Picture perfect: These 50 photos from a year-long golf trip will make you insanely jealous
Fourteen months ago I quit my job in software sales and bought a recreational vehicle. Over the next month, I transformed that RV into a Recreational Golf Vehicle (RGV), stocked it with golf balls and beef jerky and set off on a quixotic road trip: the RGV Tour. Over the next year I would traverse the country, live out of my RGV and play a s—load of golf. I would pillage my savings and play more courses in 2018 (and the first month of 2019) than any other golfer in the world, or at least more courses in more cool places than any other golfer in the world.
Why? Simple. Because I love golf — I mean, really love it. I love the places where it is played, and the people who play it. I love the history of the game, and creating my own history in the game. I am consumed by a golfing wanderlust.
Still, as I lay in bed the night before the kickoff round at Chambers Bay, about an hour south of my hometown of Seattle, a sinking feeling came over me. What is wrong with me? I have never spent a single night in an RV, let alone a whole year. What I am doing? I am an idiot.
In the morning that idiot woke up, put a peg in the ground and never looked back.
Over the next year — exactly 365 days — I played 403 courses in 47 states, made 689 birdies and put 35,345 miles on my odometer. I made more than a few new friends (775 golfers — many of whom I met online — joined me for a round along the way) and raised more than a few dollars for a great cause ($20,000 for The First Tee of Greater Seattle). I built a rooftop driving range on my RGV. I started a blog and a podcast. I chronicled everything with my Nikon D7200 camera and trusty DJI Phantom Pro drone. I don’t know exactly how many photographs I snapped but I’d guess somewhere around 40,000.
Last Friday — Feb. 1, 2019 — I played Bandon Trails, the imaginative Coore and Crenshaw design at Bandon Dunes Resort, on the southern coast of Oregon. When I tapped in a three-footer for par on 18, the RGV Tour was officially a wrap. And, man, what a tour it was.
What follows are the 50 images from my trip that most satisfy my golfing soul — and I’m hopeful they’ll satisfy yours too. These photographs capture moments and places in time that I want to preserve forever. They represent the very best of the RGV Tour.
Two historic events have happened on the 16th hole at Chambers Bay (pictured above). In 2015, Jordan Spieth made a curling birdie putt en route to winning the U.S. Open. In 2018, I made a two-putt bogey en route to kicking off the RGV Tour. Only time will tell which moment will loom larger.
The RGV Tour twice visited Bandon Dunes. Once on the outward journey and again for the season ending finale. If you are gonna double down on a destination, Bandon is the place to do it.
One of my favorite images comes from the Cal Club in south San Francisco. I had just finished completing an impressive three-putt on the 3rd green when I noticed the cloud formation. A great photo can ease the bogey blues.
In 2016, Bluejack National debuted the first Tiger Woods-designed course in the United States. The layout evokes feelings similar to that of Augusta National with its sweeping vistas. What you don’t see here is our group playing barefoot on Bluejack’s excellent (and laid-back) par-3 course.
Up until about May the tour encountered challenging shoulder-season conditions. I like to say I was shooting supermodels without any makeup on. Here’s a look at Boone Valley, one of the true golfing beauties of St. Louis.
Despite its dusty desert surrounds, there is no shortage of landscaping in Palm Springs, even U.S.-flags-made-from-flowers-type landscaping.
When I made my putt for bogey on the 18th hole of Three Crowns, I had officially played a round in all 50 states (in my life, not on this tour). I was alone when the putt dropped; the feeling was serene and profound.
Perhaps my favorite par-3 of the entire trip is the 15th at Whispering Pines. The hole, featuring a sliver of a green, plays anywhere from 178 to 126 yards. Give yourself a fist pump if you find the putting surface. I played it twice: one fist pump, one #@$%#!!!
Indio is home to a weekly get-together known as Muni Madness, one of the country’s most unique golf events. Basically, it’s a large skins game with two rules: no posing and no touching players when they make a swing. Everything else is fair game. Our group played as a 38-some.
Spanish Bay is the “runt” of the litter out on California’s spectacular Monterey Peninsula, but it’s no slouch. It has great sandy terrain, ocean views, and a lower price point than its brothers and sisters.
When I was on the 9th tee box at Southern Hills, the general manager, Nick Sidorakis, came out to meet me and learn more about the RGV Tour. He was such a fan of the idea that he called out the local news media. By 9 p.m. that evening, I was on Channel 6 hitting drives down the 1st fairway from atop the RGV.
The last of the day’s light hits the 1st green at Morro Bay Golf Course, a popular public-access option on the California coast.
