Call it a hobby, a passion, or even a quest. GOLF Magazine is fortunate to boast no fewer than 12 Panelists who have played at least one version of the Top 100 Courses in the World. In the case of Panelist Tom Clasby, however, it’s more accurate to label it an obsession. At least that’s what his wife calls it.
In early 2009, Clasby knocked off Singapore Island Country Club, Malaysia’s Royal Selangor Golf Club, Taiwan Golf Club and Wack Wack Golf Club in the Philippines. In doing so, Clasby became the only man in history to play every course that’s ever appeared on any GOLF Magazine ranking list since the lists first appeared in 1979. Opinion is divided as to whether we should reward Clasby with a silver plaque or a session with a shrink. Either way, his accomplishment is remarkable. Understandably, the journey hasn’t been without its perils. However, the affable 58-year-old Southern Californian takes it in stride.
“I started my quest 20 years ago,” says Clasby. “My first wife didn’t get it. My second wife got it.” These days, Clasby takes his wife and 11-year-old son on as many excursions as possible. His job as an engineering business development consultant and his Olympic Club membership have provided Clasby with flexibility and access, but most of his conquests are born of sheer will — and boatloads of networking. He estimates he’s flown 280,000 miles and spent roughly $230,000 to play them all. In the psycho-travel department, perhaps his 1999 trip to play Japan’s Naruo C.C. stands alone: He left for Japan from L.A. on a Wednesday at noon and was back in L.A. on Friday at noon. Another nightmare itinerary took him to play Ireland’s Old Head, South Africa’s Durban Country Club and New Zealand’s Paraparumu — in one trip. It amounted to 55 hours of flying in eight days, ten flights on five different carriers.
In all of this, Clasby is the perfect dinner companion, conversant on a wide variety of topics. Most of the “Clasbys” of the world are pretty one-dimensional. Not this Clasby. He’s also visited 52 baseball parks in the U.S., sports real estate and professional engineering licenses and has successfully completed an Ironman Triathlon.
Best moment on a Top 100 course? “Getting engaged to my wonderful wife Ginger on the 18th tee box at Pebble Beach in 1993 was one of my all-time highlights.” Toughest course to get onto? “Augusta National, by far! I got on because I was lucky enough to work the Masters as a forecaddie, which is almost equally impossible to playing the course itself. Some of the nicest, most understanding people helped, but it took five long years of begging and hounding everyone I ever met to get to these people.” Courses he would not need to see again? “Royal Durban, which was surely mistaken for Durban Country Club in the early listing, and Marbella in southern Spain.”
So what keeps Clasby going? We’ve got a dozen new courses on our World and U.S. Top 100 lists, so he’s got a few trips to make to stay current. Kudos to Clasby, however: He’s already played nine of them. Hey, what can you say — he’s obsessed — and he’s a great panelist.