Golf: How far have you driven?

A number of things have happened since my last post:

  • I have played four more courses for the first time, bringing my total to 38 (20.5%).
  • The weather in New Jersey has gotten significantly warmer.
  • I have moved home base for my golfing operations… which is to say I’ve moved altogether.

Looking back on this quest and reflecting on my recent move, I realized this is the fourth location from which I’ve ventured to new golf courses. Raised in Bergen County, I moved to Middlesex County with my wife-to-be in 2006, then to Somerset County in 2009, and we now call Mercer County home. With all of the moves and different home bases in mind, and knowing that I still had a long way to go in terms of New Jersey courses left to play, I wanted to get a sense of how far I’ve already gone. How far have I actually driven to play these courses?

Gathering the data told me some noteworthy things about my golf timeline.

  • While I first picked up a set of golf clubs sometime in the late 1990s, I didn’t play a regulation-length course in New Jersey until 8/13/2005.
  • Between 2005 and 2010, I only played seven different NJ courses. That’s an average of about 259 days between each new course.
  • After a hiatus from 2010 to 2013, I’ve played 31 additional courses. That’s an average of about 36 days between each new course.
  • I found out about my golf quest on 10/15/2015. Since then, I have played 11 new courses, an average of about 18 days between each new course.
  • To date, the furthest I’ve driven to a golf course (one-way) is 63.3 miles.

Taking a look at each course already checked off my list and factoring in when I first played them and where I had lived at the time, I was able to calculate that I have driven a total of 1,942.4 miles (round trip). To put that in context, here are the distances to different golf landmarks across the country from my current location in NJ:

How far have you driven?

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Golf: How far have you driven?

In Medias Res

The Latin phrase in medias res means “in/into the middle/midst of things”. That is how my story begins for you. When used as a literary technique, it’s sometimes meant to be in the middle of some critical plot action, like a battle in war. While I can’t say my story promises such action, you join it in the middle nonetheless.

In my first entry, I mentioned that I was excited about the idea of playing over 100 different golf courses in New Jersey. What I didn’t mention is that it’s also exciting because it means I will travel to areas of the state that I may not have otherwise visited, or even planned to visit. As a lifelong New Jersey resident, this was an endearing prospect. Prior to taking on this journey, the only time I got to new areas of the state in the last four years was on “nap drives”, trying to get my reluctant-to-nap daughters to fall asleep in the car. I used a lot of these drives to find new golf courses and wondered if I’d ever play them. Now I had a reason to.

One of the interesting things about this goal of playing all public courses in a state is that, by pure chance, I happened to be born in a state where this is actually probable, or at least achievable in a lifetime (while raising a family and working a full-time job). When I first considered it, I thought that – apart from other geographically small states like Rhode Island, Connecticut, or Delaware – there must not be many states where someone could take this on. States like California and Texas make the task unlikely with their geographic size and abundance of golf courses, but what about Alaska? It turns out Alaska only has eight regulation-length, 18-hole courses. That makes the 49th state possible, so what about the 50th state? Hawaii is probably likely as well, seeing as it’s only a few small islands. And if Alaska only has a few courses because of the cold climate, what about states that are mostly desert, like Nevada, Arizona, or New Mexico? I suppose as long as you’re willing to make the drives all over those larger states, they would make for accomplishable goals as well.

With the knowledge that “The Goldilocks Zone” for entirely playable states was larger than I initially thought, I focused again on my home state. New Jersey has 21 counties and – by my count – 350 golf courses, 185 of which are public. Coming by these numbers was more difficult than I thought it would be, and I’ve learned that between some courses closing and others being difficult to find, the number is definitely subject to change.

So, how far “in the middle of things” are we exactly? As of the time of writing, I have played 34 of the 185 public courses in New Jersey. That means we’re roughly 18% of the way through my journey. It also means that Kermit was off by a few courses (37, to be precise).

In Medias Res

A man named Kermit

On October 15, 2015, I was enjoying a round of golf at Hyatt Hills Golf Complex (Clark, NJ) with a friend from work. As we walked to our second shots on the par-4 15th hole, the pair behind us hit their tee shots. Typically, you’d expect players to wait until we’ve hit our second and we’re on our way to the green, but they were apparently in a hurry. They walked up and asked if they could join. We obliged.

The pair introduced themselves as Andrew and Kermit. Over the course of the closing four holes, we would learn that they work in Manhattan, and they were actually getting a round in before heading to work later that afternoon. I was immediately jealous. In addition to normal golf pleasantries, Kermit shared something that would set me on a journey.

“My wife and I figured out that there are 148 public courses in New Jersey,” he said, “and our goal is to play them all. No timeline.” Right then, I knew I too had a new goal in life. I had always enjoyed playing courses for the first time, but the prospect of playing over 100 of them was overwhelmingly exciting. Where should I start? How would I find all these courses?

This blog will chronicle my journey to play all public courses in New Jersey. It will also serve as a log of how I develop as a golfer. I can tell you that there will be plenty of statistics, the occasional strong opinion, and hopefully, some engaging stories.

I may even run into a man named Kermit again.

A man named Kermit