There was no shortage of great par 4s on the RGV Tour, but the highlight may have been the 17th hole at Crystal Downs. It’s got several options off the tee, curves for days, and views for miles.
The Donald Ross-designed Plainfield CC is anything but a plain field. It’s a stunner.
When I was 14, I got a chance to play Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course for the first time. I shot 75 and was convinced that I was going to play on the PGA Tour someday. Twenty-four years later, I returned and shot 78. No, still not quite Tour-ready.
For 10 years, I googled pictures of this very spot at Somerset Hills. In July 2018, I was able to take a picture of my own. Dreams come true on the RGV Tour.
The Old White Course at Greenbrier is one of the few places that the public can enjoy a Seth Raynor-designed course. The PGA Tour also makes a visit each year for the Greenbrier Classic.
“Can we get some high kicks with that three-putt?” Those are the words I heard from the porch overlooking the 18th green at Inverness Country Club in Ohio. A couple of rabid RGV Tour fans had recognized me and wanted some entertainment to go with their dinner. I often ran into followers of the RGV Tour, and it never get old.
Streamsong Resort in Florida is now home to three world-class courses. Coore and Crenshaw designed the Red, Tom Doak created the Blue, and Gil Hanse recently added the Black course, pictured here.
On the 2nd hole at Galloway National in New Jersey, I ran into an army of Greenhead flies. These little buggers bite hard and I was running for cover. Fortunately, my man on the bag had some insect repellent that saved me (and my score).
Ballyhack Golf Club was one of the few places that I actually abandoned the RGV for a night in a normal bed. The accommodations at the resort were too cushy to resist.
Congressional Country Club in Maryland boasts America’s largest clubhouse; I got lost somewhere between the library and the foyer. I eventually found my way to the course, which has hosted three U.S. Opens.
The 18th tee box at Oakmont was one of my favorite spots on the RGV Tour. By this point you are probably 25 over par, but you honestly don’t give a damn. The course is fast, fun, and challenging. It engages your golf brain like no other design and has some of the best views in golf.
With 800 million gallons of water spread throughout Victoria National, this course is one of Tom Fazio’s most challenging designs. According to legend, the record for most lost balls during one round here is 90. That is nearly 10 pounds of balls.
Fox Chapel in Pittsburgh is one of my favorite Raynor designs and this view from behind the 12th green does a fabulous job of showing the contours typically encountered on a Raynor course.
With traffic everywhere and low clearances on all of the parkways, New York was the most difficult state in which to drive the RGV. I actually had to use a physical map to navigate like it was 1995 to make it out to Binghamton Country Club.
One of the most meticulously maintained courses in the U.S. is Wade Hampton in North Carolina. On my visit, the maintenance crew was raking the creeks to make sure that they flowed pure with mountain spring water.
The RGV Tour teed off on Sunday River at the exact same time as Tiger Woods did on Sunday during the 2018 PGA Championship. I hustled around in three hours so I could watch Tiger come down the stretch. Unfortunately, Brooks Koepka spoiled the party.
I pumped my drive way right on the 8th hole at Oak Hill Country Club in upstate New York. As I emerged from the forest, I found this view greeting me. The light had broken through the clouds and onto the green for a brief moment. I clicked the shutter on my camera and smiled.
In 2018, The Links at Terranea was the stage for one of golf’s most historic events. On the 7th hole, Evan Johnsen recorded the first hole-in-one on the RGV Tour. Out of roughly 4,620 attempts, Evan was the lone RGV participant to achieve perfection.
The Cradle at Pinehurst is a splendid example of golf moving in the right direction. This nine-hole par-3 course is as fun, fun, fun. They pump music out of the bushes and serve serious drinks from the “Pine Cone” bar. You only need a handful of clubs to play the course, which allows your other hand to be free for high-fives and tasty beverages.
“It’s gonna be a slog today,” said my RGV Tour host at Sleepy Hollow CC, in New York’s Hudson Valley, “we gotta play behind Bill Clinton and James Patterson.” After shaking hands with the former President, we moved around the course in under four hours and holed our putts on 18 as a downpour rolled in.
If you have had the chance to play Sutton Bay, you know how good it is. Since most of us don’t have an RGV to drive out to South Dakota, many of you are just gonna have to take my word for it.
Jack Nicklaus’s Coyote Springs is located about 50 miles north of the Las Vegas strip and is well worth the drive. Just pile your hungover buddies into the rental car and head on out. Like many good golf experiences, the course is in the middle of nowhere.
The only course that I played in the state of Rhode Island was Wannamoisett Country Club. The course is a par-69, and I shot a smooth 69. I always break 70 when playing in Rhode Island.
