Have sticks, will travel: These guys are crazy about golf
Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday.
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BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – Went here last week looking for natural beauty and came away with crazy numbers. That can happen, even in paradise, when you go to something called a Golfweek Raters Retreat.
One attendee played 388 18-hole rounds in 2012. Another has played in more than 100 countries. Another has played more than 3,000 different courses.
Believe I’m tired just typing those numbers.
It would be something of an understatement to say these people are into golf. They are junkies who go to extremes to play yet another round or visit another remote destination.
Golfweek has about 700 people who rate golf courses for our various top-100 and top-whatever lists. Almost 20 times a year, some 15 to 24 of them attend rater retreats held at interesting courses, some outside the United States.
And the junkie factor is high even though the sample is low.
Such was the case here, where the group of about 15 played two scenic, good courses: Royal St. Kitts Golf Club and the Four Seasons Resort Nevis. The rounds weren’t just rounds of golf for some of them. They were more notches on the belt, more padding to personal lists.
Three of them stood out, starting with Mike Adams, 63, a retired cable-TV-equipment business owner who splits time between Kansas City and Scottsdale, Ariz. Adams, a tall, lean and affable man with a flattop and mustache, somehow played 388 rounds last year – even though he played none the first three weeks and only three after Dec. 15 because of non-golf vacations. That is a personal record – logged on the U.S. Golf Association's GHIN computer – surpassing the 351 rounds that he said he played a few years ago.
Adams, a 10 handicap, shot scores ranging from 74 to 102. He got particularly busy in 2012, a year after playing 249 times, because he had a bet with a relative to see who could play more. The friendly wager helped him exceed his goal of at least 366 rounds in the leap year.
“Typically I’d play two rounds a day, if not three,” Adams, a member at Estancia in Scottsdale and Nicklaus Golf Club at Lions Gate in Overland Park, Kan., said in his high-pitched voice.
One day in September he played five rounds. His fastest rounds of the year were 1:14 riding and 1:45 walking.
I don’t know about you, but my appearance fee is too high to play 388 rounds in a year. I’m not sure someone could pay me enough to do it.
But Adams forges on, using Bengay and a roll-on Biofreeze ointment to relax his muscles. Daily situps and chest exercises also help. He regrips his clubs four times a year, and in 2012 he took two lessons.
“I just love the game,” Adams said. “It’s part of my daily exercise to keep my mind busy and my body strong. I like being outside and feeling the air.”
The answer to one of the questions you probably have is this: Yes, he is married. However, his wife of 20 years, RoAnn, does not qualify as a golf widow. A non-golfer before they wed, she played 96 rounds herself in 2012, about 75 with her husband.
“I had to take up the game if I wanted to see him,” she said. “It’s his passion, and he never complains about being tired. He loves being on a golf course, so I encourage it.”
Adams has a new wager with the same relative in 2013: Most improved handicap index. His goal is get his down to 6.
You can bet that he and his obsessive-compulsive gene will work at it. Before he became a golfaholic, he was a workaholic. With a straight face, he said he got one hour of sleep a night for 12 years, dozing between 3 and 4 a.m.
“It was easy,” he said.
I’ve been paid to write quotes in a reporter’s notebook for almost four decades, and that is the craziest thing I ever jotted down. So I pressed him several times, suggesting that seven hours of sleep a week for a dozen years would be impossible for someone who wanted to live.
So he altered the story slightly. “OK,” Adams said, “I got 10 hours on the weekends.”
Ron Schroeder, 58, of Miami, doesn’t play nearly as much golf as Adams, but he has teed it up in more than 100 countries. A traveling job as director of travel and leisure accounts for MillerCoors helps him pad his list.
In the early 1990s, he played in Guatemala in the midst of civil unrest and said he heard nearby gunfire on every hole. Such an experience, of course, gives new meaning to “two shots a side.”
He has played in Bolivia, where his 4-wheel-drive jeep fell through rock and clay and sank in a river, stranding him for almost three hours. He played at Aruba Country Club, which he calls the world’s worst course – mainly because tees are on cement platforms, fairways consist of little rocks and rough of big ones and greens are either oil and sand or artificial turf.
“You’d hit a shot in the middle of the fairway,” Schroeder said, “and the ball could bounce anywhere. So we drank and laughed our way around.”
He has played Dubai, where he hung out with eight women in black burqas all married to the same man and then scratched his head because he couldn’t order a drink.
He has played in New Zealand at Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs, his two favorite courses. He played Moon Palace in Cancun, where small varmints stole his food. He has played alongside cobras in Australia and chickens in Hawaii and with a 20-year-old rental set in Denmark.
But, despite all the nations visited, Schroeder has not played nearly as many courses as Welshman Derek Dobbs. Vice president of the Donald Ross Society, the 68-year-old retired insurance broker has played more than 3,000 different courses.
If you don’t believe that, check out the basement den in his suburban Atlanta home. Bag tags from all those courses decorate the walls. He has them sorted by country, and then by state or area.
“It just kind of happened,” he said of all those visits. “I used to drive from Scotland and England to see my parents in Wales and I’d stop off and play golf. And it just built. There are a lot of dog tracks in there. It’s all grown by accident, but it’s been fun.”
On the flip side, Dobbs has played every one of Golfweek’s United Kingdom top 100 and more than half of the top 100 modern and classic American courses. His favorite is Royal Dornoch overall and Shinnecock Hills stateside.
Getting a bag tag from each place hasn’t always been easy, so he has manufactured a few using scorecards and plastic coverings.
“Some stuffy old British golf club secretaries don’t want them sold in the shop because they view them as a badge of membership,” Dobbs said, smiling.
Dobbs’ basement also features a snooker table and a bar. But the bag tags capture the eye.
“It’s absolute junk, all the stuff in my basement, but it’s fun,” Dobbs said. “People come in there and say, ‘Where’s Indiana?’ or ‘Where’s Ohio?’ ”
After a few days of my head swimming in unusual numbers, my questions are different. Here goes: When will Dobbs have to build an addition? Will Adams break the 400 barrier before his back goes? Will Schroeder’s next new country serve him an exotic umbrella drink?