100 Greatest Courses In One Year

A Regular Golfer’s Quest To Play America’s 100 Greatest Courses In One Year

Meet Jimmy James, who defied the odds and played the 100 greatest golf courses in one year.

Golf Digest is aware of fewer than two dozen individuals who have played every course on our ranking of America’s 100 Greatest. They ticked them off over lifetimes largely well spent, and the grillrooms of this country have heard their stories. All are or were Golf Digest course-rating panelists—the card-carrying, often quite tan, pencil-wielding, low-handicap data-bots we’ve trained in the scientific art (or artful science, if you prefer) of evaluating shot values, design variety, aesthetics and other categories since 1966, and whose legion is now 1,500 strong. We compile the scores of all our rating panelists to update this ranking biennially, and so the list is ever-changing. When new courses receive the honor, some panelists are quicker than others about staying current.

Being a completist is hard work. Just ask Terry Inslee, who joined our panel in 1984 and is our most prolific rater, having evaluated 3,050 courses. He’s played 93 of the 100 Greatest and 96 of the Second 100 Greatest. The seven he’s missing from the first list roll off his tongue quickly: “Augusta National, Boston Golf Club, Shinnecock Hills, Sebonack, Friar’s Head, Garden City and Old Sandwich.” Inslee is retired, but over a career as a Missouri-based sales rep with a national territory, he worked in a lot of golf on business trips. Why hasn’t he played them all? Though association with Golf Digest does open doors, personal connections and the rub of the great green in the sky are still paramount, even for our panelists.

Told there was a golfer who’d accomplished the feat of playing “the century” in a calendar year, Inslee is impressed, if not a little shocked. “played the 100 greatest courses in one year is a major logistics problem. You’re always juggling so many balls in the air—the schedules of different hosts and your own, tournaments, outings, renovations, weather … for someone to do that in 12 months is absolutely amazing.”

“You ought to award the guy a green straightjacket,” says Senior Architecture Editor Ron Whitten. Salty as Whitten can seem, the heart connected to the fullest brain in golf architecture has a soft spot for any golfer so passionate.

Who could and would pull off such a stunt? Clearly, someone who isn’t working. Has to be a Golf Digest panelist, right? Not the case. Then some mid-am silver fox with a private jet and a fat Rolodex, right? Wrong again. Our golfer of the year is as unlikely as the idea itself.

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