After the obvious, and more mundane, first step of working up a rough budget for the trip, and making sure I could afford it, the first exciting step was to actually plot my way across the country; to determine how exactly it would be that I set foot in each of our great 48 contiguous states and capital region.
For every one young man who is going to play a round in each state, there are thousands of people who have merely driven through each of the 48 lower states on less ambitious journeys of their own. I browsed some forums, focusing on the routes of my fellow travelers who seemed most concerned with breaking records regarding the shortest amount of time to get through all 48 states. Not that I’m looking to break any records, but a quick way through all 48 is most certainly desirable, given that I’m also going to be golfing, and writing, substantially during the trip. I love driving, and so am not overly concerned about the overwhelming amount of it I will be doing, but am looking to keep the hours behind the wheel to a reasonable number. That being said, the quickest route was not always an absolute priority in planning the trip either. Please pardon the cliche, but the journey itself is as rewarding as merely reaching the destination.
The following route and itinerary, of course, is tentative, and will serve as a guideline for my travels, rather than as a rigid guideline to be followed religiously. Indeed, the romantic appeal of spur of the moment, seat of the pants free and open travel was one of the primary motivating factors in deciding to do the trip in the first place, and I will be looking to maintain a spirit of spontaneity during my trip. That being said, I do need to actually get to all 48 and DC, so I won’t be straying too far from the purple line.
Complicating matters, of course, is the fact that I will be golfing in each state! It’s not merely a matter of getting to each state; I’ve gotta find a way that gets close enough to the ideal golf course in each state. In planning my way through the smaller states, I picked a beginning point and ending point for each day, and if the trip ended up going through another state, I targeted midsize cities (using a very flexible definition… think populations between 10,000 and 250,000, for the most part) to play my round in, as these cities generally have a nice selection of affordable golf courses, yet aren’t large enough to present significant traffic or travel issues. Once I got further to the south and out west, where the states are a little bit bigger, I switched to planning my trip with the intent of playing a round early in the morning, then driving to the next state with the remainder of the day, and repeating. Early play is advantageous as AM rounds are notoriously quicker than afternoon ones. Early rounds will also allow me to get on the road at or near noon most days, giving me a full day of light to get to the next city. I want to avoid late night driving as much as possible, as I will be tired enough and don’t need the starry, starry nights to add to my desire to slumber.
While I’m only playing 1 round in each state, there are tournaments; there will be maintenance days, and it is naive to think I will be able to get on the course of my choice every day. In each city, or more accurately, in each metropolitan area in which I’ll be playing, therefore, I meticulously identified between 2 and 4 courses which meet the ideal criteria. There are a few states where there will only be 1 course in the area of the state I’m in, and those days will require that I call a week or so ahead to make sure I can get on. I’m looking to play at primarily municipal courses or affordable public courses, rather than nicer, newer and more prestigious courses. Not only are munis and cheap publics, well, cheaper, but they are also usually less challenging and quicker to play. Of course, I’m not afraid of a challenge, but I do not want to play brutally tough courses every day – I’m going to need some days where the course is 6000 from the tips, straight, and has few obstacles. I will be exhausted, and the goal isn’t to develop myself into a scratch golfer, but rather to finish the trip. For my psyche, I will need some good scores, and courses which will offer them are welcome on the trip. That being said, I’m not going to dip into 9 hole courses, par 3 courses or executive courses. I’m using 5800 yards as a rough guideline for minimum length of the course, and will try not to play anything less than a par 70. There are a lot of par 68 and par 69 municipal courses, and playing one or two is a distinct possibility. There are also affordable, challenging, and charming municipals everywhere (See my Durant Eastman review below), and it’s my hope that I’ll end up at them more frequently than the less challenging municipals. I’m trying to keep the average cost of the rounds below $40, and of course, factored this in to my course selection as well. While I am, surprisingly, able to walk 18 holes (had to do so last Saturday – and passed with flying colors!), the humungous benefit of riding will be very appreciated on the trip, and I plan on riding the vast majority of rounds.
