ENFIELD, New Hampshire — It began in September, 2019, at the Coeur d’Alene Golf Course in Idaho, but by the time I caught up with Farris Holliday he was was about to tee off on the 48th of his 50-rounds-in-every-state odyssey. It was a cool morning in early June when we met for 18 holes at the Montcalm Golf Club in Enfield, New Hampshire.
After the round Farris and Riley Jones, his golfing buddy on the closing New England leg of the trip, were heading to the Woodstock Golf Club in Vermont, and two days later the goal would be achieved at the Red Tail Golf Club in Massachusetts. (The other New England courses were the Lake of the Isles Golf Club in Connecticut, the Newport National Golf Club in Rhode Island and Belgrade Lakes in Maine. The complete 50-state list is below.)
It’s no mean feat to play in every state. I’ve been traveling the world and writing about golf for more than 20 years, and I haven’t managed it. Holliday set out to do it in a plan that originally stretched out to five years, but once the pandemic set in everything changed, and he wrapped it up in less than two years, with the writing of a book about the endeavor in mind.
The 31-year-old was lucky in that as the U.S. director of strategy for a London-based marketing consulting agency, he was already working remotely for the most part. Jones played in 15 states with Holliday, while early in the 50-state quest Holliday’s wife, Laura, took a sabbatical from her job with Alaska Airlines and accompanied her husband for about three months.
“Does she play golf?”
Holliday said, “No, maybe some day.”
The couple lived in Seattle when Holliday began thinking about his pursuit (they’ve since relocated to Kansas). At the time Holliday felt that golf was stigmatized as a sport inherently reserved for a few, geared toward the affluent, inaccessible to many and lacking diversity. As a person of color, sporting dreadlocks and tattoos, he’s certainly not the stereotypical country clubber, and he felt like a bit of an outcast at courses and in pro shops. But he was about to get a surprising education.
“I set out at a time when there was greater than usual racial unrest in the country, and there were certainly some some states I was less excited to play than others. I was anticipating and intended to have some intense conversations out on the golf course.
“But I found that a golf course really isn’t a great space for such conversations. It provides something else, something that seemed new to me—a place of equity. So what I thought was going to be a culturally disruptive story became something else, and it was a bit of a surprise to me. The idea that golf is inaccessible? That has nothing to do with reality. Classism? No, golf doesn’t give a shit who you are. There’s a home for everyone somewhere on a golf course.”
His father was Libyan, his mother European. If of mixed race, Holliday is relatively light-skinned, stocky, with dreadlocks erupting upward through his golf visor and adding about five inches to his already impressive height. He hits the ball a mile, if not always at the target. He’s an average golfer, though he did card a 78 in a non-50 state round in Montana.
The scores the day we played at Montcalm seemed more approximate than precise, and besides the point in any case. It was just a lovely day winding through the various elevations and views of the Green and White Mountain National Forests that the George Sargent-designed Montcalm wends around.
Curiously for a millennial, Holliday kept a low-key social media profile while in the throes of his journey, tossing out only the occasional Instagram post (@farrisplays50). But the local press was out that day, a television reporter interviewing Holliday with the suitable Green Mountain backdrop that adorns Montcalm’s driving range, and following him around for a few holes.
Holliday certainly played some ranked courses — Torrey Pines in California, Bethpage Black in New York, Tobacco Road in North Carolina, the Prairie Club in Nebraska and others—but that wasn’t really his goal. He kept Golf Digest’s “Best Places You Can Play” list at hand and did much of his planning on the go. (Montcalm, formerly highly private, is now under new ownership and accepting outside play.)
Almost three months after his final 50-state putt on the Red Tail Golf Course, Holliday remembered it as a bittersweet moment: “After being almost constantly on the move in the last two years, I felt a bit sad on the flight out of Boston, picking up the car and driving home, thinking, it’s all over. I’m still sifting through the experience now, working on my writing, trying to determine the story I want to tell.
“In some ways I didn’t realize how big an accomplishment this was. When I talk about it to other golfers, even strangers, they say, ‘You did what? Why? You’re only 31 and you’ve done that?’
“But then they also ask me, ‘What’s next?’ I don’t really know. No idea. Bowling?”
STATES and COURSES:
Idaho – ID – Coeur d’Alene Golf Club
Washington – Gold Mountain Golf Course
Wisconsin – White Eagle Golf Club
Minnesota – The Jewel Golf Club
California – Torrey Pines
Oregon – Quail Valley Golf Club
Pennsylvania – Glen Mills Golf Course
Delaware – Deerfield Golf Club
New Jersey – River Winds Golf Course
Illinois – Annbriar Golf Course
Missouri – Peavly Farms
Texas – Avery Ranch
Arizona – Golf Club of Estrella
Mississippi – Grand Bear Golf Club
Louisiana – English Turn
Tennessee – Golf Club of Tennessee
Alabama – The Shoals
Kentucky – Mineral Mound
Utah – Thanksgiving Point
Colorado – Arrowhead Golf Club
Kansas – Auburn Hills
Oklahoma – Cimmaron National
Arkansas – Stonebridge Meadows
West Virginia – Sugarwood Golf Club
Ohio – Stone Ridge Golf Club
Michigan – Shepherds Hollow
Indiana – Prairie View Golf Club
Iowa – Blue Top Ridge
Nebraska – Prairie Club
South Dakota – Prairie Green
North Dakota – Bully Pulpit
Wyoming – Olive Glenn Golf Club
Montana – Old Works
South Carolina – Caladonia Golf and Fish Club
North Carolina – Tobacco Road Golf Club
Virginia – Golden Horseshoe Golf Club
Maryland – Maryland National Golf Club
Nevada – Toiyabe Golf Club
Alaska – The Golf Club of Anchorage
Florida – The Raven Golf Club
Georgia – The Frog
New Mexico – Red Hawk Golf Club
Hawaii – Ko’Olina Golf Club
New York – Bethpage Black Course
Connecticut – Lake of the Isles Golf Club
Rhode Island – Newport National Golf Club
Maine – Belgrade Lakes
Vermont – Woodstock Golf Club
New Hampshire – Montcalm Golf Club
Massachusetts – Red Tail Golf Club