2007-06-16 / Sports

Dave McNair Celebrates 600th Course Played at Wawashkamo

By Eric Fish

Dave McNair takes his first shot on the 600th course he's played. He wears knickers and plays with hickory clubs dating from 1908 to 1915. Dave McNair takes his first shot on the 600th course he's played. He wears knickers and plays with hickory clubs dating from 1908 to 1915. In old-fashioned knickers attire, Dave McNair emptied a bag of golf balls onto the practice putting green at Wawashkamo Golf Club Sunday morning, June 10, and carefully positioned the balls into the number 600.

Six hundred is the number of golf courses Mr. McNair has played in the United States, and for a person who respects the history of the game just as much as the grace, it seemed only fitting that he chose for his latest milestone one of Michigan's oldest golf course, developed as a links course in 1898 and operated almost unchanged since.

"I've tried to pick a unique course for my benchmark courses," he said. "I was trying to figure out what would be a good place for my 600th, what would be kind of unique. I found out this was the oldest course in Michigan. What better place to hit number 600?"

The oldest course in Michigan, by several months, is in the Les Cheneaux Islands, a dozen miles north, but it is Mackinac's good fortune that Mr. McNair's list got that wrong.

Dave and Cindy McNair on the practice green at Wawashkamo Golf Club Sunday, June 10, celebrating the 600th golf course that Mr. McNair has played. Mrs. McNair doesn't golf, but has accompanied her husband to nearly 500 of the courses. Dave and Cindy McNair on the practice green at Wawashkamo Golf Club Sunday, June 10, celebrating the 600th golf course that Mr. McNair has played. Mrs. McNair doesn't golf, but has accompanied her husband to nearly 500 of the courses. In a lifetime of golf, he has played the game in 48 of the 50 states, including all 244 courses in his home state of Nebraska. He plays every one of them the same way, with traditional hickory golf clubs almost a century old, and traditional clothing once worn by his favorite golfers, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, and Bobby Jones. Although his wife, Cindy, doesn't golf, Mr. McNair estimates she has accompanied him to at least 500 of the 600 he has played.

There's always been golf

Mr. McNair was introduced to the game by his father when he was five years old. By age eight, he received his first set of golf clubs and began playing regularly with his father.

He became a history teacher, but has since left teaching to work for an educational publishing company, and his love of history now shares his heart with his love of golf.

"When I got out of teaching, I think I needed an outlet for that interest in history, and that went to golf because I always had a love for golf, too," he said. "It was nice to be able to blend the two."

What followed was an extensive antique golf collection. Today, Mr. McNair owns clubs dating to the 1840s, a golf library of about 600 books dating to the 1890s, and golf artwork.

"With football, the field is always 100 yards long," he notes. "Same with basketball; the courts are the same, baseball fields; the infield is the same, the outfield is sometimes a little bit different. But a golf course, every hole is different."

Mr. McNair's journey of America's golf courses started in 1996 on a golf trip in Arizona with high school friends.

"We played some nice courses, had some fun, and they wanted to go back again the next year," he recalled. "I said, 'You know, I've been there, done that, I'd rather go see some other nice places in the United States.'"

Since then, Mr. McNair has played highly-touted golf courses like Pebble Beach and Sawgrass in addition to amassing an impressive numerical resume. He generally plays about 50 different courses each year.

"I can never in my life play at Yankee Stadium or Tiger Stadium, Madison Square Garden, Lambeau Field, Wimbledon, any of those places," he said. "But I can play Pebble Beach, I can play Sawgrass."

It's got to be the clubs

After growing up playing with modern clubs, Mr. McNair switched eight years ago to an old hickory set, with clubs dating from 1908 to 1915.

"The one thing you'll find with the hickory clubs is they aren't very forgiving," he said. "With modern clubs, you can be pretty consistent and know you're going to shoot between a range of scores. With hickories, that sweet spot is so small."

The hickory clubs have allowed him to shoot the best score of his life, a one over par 73, but have also challenged him with scores in the high 90s.

"Every day is an adventure for me," he said.

Unlike modern equipment, Mr. McNair's clubs aren't numbered, but named. He has a range of mashies, niblicks, and brassies. Brassies convert to modern day woods, and mashies and niblicks to irons. All the clubs still have their original shafts and heads, but have been regripped with buffalo hide and pine tar.

"I have so much fun playing with the hickory clubs that the modern clubs went in the closet," he said.

Mr. McNair's

American Tour The only two states that Mr. McNair hasn't played are Hawaii and New York. Hawaii will be knocked off the list this summer, but he's saving New York for last.

"I've saved New York for last on purpose," he said. "New York has the oldest course in America."

St. Andrews Golf Club, which is about 20 minutes outside of New York City, was established in 1888 and is the oldest golf course in the United States. It was named for the historic course in Scotland.

Mr. McNair's final state would be a fitting end to his cross-country golf extravaganza. Out of all 244 courses in Nebraska, he finished his home state with the oldest course.

"I think that would be kind of a neat way to finish the 50 states, to play the oldest course in America," he said.

Mackinac Island is special, too.

"We love the Island," he said. "We've talked about all the states we've been to and played golf in… which ones we want to go back to. We would add this to the list."

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