Now that you’ve got some background on the thought processes of the planning, feast your eyes on the plan itself! Googlemaps only allows 25 destinations, so I will be using 2 screenshots to help visualize my way around the country. If you will, consider these a “first half” and “second half” of the trip, even though the only planned period of sustained rest beyond 1 day will be in California, well into the “second half” of the trip.
I will be departing from Buffalo, New York, and will be making a clockwise trip. While there is value in driving through the plains early on in the trip when the prospect of the trip will still be visceral and fresh, I ended up deciding that there is more value in going through the smaller states first. The primary motivation for doing this is that I will be able to play two rounds in one day in many cases while in the eastern time zone. This, of course, gives me some days off in the latter portions of the trip, when I will undoubtedly be very fatigued.
I will be starting the trip on a Sunday, the earliest possible starting date being June 30, with the latest being July 14. There are a few reasons why I decided to start on a Sunday. First, I wanted to kick the trip off with a round with my golfing buddies here in Western New York, and starting on a weekend enables my friends to be available to join me on the inaugural round. Second, I will be playing 36 holes each on days 2, 3, and 4 of the trip, and will want to take advantage of the lower weekday rates when I will be playing the most golf. It’s also easier to get on the courses on weekdays; which will be of crucial importance on the 36 hole days.
I’m looking to play the first round approximately an hour east of Buffalo; far enough that I’ve got a good start for the trip to Vermont the next day, yet close enough that my buds will join me. I’m targeting something around Batavia, New York. Batavia is a town divided by the interstate, and has several affordable choices to play at.
After my first round in Central New York, the trip begins in earnest as I’m making the trek to Bennington, Vermont that very afternoon. Days 2, 3 and 4 will be grueling, as each will feature 36 holes of golf with moderate amounts of driving during the day. During this early part of the trip, I will be traveling east through southern Vermont and New Hampshire on through to southern Maine during day 2, from southern Maine through Massachusetts on to Rhode Island on day 3, and from Rhode Island through Connecticut all the way to the eastern suburbs of Philadelphia on day 4.
Days 5, 6 and 7 will feature rounds in New Jersey on day 5, in Delaware and DC on day 6, and in Maryland and West Virginia on day 7, prior to finally having a day of rest on day 8, the only plan being to enjoy the beautiful drive from the farthest southwestern corner of the mighty northeast on through to the southwestern slip of Virginia.
In negotiating the states of the mid and southern Atlantic, the best plan is to pinball between the westernmost portions of these states, and the easternmost portions of Kentucky and Tennessee. Days 9, 10 and 11 are very full, with day 9 being a 36 hole day with rounds in Virginia and Kentucky, day 10 featuring a round in Tennessee, and day 11 being another 36 hole day, with a round in each of the Carolinas.
From here, it gets somewhat predictable for a few days – the only direction to go from here is south. I’ll be traveling through Georgia and Alabama to Florida, and by the end of day 13, I will have 20 rounds in. Leaving the panhandle of Florida, I’m heading west through the gulf coast of Alabama and Mississippi (I’ll already have played in Alabama, making this trip a relatively quick one) and will be taking my first substantial rest in New Orleans on days 14 and 15 of the trip.
From New Orleans it will be north-northwest, as I needed to get Kansas and Missouri out of the way at this point on the trip, as to get them from the north later in the trip would require more driving than I’d prefer at that point on the trip. From New Orleans, the path will take me through Shreveport to Fayetteville, Arkansas and on to Joplin, Missouri from there.
And so the “first half” of the trip will be completed in just 18 days, and I will have 24 rounds in by this point.
These states are a lot bigger, and the line does most of the explaining. From Joplin, I will essentially be heading west, making the appropriate deviations to hit the states along the way until I get to St. George, Utah. The plan is to play in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Utah, in that order, over the course of 7 days. New Mexico and Colorado will be easier, as both states do have courses quite close to the 4 corners. Arizona and Utah are less agreeable, as there are scarce few settlements in northern Arizona and southern Utah. Page, Arizona is the last stop before St. George.
