As golfers, it's that time of year when we begin to think about the long days ahead and the best ways to capitalize on them. In my youth, I was lucky to play at a local golf course west of Portland, Oregon called Rock Creek Country Club that had a strong youth program. Amongst the kids playing in this crew, there were a couple crazy enough to decide that there might be a challenge more important than scoring, like how many holes could conceivably be played in one day. With sunrise permitting golf as early as 5:30 and continuing with playability into the 9:30pm / 10:00pm range, there were no excuses to be had with respect to cutting golf short.
In the early days, perhaps I was 12 or 13, we'd walk some 45-54 holes each carrying our own bag on the Solstice. At the time, we didn't have more than one pair of golf shoes, or the ownership of the tee sheet. Thus, we'd trudge our way through the day with a quick 18 to start, with the length of time to play changing round by round. Most days commenced with a 3 hour round in the morning, followed by a series of 4 - 5 hour rounds depending on the flow of the course. Playing in the same socks and shoes, we'd have blisters all over. Never really planning the meals we'd find ourselves morbidly dehydrated at some point in the day, and with little care of our own health we'd find ourselves quenching our thirst with a half a dozen Shirley Temples throughout the day. Some of these drinks along with rounds of French fries would be snuck onto our parents account with hopes they never take notice.
I never saw the likes 72 holes in one day until the opportunity to participate and sponsor the Summer Solstice at Bandon Dunes came upon us at Seamus Golf sometime in 2014. This thoughtfully crafted event had so much more to offer from an experience standpoint than the days of going around in circles at Rock Creek with little planning to get through it. When performing the task of playing as many holes in a day, it helps to do it on different courses otherwise you risk the chance of feeling like you're on a marry-go-round for some 15 hours. Additionally, the Bandon Solstice offers a cleared runway - you're basically buying up the tee sheet so you can cruise through all four of the Solstice Courses in a timely manner.
To illustrate the difference, we once experienced the marry go round to the fullest extent when performing the 100 hole hike at The Highlands 9 hole in Gearhart, Oregon with their head pro and Mayor of the town at the time, Downtown Matty Brown. By the end of it we were touring the course on a one club challenge with a club in one hand and some sort of frosted beverage in the other. It was a fun day, but we did play the same 9 holes 10 times that day, and that's a lot of times to play the same holes no matter how siiiiiick they are. I love the Highlands.
I've attempted to walk golf all day on or around the longest day of the year since the age of 12. Now, at age 40, that means there were some 28 opportunities to execute on this task. Take away a couple of exceptions, I've successfully completed this task enough times to believe I can provide some amount of counsel on how best to attack the longest day of the year, while maintaining yourself as the most purest golfer of them all.
Enter....The Summer Solstice at Bandon Dunes. This is my favorite golf outing of the year. While I'm a purist golfer, I'm not an overly competitive golfer. I enjoy a nice match here and then but have no ambitions of becoming the worlds greatest "stick". I need a different metric on which to establish my golf dominance and I can say with confidence that I am earning my greatest sense of pride by playing more holes than any sane human might be foolish enough to try in one day.
Through my experiences, I often get questions as to the logistics of playing this much golf in one day. I have collected some of the more common questions and will attempt to provide some answers, in the hopes that I can encourage you to try and play in the Summer Solstice at Bandon Dunes, or attempt this feat elsewhere, should you have the opportunity. To those who are signed up already, congrats. You're gonna do great and have an awesome time!
1) 72 Holes in one day sounds impossible. How can I physically ever do this? This is actually very possible. Physically and health wise, if you can start by training with a short half mile walk, then a mile walk, then work your way up to a 3 to 4 mile walk, you're gonna be good. While the 72 Hole Solstice is a whopping 26 miles or so, you can do it by training with some good long walks, eating reasonably well (and if you drink - try to keep that to a minimum in the week or two leading up to the big day, so as to be best rested). If you plan to carry your bag, there seems to be a consistent theme amongst those that do so and it is that they're mostly capable of running about a half marathon any given day of the week. I do not find myself in this category so I'm either asking to have a caddy or using a pushcart for parts of the experience.
(Photo: 2014 Solstice, Matt Brown + Alex Casebeer on the 63rd hole of the day, We carried the first 36, then took caddies the second 36. I advise caddies the whole way.)
