I always wondered, before I actually retired, how could retirees take a vacation? They are on vacation every day! So these days I tell people that we are going on a trip or that we are headed out of town.

“People, places and things” define our trip intentions, and often that involves golf. So it was this fall. In the world of golf, there are endless people, places and things to focus on.

The day we left, Cheryl and I served as registrars at our Wisconsin Turfgrass Association’s golf fundraiser. It was a full house at the beautiful Blue Mound Golf and Country Club. Golf Digest’s Ron Whitten and Jerry Tarde put BMGCC on their Top 200 list. Incorporated in 1903 and designed by Seth Raynor, it saw Walter Hagen win the 1916 Western Open and watched Gene Sarazen take the PGA Championship in 1933. Babe Didrikson Zaharias won the 1940 Women’s Western Open, and Dr. Cary Middlecoff took home the trophy for winning the 1955 Miller Open. Blue Mound was a great launching point for our trip.

Once play had started, we headed out of Milwaukee. Luck was with us and we cruised through Chicago and landed in South Bend by late afternoon. We saw the Golden Dome, went to the stadium, and were surprised to see no one on the golf course that is right on the campus.

It isn’t very far from South Bend to suburban Cleveland. We stopped at the world headquarters building of GIE Media, the outfit that sends you GCI communications. Pat Jones was out of town, but we were thrilled that Mike Zawacki and Guy Cipriano were in the building.

The weather across upstate New York was excellent, and the foliage color was near peak as we drove Alt Hwy 20 from Geneseo to near Albany. Although we missed Barb and Frank Rossi, we did spend a couple of great nights in New York country inns. Excitement built as we neared Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame, but our real destination was the Otsego Golf Club. The club is a couple of miles south of Springfield Center, N.Y., and Highway 20 on the north shore of Otsego Lake. Bright sun and deep blue skies greeted us as we drove into the course; the colorful wooded hills were reflected perfectly on the glass smooth surface of the lake. I was excited after a short distance on the entrance road – the golf course crew was aerifying greens and I chatted to chat. The superintendent and two crew members were finishing up dragging the green adjacent to the road.

I was inspired to stop at the Otsego Golf Club by a brief article in the July 2015 issue of Golf Digest. Stephen Hennessy shared his visit to the course, a “classic course that offers a taste of what golf was like in an earlier time.” The course is one of the 20 oldest public courses in our country, and a visit there takes you back over a hundred years. The ambiance isn’t manufactured; it is for real. The course has changed little since it opened in 1894 and it still doesn’t have an irrigation system. When needed, a portable pump is used to water greens only. Not only are fairways not watered, they are never fertilized or sprayed for disease. The golf course is the ultimate example of low inputs, and yet I saw some very nice looking bentgrasses.

I have always felt welcome at any golf course I have visited, but nowhere were people more friendly than at Otsego. The modest clubhouse walls are covered with news clippings and other artifacts from OGC’s long past. We sat briefly on their Adirondack porch and felt just like golfers several generations ago must have felt.

It is only a few miles from OGC to the Baseball HOF and Museum, and on the way there we stopped at the Leather Stocking Club in Cooperstown. They were busy with an outing preparation and decided the superintendent didn’t need a visit from a Wisconsin colleague at that time. The course was beautiful and in excellent condition. We toured the Baseball HOF, parking six parking places from the front door, and then we headed for Vermont.

On our second day there we drove to Dorset and the Dorset Field Club. It can be a dicey proposition to claim a course is the oldest in America, but it seems to me that Dr. Geoffrey Cornish is a reliable source. In his book “Eighteen Stakes on a Sunday Afternoon” he lists The Dorset Field Club as the “first organized golf club in the U.S. (1886),” followed by Foxburg Country Club (1897) and St. Andrews Golf Club (1888).

It was pouring rain the morning we visited the DFC. The golf course was closed, but the pro shop was open. I introduced myself, explained why I was there on that wet day (looking for information on the course history), and was referred to the clubhouse. Three very friendly and helpful women gave me what I was hoping for – a mimeo of the Club’s history written by the club historian in 2003.

