolled across the Old Course.
I had never realised that it is closed every Sunday because the town gives free access to dog walkers and pram pushers to tread the hallowed ground that will be hosting the world’s best players in two years. Simply unique.
The course that sits at the summit of so many bucket lists, the stately spires of the home of golf, the views across the ‘Chariots of Fire’ beach and the Firth of Forth beyond… all there for everyone to enjoy like a public park.
Last year, I was fortunate to play at Carnoustie a few days after the Open. I can’t think of another pastime in which I could tread so faithfully in such famous footsteps that created such recent sporting history. And in front of the same grandstands too.
Next month, I will be following the world’s leading women players around a track I know well at Woburn.
Collecting golf courses is not the fanatical crusade of a foodie intent on dining at every Michelin-starred restaurant in the country, it is a more complete experience that touches every sense with the same views, the same air, the same damned pot bunkers that Jack and Seve and Tiger climbed into.
Collecting golf courses is about living dreams.
Follow Golf Peach on Instagram @GolfPeach and Twitter @golf_peach
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