My 500th birdie on the RGV Tour came on the 18th hole at Interlachen Country Club in Minnesota. There were fist pumps, hugs and high-fives. I am pretty sure my caddie, Kaileigh, even cried a little.
The best nine holes in America belong to The Dunes Club in New Buffalo, Mich. The course is so low key that I drove past the entrance three times before spotting the gate. The club is Mike Keiser’s original entrée into the world of course development, paving way for places like Bandon Dunes, Cabot Cliffs and Sand Valley.
One of the most difficult tasks when creating the RGV Tour was routing the journey for each season. Since I couldn’t play everywhere in the middle of summer, I had to gamble on a couple of very exciting states. That gamble paid off when I visited Spring Hill Country Club in peak fall conditions. “Just hit your drive down the left hand side of these flaming trees.”
Snow Canyon at Entrada has three holes that wind through an old lava field. Fun fact: 100 percent of golfers say “Holy Crap!” when they see these holes for the first time.
One of my favorite things to do on tour is take pictures of the interesting tee markers. No markers caught my attention like the little umbrellas at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club.
My round at Lake Winnipesaukee Country Club in New Hampshire was the sweatiest experience of my life. With mid-summer temps reaching 105, I barely had enough time to wipe my hands free of sweat to grip the club before my mitts would begin perspiring again.
One of my favorite photos from the tour features Somerset Hills Country Club in New Jersey. The green sites on this A.W. Tillinghast classic are bold and super-fun to play — and just one of the reasons that Somerset is one of the most underrated courses in the U.S.
The highlights from the RGV Tour do not always come from America’s most highly regarded golf courses. Highland Links on the tip of Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, is one of my sleeper picks. It is a pure links and pure fun.
The 10th and 11th holes at The Creek Club in Locust Valley, N.Y., are some of the best on Long Island. The 10th is a drivable par-4 cape hole and the 11th comes back at us with an island Biarritz green.
The Bighorn Sheep experience at PGA West was one of the best wildlife encounters on the tour. As we hit our tee shots into the 15th hole on the Palmer Private course, we were greeted by 31 of these guys. This fellow was my favorite.
One of the best entrances in golf belongs to The Bridge on Long Island, New York. The Chevron Gasolines overhang is a remnant from the old Bridgehampton Race Circuit, which occupied the land back in the 1960s and 70s.
“Yeah just stand there like that, show that bag who is the real boss.” Some of my favorite caddies on the RGV Tour have been the young ones. My man on the bag at Essex County Club in Massachusetts had great enthusiasm and energy.
My favorite hang spot on the RGV Tour was Eastward Ho! on Cape Cod. You can enjoy some Clam Chowder at the bar inside or watch your buddies lip-out for par as they finish up on 18.
Another one of my sleeper picks is Piedmont Driving Club just outside of Atlanta. The name reflects the interest of the members to “drive” their horse and carriages on the club grounds. The RGV tour expressed more of an interest in driving golf balls.
The Loop at Forest Dunes has received a lot of attention, but the original course there remains the fan favorite. I was playing solo and rather poorly all day when a threesome caught up to me on the 17th hole (pictured here). In front of my new friends, I finished eagle-birdie and remained pretty casual. No big deal.
With so many great options in the New York City area, Wykagyl Country Club often gets overlooked. The former LPGA tour venue is a gem.
Seven Canyons was the most scenic stop on the RGV Tour. The Tom Weiskopf design even does a good job of holding your attention as you try not to get lost in the majestic red rocks.
Most golfers are familiar with the basket flags at Merion but few are aware that Rivermont Golf Club in Johns Creek, Ga., has them in yellow. The club teaches its employees basket-weaving during the off season to make sure they have plenty of back-ups on hand.
The 3rd hole at Kittanset Club in Massachusetts is so effortlessly awesome. It’s just a beach with a green on it. I love it.
At Jupiter Hills, I got a chance to sit down and trade some stories with Tom Fazio after my round on his design. Listening to Tom explain his thought process on some of the holes you just played was an enlightening experience.
Often referred to as the “Poor Man’s Pebble Beach,” Pacific Grove Golf Links is one of the purest nine-hole links experiences in the country. The front nine will leave you wondering why, while the back nine will leave you thinking, OK, now I get it.
Northwood is a nine-hole Alister Mackenzie design nestled in the Redwood Forests of Northern California. I can’t think of a better way to spend $24.
If there is a better 36-hole club in the U.S. than Monterey Peninsula Country Club, I have not played it. Both the Shore Course and the Dunes Course will delight the soul.
The most popular question that I received on the RGV Tour: “What is the best course that you have played?” Easy. Cypress Point Club.