Golf course superintendent David Jones documents his visit to Cimarron County Golf Course in Boise City, Okla., in December 2020. Photos courtesy of David Jones
A visit to the town of Woodward in north-central Oklahoma isn’t traditionally a bucket-list stop for most folks. But most folks aren’t David Jones.
The GCSAA Class A superintendent at The Club at Indian Springs in Broken Arrow, Okla., has been chomping at the bit to get himself to Woodward and, specifically, Boiling Springs Golf Course for today’s Oklahoma GCSA event being held there. That’s because, when Jones puts a peg in the ground and tees off at Boiling Springs, it will mark the 214th Oklahoma golf course he has played, achieving a goal 15 years in the making to play every golf course in the Sooner State.
“It’s been a rewarding journey, no doubt,” says Jones, an 18-year GCSAA member. “There will definitely be a sense of accomplishment when all is said and done.”
Jones unwittingly began his quest when he was first taking up the game as a teenager. Each time he would play a new course, he’d document the occasion, even though he “really wasn’t thinking about playing all of them at that time. It was just something to do.”
The realization that he could — and should — play every course in the state came along later, and he credits his involvement in GCSAA’s affiliated chapter in the state for pushing him in that direction.
“Our superintendent meetings move all over the state, and I was an assistant at that time and tried to go to as many as I could,” Jones says. “I got to play a lot of courses — private courses I wouldn’t have been able to play otherwise. After a few years, I got to around 30 to 40 courses and thought, ‘You know what? Let’s just try to play all of them in Oklahoma.’ Fifteen years later, I’m finally down to the last one.”
Jones’ golf travels haven’t been confined to the states, or even a single continent. He has teed it up at notable international venues, including St. Andrews (top) and New South Wales Golf Club in Australia (bottom).
Understandably, an idea such as this was met with a few eye rolls on the homefront. “My wife (Erin) says golf is my obsession. I prefer the word ‘passion,’” says Jones, who plays to a 6 or 7 handicap. “But she’s probably more right on that than I am.”
Ultimately, though, it was Erin’s support and encouragement that pushed David closer and closer to his goal, and she has spent plenty of time on the road with him, traveling to one golf destination or another. “To be honest, she was very encouraging. We love to travel, have traveled all over the world, and every time we’d go somewhere, she’d say, ‘You should play golf, because you may never get here again.’ She really embraced what I was trying to do. I’m not sure I would have kept at it without her,” he says.
Jones estimates there are around 190 golf courses currently open for play in Oklahoma, so his tally of 214 includes several facilities that have closed since he began his effort. The courses he has played range from major championship venues such as Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa and Oak Tree National in Edmond to rural nine-hole, sand green tracks and everything in between.
Jones says experiencing a variety of facilities during his travels has paid off in his management of The Club at Indian Springs, a 36-hole facility he has overseen for 20 years that features one course with bentgrass greens and another with bermudagrass.
“You see and learn a lot just by playing so many different golf courses, talking with the superintendents,” Jones says. “Oklahoma has everything from really high-end private clubs to mom and pop courses in the country. Seeing what they’re able to accomplish with the resources they have available to them was really cool.”
Jones playing Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., in 2013.
When Jones finishes his round at Boiling Springs today, he’ll be able to cross one goal off his list, but others still wait in the wings. The 48-year-old is trying to play at least one golf course in every U.S. state by his 50th birthday, and he’s well on his way — just 13 states remain, and the more remote locales of Alaska and Hawaii are already out of the way. “I’m at around 420 total courses all over the world, and I’d love my 500th course to be my 50th state when I turn 50,” Jones says. “I want that state to be Georgia, and I’ll let you guess what course I’d like that to be.”
But staying focused on seeing his other golf-fanatic dreams become reality won’t stop Jones from reflecting on what he has accomplished in his home state of Oklahoma.
“The most rewarding part for me hasn’t really been about the golf at all. I’m most going to remember the journey that it took to get there,” he says. “Oklahoma is a big state ... so just getting to see all the small towns and different landscapes, getting to meet new people and try neat little restaurants — things like that — that’s what I’ll remember most.”
Scott Hollister is GCM’s editor-in-chief.