Morgan Purvis had some free time on his hands. The financial analyst from Aiken, South Carolina, just across the border from Augusta, Georgia, had undergone the same micro-discectomy surgery on his back that put Tiger Woods on the shelf, and he didn’t know when he would be able to play again.
“It was the first time in my life where I physically couldn’t do something,” Purvis said of the injury that occurred after years of golf and paddle tennis. “I wanted to set myself a goal for what I would do when I was back on my feet. What could I do to celebrate? »
Abandoned after the operation, Purvis had read about his home course, the Palmetto Golf Club, and the rumor that Augusta National designer Alister MacKenzie had done uncredited work on the design of the green complexes. of Palmetto while working in the area on Bobby Jones’ masterpiece.
“I WANT TO PLAY ANY COURSE THAT HAS HOSTED MAJORS IN AMERICA. —DONNIE LUPER
Local MacKenzie lore sparked the idea of a life-changing “celebration” for Purvis: He decided to quit his job and play 36 MacKenzie premieres, foreign and domestic, the year before his 36th birthday and to document the quest with his amateur photography. skills.
“If I didn’t I knew I would look back the rest of my life and regret not trying it when I had the chance,” says Purvis, who has made two trips to the UK. United to make circuits. of MacKenzie’s early work there. “I didn’t hate what I was doing, but I was looking for a way to temporarily turn my life around and pursue my passion. The quest has really changed my life.
Illustrations by Antoine Doré
Purvis may be on the far end of the golf fan spectrum because of the idea of quitting his job, but he’s not alone. A die-hard group of dedicated architectural connoisseurs, rated course hoarders, and die-hard golf enthusiasts play dozens of courses a year with the goal of seeing it all and doing it all.
Playing all of Golf Digest’s 100 Greatest Courses is a breeze for Donnie Luper and Cory Lewis. Between them, they’ve played more than 3,200 courses, many of them in their roles as Golf Digest course review panelists. Luper meticulously tracks his in a spreadsheet — he’ll have blown 1,300 by the time you read this — and is working toward a personal quest in 2022. “I want to play every course that’s hosted majors in America,” says Luper, a retired endodontist from North Carolina. “I’m five short.”
Lewis is an assistant golf pro at Yeamans Hall, a Seth Raynor masterpiece in Charleston, South Carolina. It is well known in the course architecture mega-fan community for its volume and speed. “I’m a fast player and I can play three courts in a day,” Lewis said. “I’m a huge architecture geek, and I’m equally happy on a local muny that’s $12 or Cypress Point. Discovering places off the beaten path is what makes it so much fun.
For Luper and Lewis, the passion to experience all that golf came early. Luper has a book called The World Atlas of Golf when he was 19, and he decided that if he could find a career that involved traveling, he would play as much as he could. A stint in the Navy as a dentist helped him see the world and get started on his quest. “I’m not so interested in hunting for odds or top price lists. I want to play courses I’ve never played before and get the full experience. My favorites are the places that don’t get as much attention but are so awesome when you get there, like the Buffalo Country Club or Black Jack’s Crossing in Texas. This one is right on the border with Mexico. You can see the Rio Grande River. It’s three hours west of San Antonio and two hours south. It’s as if you were at the end of the world. »
Travels with his father to Scotland and to Pebble Beach as a teenager set Lewis on the path to aficionado. By the time you read this, he will have played his 2,000th course. “Pine Valley was number 1,000, and the plan was for Royal Melbourne to be 2,000, but COVID got in the way,” says Lewis. “Some people are obsessed with rankings, but the joy for me is discovering something special and involving other people in it so they can experience it for themselves. [the Charles Alison-Harry Colt-designed] Davenport Country Club in Iowa. It’s really amazing and in my personal top 50.
“YOU DISCOVER HOW FRIENDLY STRANGERS ARE WHEREVER YOU GO.” —MORGAN PURVIS
For some enthusiasts, the impact is even more tangible. Long Island lawyer Keith O’Halloran wasn’t much of a golfer when he drove home with a college pal who happened to be a caddy at the National Golf Links of America in Southampton. Playing the National with his friend turned O’Halloran into a student of the game. a law firm in Southampton. “My father was a firefighter. Bethpage was the nicest place we had ever played, and we certainly weren’t going somewhere private.