2) OK, I'm sold. How do I nourish for this? It is important to remember that nourishment, hydration, and the health of your feet will ultimately decide your success in this entire endeavor. How do we prepare for each of these? Well, I think it's important to start with a nice breakfast. The best breakfast I've ever witnessed took place during one of our Solstice outings at Bandon Dunes. It was Eric Budden whom I witnessed eat a bowl of oatmeal and a bunch of fruit. "Is that all you're eating?". No, he replied, and then proceeded to make another plate at the breakfast buffet where he continued with a sensible amount of egg and protein like bacon. All that BS about a well rounded breakfast is the truth. Sustainable energy is key. We'd continue to snack but getting off to the right start is of great importance. If you're at all achy in the morning, it doesn't hurt to take a little bit of Ibuprofen or "CBD" as we might call it to get loosened up. As for hydration, I think a combination of water and electrolytes is important. I like to shoot for at least one bottle of water per 9, and one bottle of Gatorade per 18. If you stick to that, you should be ok. I'd say more is usually better but in this case only to an extent. You don't want to be stopping to take pee breaks all the time either, there's a pace to keep. We once set the record for time at Bandon Trails in just 2 hours and some 15-20 minutes between four of us - Myself, Trevor Livingston, Eric Budden, and Erik Anders Lang in 2017 (I think). Play fast or perish!
3) What shoes do I wear? Well this is quite the question. I've had the opportunity to work with a few different companies in the golf footwear space and there are parts of this answer that are objective, and parts that are purely subjective / highly opinionated. For starters, you're wearing a different pair of shoes and a fresh pair of socks for every round. Read this again: Wear a different pair of shoes and a fresh pair of socks for each round. This even goes for you if you're just going out for 36. You can get by on two pairs of shoes, but you can't skip on the socks. Here's why: no matter what golf shoe you get, there will be some amount of moisture accumulation. This is either coming in from the outside of the shoe or the inside of the shoe. Some shoes are great for ventilation, some are great for keeping the wet out but consequently result in some amount of sweat inside the shoe. For me, there's a strategy to the exact pairs I will wear. I was once a big fan of the barefoot movement, and I still am for purposes of playing 18 or 9, but when you're walking at Bandon Dunes, the sand and fescue present a firm ground and in some places can feel like concrete. Further, you're gonna want cushion and more of it as the day progresses. You'll be happy you did, when you're strolling on those firm and fast fairways.
Round 1 - Something with waterproof, but not so much waterproof your foot can't breathe. Morning Dew is a real thing, and you can't afford to have your foot get soaked early, otherwise you risk blistering. Ecco seems to have mastered this, the pair I plan to wear this year for round one is a few years old and doesnt seem to exist on the internet. However, if I were shopping today I like the look of the Boom H4 BOA. I was first introduced to the BOA sometime ago from my buddy Brett Cafferty (who's played in a few of these with me now) and I continue to like them for purposes of the Solstice. You don't want to be bending over to tie your shoes all the time and these just keep a nice snug fit. I'd thought to go with our Nike Collab shoes owing to the nice thick Pendleton wool lining and propensity to keep your foot dry, but they're sort of a special pair to me I'm afraid to put wear on and they're hard to find. The story behind the wool was that it wicks away sweat, and this pair is pretty water proof, so if you got a pair put em to work because they'd be perfecto for the first round!
Round 2 - I'm going to go with having a little bit of fun here. One of my favorite pairs of shoes I received as a gift from Shaun Madigan at Adidas. At some point in time they made a cow inspired pair of Stan Smiths in conjunction with a tour stop in Wisconsin. They are STYYYYYYLIN, hilarious, comfortable, reasonably dry, and pretty lightweight for walking. Sooooo comfortable, I was very impressed by them. Not necessarily waterproof, but perfect for a day like this on the links. A fun story on these here: https://www.golfdigest.com/story/adidas-stan-smith-golf-shoe-ryder-cup-cow-print
Round 3 - Let's go with ankle support high tops. I don't know exactly where we will be playing for the third round but will be going for maximum breathability (hoping for a sunny afternoon). This isn't necessary, but it seems like I wind up playing Bandon Trails or Old Mac later in the day and thus I like to have high tops for additional ankle support. Not that I've ever twisted an ankle while walking and golfing, but the idea of switching over to a pair of Jordan 5's (which in the last year became very comfortable for walking golf) makes sense. Adidas, not to say Adidas twice here for any reason other than I believe the footwear is very relevant to the walking golfer, is making the Adicross Hi BOOST that I think has been largely overlooked by the enthusiast golfer. Some claim it looks ridiculous, but the whole design inspiration is hiking boots, so I think it's brilliant for the Solstice and will be making it around on my trip at least once. And I think they look pretty cool. These are not water proof, though, so do go with the 5's if there's weather on the forecast. Check those out here.