A group of players staked out a course in Dorset on Sept. 12, 1886. The original 15 founders used a room in one of their houses as a clubhouse. They made a few golf clubs, and named the holes of their new course in the good Scottish tradition. I especially loved the names Frost Knoll, Clover Patch and Bull Barn. Grant Matson was the club’s first greenkeeper and is generally credited with building the first gang mower built before WW I. A nine-hole addition was built in the late 1990s, and the new holes were incorporated into the old course.

The rest of our trip was one of perfect weather, lots of historical sites and friends of long standing. One of those friends has cut a pretty wide swath in the turfgrass sciences – Dr. Guenhwa Jung. Tenured at UMass-Amherst, he is part of an impressive program of research, education and extension. Geunhwa is one of brightest and most enthusiastic men I have met and we were lucky to have him on the faculty at Wisconsin for a while. We met his colleagues Dr. Scott Ebdon and Elizabeth Wiernasz. Scott manages the NTEP program (among many other responsibilities), and he used the color contrast between the very dark green of ‘Blueberry’ Kentucky bluegrass and the light green cultivar ‘Washington’ Kentucky bluegrass to spell “UM TURF,” on a plot area of their turfgrass research farm.

I know there will be no easy or quick solution to save our disappearing artifacts, but maybe awareness and some conversations have begun.”

Very early on Columbus Day we drove to The Country Club at Brookline. Dr. Cornish lists TCC as the first country club in North America – 1882 – and the club built its golf course in 1893. The parking lot was nearly empty when we drove in. A few players were practicing, but no members were in the pro shop. The assistant golf pro couldn’t have been more friendly or helpful. I bought a copy of the book written about the club’s rich history, and asked the assistant pro if I could drive down to the shop and meet Bill Spence, the superintendent. He suggested it wasn’t going to be possible, and I didn’t want to interrupt the busy early morning work in any way.

We stood on the porch, imagined the racetrack that was out front a long time ago and enjoyed watching a dog accompany the fairway mower working on the hole headed our way.

After wandering through Rhode Island, Connecticut and western Massachusetts for a few days, we headed to the USGA headquarters and museum. Kim Erusha was traveling so we didn’t get a chance to visit with her. She was actually in Wisconsin at 2016 U.S. Open venue – Erin Hills. Fortunately, I also had a mission to talk with the director of the museum and discuss the possibility of establishing a golf course museum. I had an excellent talk with Robert Williams, but he is leaving the USGA soon. Fortunately, Michael Trostel, then the senior curator/historian of the USGA Museum, was also there. Trostel has since been promoted into the top spot. I know there will be no easy or quick solution to save our disappearing artifacts, but maybe awareness and some conversation have begun.

Eventually every trip comes to an end, and we started heading west toward home. Latrobe Country Club was a required stop, as it has been many times before for us, and we made a couple of pro shop purchases. Mainly we just soaked up the atmosphere that gave us Arnold Palmer.

Since we were near days end, we stayed in State College at the Penn Stater Hotel. The campus is changing and growing, like most campuses, and it has had an impact on turf plots at the Valentine turf research farm.

The next morning took us through the beautiful Pennsylvania landscape as we wandered up to the village of Foxburg and the Foxburg Country Club. I have visited this special place several times. In fact, a few years ago I left our hotel early and drove over to FCC and found the superintendent getting the course ready for the day’s play – blowing leaves, cutting cups and mowing greens. This year the manager gave us a brief tour of the clubhouse, the former home of a member that the club purchased in 1941. The founder of the club, Joseph Mickle Fox, established it in 1887, making it at least one of the “oldest continuously used golf courses in the USA.” The course hasn’t changed much over the years; skinny fairways and small greens challenge golfers. It was in wonderful condition. I love the stories about how, years ago, players would hit balls from the backyard of the clubhouse into the Allegheny River below. Trees have grown and homes have been built, making that truly a thing of the past. And there is a museum upstairs – the American Golf Hall of Fame – that includes two clubs made by Old Tom Morris and a couple made for him. Mr. Foxburg was a native of Scotland and learned golf at St. Andrews and from Old Tom himself.

It was almost sad to leave Foxburg because it meant our golf trip was almost over, leaving only the long drive home. But it was a great trip and I am able to say with all honesty that I didn’t miss a single putt.