O’Halloran joined the Raynor-designed Southampton Golf Club in 2006, and since then has immersed himself in all things Raynor, making trips around the country to play as many of Raynor’s 50 or so solo designs as possible. . The walks are certainly fun, but they will also manifest themselves in a very specific way: O’Halloran will become chairman of Southampton’s green committee next year and will be responsible for preserving the character of Raynor’s notoriously delicate greens in the face of “modern “. desires for faster green speeds. “I’m here for the experience – to learn more about what I see. I love seeing the Raynor models and how they apply to different terrains,” says O’Halloran. “Take Southampton and Westhampton [another Raynor design]. They’re similar clubs in membership and size, and they’re 16 miles apart, but they look totally different.
This mix of utility and spectacularity is what drew Purvis to MacKenzie in the first place. Augusta National and Cypress Point are both very manicured and completely private sanctuaries, but MacKenzie’s work in the UK is known for its accessibility, such as Crosland Heath, outside Huddersfield in West Yorkshire. It offers stunning views of the town and valley and costs £15 if played with members.
“You find out how nice strangers are everywhere you go and how willing they were to show me what they like,” says Purvis, who has traveled solo across the UK and often proposed to new game partner friends to crash into an extra. room. “That atmosphere was so inspiring. It was about enjoying the game with friends, not the size of the clubhouse or the star rating of the accommodation.
Purvis’ MacKenzie Quest was a success both literally – Crystal Downs in Michigan was #36 – and figuratively. He was on a trip to see his best friend’s new baby last fall when he performed as a guest at the Old Town Club, a Perry Maxwell gem in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Coincidentally, in his group was a developer who had purchased 500 acres outside. Aiken to build a golf course. Purvis and developer Nick Schreiber hit it off, and Purvis has joined the team building Old Barnwell, which is slated to open in the spring of 2023. The private club uses Congaree Golf Club in South Carolina as a model – where serving the local and golf communities is at the heart of its mission.
Instead of sitting at a desk crunching the numbers, Purvis brings the spirit of MacKenzie and the welcoming UK golf culture to this ambitious project in the American South East. “From real thriving caddy programs, to involving more female players, to supporting junior and varsity programs in places where it hasn’t traditionally happened . . . to be able to help build a class with this mission in my hometown?” asks Purvis. “I want to show people how awesome the game is and how the community can just surround it. It’s a game for everyone. »
QUESTS WE LOVE
The Alister MacKenzie Collection (including Augusta National, Cypress Point, Crystal Downs, Ohio State Scarlet, University of Michigan, Pasatiempo)
National Majors: Play at all US major league venues (like Oakmont, Pebble Beach, Pinehurst No. 2, Winged Foot)
The Numbers Game: Play 200 lessons in a year
The Seth Raynor Collection (including Chicago Golf Club, Fishers Island, Monterey Peninsula, Shoreacres, Waialae)
JIMMIE JAMES (pictured)
Golf Digest America’s 100 Greatest Collection: Play all of the current 100 Greatest in a single calendar year
The local challenge: play on all the courses in your home country
The Solstice Golfathon: Play four courses in four states on the longest day of the year
Route 66: tour all 50 states in one year
DR. CLYDE HENDERSON
The World Tour: play golf on all continents (including a temporary course in Antarctica)
RICK SMITH (Golf Digest Top 50 Teacher, Course Architect)
The Budding Architect’s Starter Kit (including Merion, Pine Valley, Quaker Ridge, Shinnecock, National Golf Links, Garden City)
DEREK DUNCAN (Golf Digest Architectural Writer)
The Expanding Horizons Tour: exploring the unique design of public courses (Royal New Kent, Tot Hill Farm, Fossil Trace, Tullymore, Aiken Golf Club, Charleston Municipal, the O’odham Course at Talking Stick, Sweetens Cove, Black Jack’s Crossing)
MATTHEW RUDY (Golf Digest senior editor)
The Top 50 Funniest (including Century, Turnberry, Shadow Creek, Arcadia Bluffs, Keney Park)