Round 4 - At this point, you've worn golf shoes all day. You've walked some 18-20 miles, and now we're ready for some comfort. You've seen the shoes I'm gonna recommend and they're not really considered for golf but perfect for walking. Caddies across the nation will show up for work in Hoka's and New Balances and there is a reason for that, by golly! I'll be wearing one of these chunky shoes for my final round, if shopping today a New Balance like these - equally as ugly but better fit for my wide hoof.
Rounds 5 and on - Barefoot. You might worry about walking on gravel, other things, but at this point you can't feel it but you can heal it (it rhymes, haha). The most I've played in any one day was 85, but there are many who keep going until the day is out and I'm open to this strategy depending on the group. If you're doing more than an extra 9, I might suggest wearing some sort of foot covering. Having played in Birkenstocks for the extra golf, I could see myself making a game time decision to do this again. And you can cinch them to your bag (or put them in a pocket) for the times you don't need them.
(Photo: "Birkenstocks in Play" by Landon Sorgenstein, Random Golf Club, Royal Portrush September 2022)
What kind of game do we play? So long as somebody else is scoring, I'm down to play any game you want. There's a lot of scoring to do on the Solstice, so it's gotta be somebody who likes to run the numbers. I'm often playing without score but am more into having some entertaining game. A matchplay between two parties for 72 holes sounds hilarious. Imagine losing terribly 37 and 35 (or whatever). This is one way to put a damper on your Solstice experience. Perhaps a different match for every round? This will be my 9th summer solstice at Bandon Dunes, and I've failed to produce any game that lasted any real amount of time in each of these outings. It is most important to play fast. Ideally each round is to be 3 hours, so don't be drafting up a game that requires unnecessary amounts of time to decide who's who's partner, or what have you.
Who are you playing with? This is really important. While no lousy playing partner can truly make you never want to do this again, it really does play a big part on your overall experience. Conversations eb and flow when you're playing together. There will be an inevitable moment wherein you're not talking to each other at all. This will come during the third round and seem as though everybody hates each other, however in reality you're all just tired probably wondering why you signed up for such a ridiculous outing, and reserving your energy for the last haul. It will be up to one hilarious or special moment, a joke or a chip in, that revives the energy. Try to pick players to play with that want nothing from you and only to hang for no special reason. Bring friends who you can grin with when you hit it good and laugh with when you hit it bad.
(Summer Solstice 2016, Group: Erik Anders Lang, Trevor Livingston, and Eric Budden. It would be on this Solstice Todd Martin of Peter Millar accused me of hosting the slowest group in the outing, which was absolutely true as we were recording this episode for Skratch TV. Todd's in every Solstice, has both played in more of them than me, finishes the quickest, and is a totally awesome dude. I think it was the next year when we returned and finished Trails in the fastest time ever like 2.5 hours)
What do we do when muscles cramp? I'm not a doctor, but I do Theragun. Stretching is great too, I like to keep an extra lacrosse ball as needed or perhaps a foam roller. It's not weird to give your playing partner a quick back massage so long as there is legitimate consent by way of an apparent request.
(Summer Solstice 2019 - Brett Cafferty, Trevor Livingston, and Chance Cozby)
How much are we carrying around? Any other things we should consider? You're gonna want to have a duffle bag or tote bag with you when you're out playing to leave behind in the shop. In it you can keep necessities like gold bond, extra shoes, socks, underwear, sun block, snacks, Nicotine, THC, CBD, LMNOP, or whatever you see as necessary to enjoy the day. If you're not sure, pack it.
When do we get to have a Beer? You can have a beer on the second 9 on the third round. Some more athletic builds can do a variety of drinks earlier in the day but I do not qualify as one of these specimen.
(Photo: In 2019 we went back out for some time at the Preserve after playing 72, and linked up with a young Hank Whitworth and his Pops Joe Whitworth of The Freshwater Trust. He was down for the WRCA Board Meeting and got to see us in a post Solstice Haze, muttering words that made no sense and wobbling to and fro)
Should we go out to the bars and party afterwards to celebrate? No. Celebrate by eating, having a libation or two (if you should be into that), telling war stories with your buds, posting said war stories to social media, and promptly going to bed.
Thank you for enjoying my two cents please see below for more content from our longest day of the year episode and trip to Bandon with Erik Anders Lang and Skratch TV.