Meet the Golfer Who Played All the Top 100 Courses in the World

by Pete Pappas

Bob McCoy is a golf fanatic, and he’s probably unlike any golfer you’ve ever known. Last week the 79-year old McCoy played the New and Eden courses at Hong Kong Golf Club and completed a mind-boggling odyssey that began almost 40 years ago. McCoy has played every course that’s ever been in Golf Magazine’s World Top 100 Courses from 1979 to 2017 (that’s 201 courses in total).

Bob McCoy Top 100 Golf Courses

McCoy’s been a golf nut for as long as he can remember, and back in the 1980s, he thought it might be a fun idea to travel to different places to play golf and meet new people. McCoy was an equity analyst for a brokerage firm, which allowed him to sneak golf into his work travel plans. It started off as a simple design, but today McCoy can say he accomplished something that very few golfers ever will.

Ticking off Courses One by One

Bob’s early golf travel was an extension of his business travel. As a member at Oakmont Country Club from 1970 to 1972, McCoy noticed the club was named in a Golf Digest publication of America’s top 100 courses, and he got the idea to just bring his clubs along with him on business trips to play even more of these courses. McCoy’s current handicap is a 15, but at one point he was as low as a two.

Things didn’t always run smoothly for McCoy. Sometimes it was the weather. At The Country Club at Brookline a huge thunder and lightning storm blew in when McCoy was still on the 11th hole. The assistant pro wanted to close the course but McCoy convinced him to keep it open and wait for the weather to clear. Other times it was just scheduling mix-ups. On the East Course at Royal Melbourne there was a ladies day event going on when McCoy was supposed to play the composite course. McCoy managed to zig and zag his way through the ladies and finish all 18 holes.

The First Golf Blogger and Freelancing

If what McCoy accomplished isn’t already impressive enough, he also started writing about his golf odysseys and sharing these stories with friends. Remember, McCoy played most of these courses in an era before cell phones and even the internet. It’s not preposterous to call McCoy the first real golf blogger.

McCoy began by sending out four pages detailing his golf adventures to about 100 people. The next year it grew to 10 pages and 150 people. And after that, Bob was burning up Xerox machines trying to keep up a growing mailing list. By the late 1980s McCoy was writing for Golf Digest as a freelancer, and in 1997 he tackled his first world list, playing all of Golf Magazine’s top 100 courses in the world in just 100 days (including an incredible 16 days where he played two different courses in the same day – like Portrush one morning, and Turnberry later that evening).

McCoy’s Favorite Moments

Along the way, McCoy has played in 30 different countries, on more than 1,100 of the world’s best courses – including those that regularly find themselves atop of every list of best courses: including Augusta National, Oakland Hills, and St. Andrews.

As you might imagine, however, it’s impossible for McCoy to choose a favorite when every trip had its own unique charm. Bob played Turnberry with a bagpiper performing on the pipes high above the course. At Wentworth, it rained so much the greens flooded, and McCoy had to chip to holes instead of putt to them. And McCoy believes the ocean holes at Pebble Beach are the most spectacular in the world.

The Road So Far

McCoy now has a website called The Odyssey: The Chronicles of Bob McCoy’s Worldwide Golf Travels and that also happens to be the name of the book he’s working on. Bob’s book will be a comprehensive examination of the greatest courses in the world, addressing how each course became great, including a look at the architects and the noteworthy architectural aspects of these courses.

Bob’s become a member of Baltusrol, Pine Valley, and the Royal & Ancient Club of St, Andrews along the way.  He’s also been accosted by angry police while trying to find a course and was almost detained by customs officials as he left Mexico after another top 100 trip. It hasn’t always been a glamorous journey for the man who says the best way to finish a round is with a beer, but it’s a journey Bob hopes will never end.

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