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When It’s Time to Trash the Top-100 List

How a simple text forced a player to reprioritize his golf goals

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Good friends, beer and chili make a perfect golf recipe. Photo by Griff McDaniels.

I never considered myself a top-100 chaser. But I have extended work trips and vacations to fit them in. I was also one of those guys who joked that life was too short to play bad golf courses. And, up until recently, I was a member at a very nice club. In the fall of 2019, however, a text from my friend Scott changed everything. 

It wasn’t earth-shattering. It just said, “Want to play next Sunday morning? Tim’s playing too.”

Scott, Tim and I go back to the days of blades, balatas and, regrettably, mullets. We all grew up in western Minnesota, where most towns had courses that didn’t feature big-name architects or waiting lists for memberships or fancy locker rooms with guys shining your shoes. But what they lacked in pretense, they made up for in accessibility. It was completely normal for kids like me to spend summer days at the golf course without parental supervision. For $100, we could play every day, all summer. Tastes change when we grow up, but Scott’s text pulled me back to those times.

It was late September and quarter-zip season was upon us. I made the 25-minute drive to the club where Scott and Tim are members. It was one of those perfect fall Sunday mornings—a tiny touch of crispness in the air that you knew would vanish after a couple of swings on the range. The pace and the company made for a comfortable morning that grew into a back nine filled with laughs and cold beers. Scott played some yacht rock on the speaker that hung from his white golf bag. Afterward, we crushed bowls of chili and watched the Vikings play on the TVs in the grill.

The round stuck with me. It felt different. It felt good to have taken an 18-hole walk with some longtime buddies. No one cared that we didn’t play a golden-age masterpiece or at a place that was on some top-whatever ranking. None of that shit mattered, and it was a rude awakening for me: I had been spending too much time focusing more on where I played than who I played with.

Over the months that followed, I realized that I was ready to fundamentally change how I played golf. I needed more of those kinds of rounds in my life. I wanted to get on a text thread with a bunch of friends to organize tee times and give each other shit. To share great summer days with post-round drinks on a patio filled with familiar faces.

First, I resigned my membership at the nice, quiet, old-school club where I played too frequently by myself. I joined a bustling, golf-first club where you have to set an alarm to make sure you get online a week in advance to book tee times.

Then I changed my golf goals. Instead of making a hit list of the top-100 courses I was going to knock off my list in 2020, I jotted down all the people I wanted to play with. By the time I was done, there were 75 names on the list.

With the coronavirus shutting down my golf travel for most of that year, I didn’t come close to completing the list. But it reinvigorated my entire view of the game. I reconnected with people I hadn’t seen in years. I had memorable evenings on the $28 twilight fee at the best muni in the Twin Cities, chasing the sun and finishing in near darkness. I cared more about the fun I was having than the bogeys I was making.

Am I still interested in playing ranked and/or architecturally significant courses? Of course—they’re gems for a reason. And I’m still looking to extend work trips and vacations, only now it’s for an entirely different list.