580 courses in 365 days: How crushing a world record changed one golfer’s perspective on life and the US

Patrick Koenig and his Recreational Golf Vehicle (RGV) take a pit stop along the Californian coastline.

Patrick Koenig and his Recreational Golf Vehicle (RGV) take a pit stop along the Californian coastline. 

In the search of enlightenment, some try Buddhism, others meditation. Patrick Koenig played golf – a lot of golf.

Koenig says that if he only played one round of golf per day in 2023, then that was a day off. Not a day off from work, but a day off from golf.

The 44-year-old American describes himself as “a golf course photographer, explorer and general golf course sicko,” and in his quest to set a new Guinness World Record last year, he played the game at a relentless pace, driving almost 35,000 miles through 41 states.

By the time he finished his golfing trek, Koenig had played in the USA, Finland, and Sweden, completing 580 different courses in 365 days.

Assuming his record application – which typically take up to 12 weeks to review, according to the Guinness World Record website – is accepted, he will have smashed the previous best total by 131 courses.

As well as playing an awful lot of golf, the experience has changed Koenig’s perspective on the world.

“I feel like there’s a difference between going through life and then really living it,” he told CNN.

“I don’t know if I can reach for much more. Total enlightenment maybe still eludes me, but this was a good step towards finding that.”

‘A lot of people win PGA Tour events – nobody’s ever done this.’

Back in 2018, Koenig played around 400 rounds of golf, after which he was advised that he wasn’t far off the record of 449, set by Canadian husband and wife duo Jonathan and Cathie Weaver across North American courses in March 2009.

The notion that he could one day beat it stuck with him, and in 2023 he “saddled up” again – this time with his newly-bought, customized Recreational Golf Vehicle (RGV) 2.0.

“There’s 100 different reasons to love this game,” he explained. “Friendship, exercise, some view it as a source of religion or peace.

“I love it for the beauty of the places we get to play, and then there’s obviously the competitive side.”

In order to beat the record, Koenig knew that he’d have to play more than 18 holes every 24 hours, so when he teed off at the Monarch Beach Club in California on January 3 last year, the plan was to play 36 holes – two rounds every day – to get ahead of schedule.

Several times he managed to squeeze 54 holes into a single day and once he even played 72, which he compared to running wind sprints in the middle of a marathon.

By the middle of October, with 78 days to spare, he’d broken the record sinking the historic putt on the 18th green at The Interlocken Golf Club in Colorado.

“I’m walking down the fairway and I feel like I’m gonna win a PGA Tour event,” he recalled.

“The cool thing was, it didn’t matter if I made a nine on the last hole. One of my buddies said, ‘A lot of people win PGA Tour events – nobody’s ever done this.’”

Koenig’s Instagram feed shows him making a five-foot putt for bogey and being pelted with water balloons in a scene of unbridled joy. “Tomorrow …” the caption read, “more golf.”

Koenig's pursuit of the record took him around the world.

Koenig’s pursuit of the record took him around the world. 

Snakes and spatters

Koenig was constantly in awe of the natural beauty that often surrounds golf courses, recounting tales of an encounter with a “big old alligator” in South Carolina, deer that were close enough to pet at Pebble Beach, venomous copperhead snakes and bighorn sheep.

“I’d love to say I wrestled a bear on the 18th green,” he laughed. “That didn’t happen, but I definitely had some close encounters [with nature.]”

The only thing that kept Koenig off a golf course was lightning. Otherwise, he played on through whatever the weather conditions.

“At Royal New Kent in Virginia, the rain was sideways, and I was completely soaked.
If I’d jumped into a pool afterwards, I wouldn’t have been any more wet.”

However, there was the occasional bureaucratic hurdle to jump. Koenig recounts a heated conversation with the golf course superintendent at one Virginia course who was reluctant to let him play the back nine.

“To his credit, I shouldn’t have been out there in the first place, the course was unplayable. But I explained to him what I was doing, and he agreed to let me finish. So, a shoutout to Royal New Kent – without them it’s 579 instead of 580!”

Koenig drove close to 35,000 miles during the record attempt.

Koenig drove close to 35,000 miles during the record attempt. 

His record could have been even higher, but for the fact that he loved the game too much.

“I was particularly excited about Sand Hills in Nebraska,” Koenig explained. “I planned my schedule around that. It was a spectacular day and so we played it twice, even though it only counted once.”

Koenig’s best round was a 67. His worst, a 91.

“I lost a mental grasp on that round,” he explained, “I had 13 penalty strokes.
Every tee ball went sailing into the woods.”

Punching on

Over the course of his adventures, he estimates that his combined scored was around 3,000 over par. He says that he walked around 70% of the time, covering roughly 2,000 miles on foot, and remarkably he never fell ill or got hurt – although one minor injury was self-inflicted.

“There was one moment where I lost my cool, there was a scheduling snafu and I got a little hot – I punched the side of a golf cart,” Koenig recalled.

“It was a stupid thing to do. I hurt my finger, and I couldn’t really grip the club for the next round. Every year I’ve had one sort of flu or something like that, but this year I was 100% for 365 days. I’ll thank the golf gods for bestowing me that gift.”

Just as important as his health and wellbeing was the fact that he never tired of his mission. No matter what the game threw at him, he always returned for more.

“I was very driven,” he said. “There was never a day when I didn’t want to play golf. Some days I wanted to sleep because I was tired, but I was like, ‘Oh, I can get up and play golf. That’s my job this year!’

“I think a lot of people might have got tired, but I’m not one of those people.”

The enthusiasm with which Koenig recounts his adventure is infectious, and he acknowledges his passionate supporters who enabled him to keep going.

His partner, Rachel Alcone, gave the project her blessing and visited him regularly, bearing cakes denoting the number of courses that he’d played.

“[She] was there when I came up with the idea and was very supportive, almost unbelievably so. I consider myself a very lucky man – she’s the number one golf girlfriend in the entire land!”

Koenig gave special thanks to family and friends for supporting him in his relentless effort.

Koenig gave special thanks to family and friends for supporting him in his relentless effort. 

‘I spent a year bathing in the goodness of humanity’

By the time Koenig sunk his last putt on January 2 this year at Chambers Bay in the state of Washington, he had averaged close to 1.6 rounds a day.

On Instagram, he described it as “one of the most rewarding and challenging years of his life.” As he reflects and adjusts to living in a house without wheels, he ponders what it would take for somebody to beat his record one day.

“It’s going to take a lot of money,” he says, “And it’s going to take a year.” He speculates that it would be an easier task for somebody to limit their travel to an area like Florida and hammer out 36 holes a day, “but that wouldn’t be as fun.”

He wonders if there would be any point to doing it that way, because the real joy for him wasn’t so much the destination as the journey.

“No offense,” he chuckled, acknowledging that he was being interviewed by a news organization, “but when you turn on the news, you can get a negative view of the world that we live in. My existence for the last year was not in front of a screen – I spent a year bathing in the goodness of humanity.”

Everywhere he went, from California to Florida and from Vermont to Texas, Koenig encountered people from all walks of life and every political stripe. They were all excited to meet him and he walked the fairways with many of them.

“You see America, the people that live there and all these things that make America so cool,” said Koenig, who aw a country divided, but only on the surface. “Our differences are not that much.”

“Golf strips away a lot of that stuff and it teaches you that we’re all human beings. We’re all after the same things, love and happiness and caring for our families,” added Koenig.

“When you’re hitting a ball around in a field, you realize that you can make friends with people that you would never encounter in a million years. You learn something from those people.

“That’s a real special gift that I got this year, and it wasn’t one that I was necessarily expecting.”https://saladbiji.com/

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