Nearly through the flyover states and back kinda near a coast, I’m heading southwest through Las Vegas to San Diego. While in San Diego, I’m going to try my best to get on at Torrey Pines. I did want to take in one round at a world renowned course, and I think Torrey fits the bill: it’s beautiful, has a US Open pedigree, is open to the public, and, given the prestige of the course, is reasonably affordable. Additionally, I spoke to a friend in San Diego who confirmed that it isn’t unthinkable that a single player would be somewhat easily able to get on. Of course, I’ll be calling them in some advance to see if indeed I’ll be able to get on.
Regarding California, you can forget the purple line above. I love driving, have always loved driving, and am looking forward to the drive all the way up the coast on Route 1 nearly as much as the trip itself. I’m going to take four or five days to make the trip – I’ll need some time off from golf, and also want to enjoy a drive which I’m not sure I’ll ever have the opportunity to make again. It’s going to be a nice leisurely cruise up the coast on to Crescent City. I’m hoping to take in at least one ball game in California, as I love baseball and will not be going on the yearly baseball trip I’ve come to look forward to.
From northern California, I’m driving diagonally across Oregon through to southeastern Washington. As Montana is massive, I’m going to do my best to play in Washington and Idaho in the same day, in order to keep an entire day devoted to Montana. The prospect of Wyoming was looming large in planning – as the state is isolated and has no major population centers near any borders I’ll be near. Nevertheless, I have to get there, and will be doing so immediately following Montana.
From Wyoming, the line pretty much tells it all – there will be 2 for 1 days in North Dakota / Minnesota and Nebraska / Iowa. South Sioux City, Nebraska and Sioux City, Iowa is the last planned 36 hole day, and is scheduled to tentatively take place on the 39th day of the trip.
The plateau of the trip now well behind me, I will round out the trip with stops in Madison, Chicago, Elkhart (Indiana), Coldwater (Michigan), and Canton, Ohio. If all goes according to plan, I will play my 48th round in Canton on day 46 of the trip, having had 11 days of rest / no golf sprinkled throughout.
The trip will end in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, my hometown, at Fairview Golf Course. Within walking distance of the house I grew up in, Fairview has always been one of my favorites, and I think it will be a fitting end to the trip to end at the course I’ve played more than any other in my life. I’m sure the old man will join me, and I look forward immensely to that final putt on the breathtaking downhill par 3 18th.
In all, the plotted course measures in at just slightly over 10,000 miles, and will require about 172 hours of driving. Over the course of 49 days, that’s not even four hours per day, which strikes me as an entirely reasonable amount of driving to do.
This is the mighty steed upon which I will be riding for the trip. It’s a 2009 VW Jetta with Volkswagen’s stellar 2.0 liter turbo charged directly injected diesel engine. It’s got about 64,000 miles on it, and has a 6 speed manual transmission. It’s a great thing that I enjoy shifting my own gears, because I’m going to be doing a lot of it. I put some phenomenally grippy Continental Extreme Contact DW tires on it two summers ago, which coupled with the manual transmission results in a car that is an absolute joy to drive. I look forward to carving corners where applicable. Most importantly, that little diesel wonder that Volkswagen developed is a fuel sipper. Even an irresponsible pace will result in at least 40 miles per gallon, and anything lower than that on the trip will be a very disappointing surprise. With a vigilant right foot and steady pace, the car has routinely delivered me highway efficiency in the 43-45 miles per gallon range.
Don’t hold me to this itinerary, it’s tentative and serves as a skeleton to be fleshed in along the way. Any changes will be noted as they occur, and you can follow the itinerary more closely on the itinerary page clickable above.
As usual, please leave any feedback you may have, and refer the project to anyone you know who may find inspiration or entertainment in what I am doing. You can subscribe via email to receive automatic updates if you’re not the daily checking type, and I encourage you to do so.
The next few entries will be regarding my golf game, and the logistics of travel. There will also be a more fully developed entry regarding the charity element of the trip as soon as I’ve finalized the relationships with the charities I hope to work with, although there will be a preliminary entry on this topic in the very near future.
Finally, I will be appearing in The Buffalo News tomorrow – I will link the article for your consumption and distribution. For the locals – buy a copy to frame!