Two world golf records that may never be broken belong to Canadians
- Category: Inside Golf
- Published: 2017-05-11
By Gord Montgomery (iG)
Stony Plain, AB/Wailuku, Maui — Of all the feats listed in the pages of Guinness World Records, most are likely to fall one day or another. But, there are a pair of golfing marks that could well stand the test of time, and both of them were set by Western Canadians.
The one that most likely last forever, thanks to a change in the rules of golf, is that established by expat Chris Adam. His mark is playing an astounding 14,625 holes in a year, smashing the old mark of 11,000 holes. Or, looking at it another way, he circled the full 18 at the King Kamehameha CC in Maui 809 times and added another seven 9-hole rounds for good measure. The previous best was 611.11 rounds.
Then there’s Robb James, now the head professional at the Stony Plain Golf Course (Alberta) who pulled off an amazing feat by playing 851 holes (equivalent to 47 rounds) in a single 24-hour period in Edmonton, at the Victoria Golf Course.
While they both ended up in the same spot, their treks to the world records were a bit different. Adam established his mark the first time he tried. As for James, it took him four attempts to shoot down the existing mark.
Interviewed at his ice cream store in Kihei, Maui, Adam noted he actually pulled off his record over a 10 month period and not the entire year allotted. He said he was working on becoming better, spending lots of time on the practice range when a club member showed him a story about the existing world record and suggested he go for it. The rest, as they say, is history.
“It (the then record) was 611 rounds and no thought went into it, really,” Adam said about setting out on his quest. “I hadn’t even physically golfed a round of golf for the first couple of months. I was just looking to get better,” and lower his 10-handicap. “I looked at it (the record) and decided “Why not?”
As for James, he said there was “definitely a learning process,” in going about the task of breaking the then 24 hour record of 846 holes of golf. “It wasn’t like a junior high bike-a-thon where you’re just trying to stay awake. You’re physically driving yourself at 100 per cent which takes a toll, not only on the body but on the mind,” he explained of needing to sustain a pace of 30 minutes per 18 holes.
A big factor for Adam, who grew up in Winnipeg, of being able to “average 40 holes a day,” over the course of 10 months was that his wife worked the day shift at their ice cream emporium while he worked evenings. And, they have no kids. “It really wasn’t that big of a sacrifice,” he commented, adding his wife was fully behind him in this endeavour.
“I was really into trying to become a better player,” he said, adding he did in fact lower his factor to zero.
In James’ case, it wasn’t about becoming a better player but rather helping make others’ lives better through a fund-raising effort. He pledged financial support to the Canadian Cancer Society and earned funds by battling through all sorts of physical and mental anguish.
Of the original beginning to his record chase, James said, “It was a combination of a few things,” including participating in The Longest Day of Golf, where his foursome played over 300 holes on a busy golf course. “It was also fuelled by something else, wondering how many holes you could play if you had the course to yourself. After the first year, it took me a month to recover. I was absolutely destroyed! And there was a bit of embarrassment to attempt something and be so far off,” finishing with a total of 729 holes the first time around.
Unlike James who faced weather-related issues during his third attempt, that really wasn’t the case for Adam. After all, the weather is mostly perfect on Maui although there can be some issues as his club is located on the side of a mountain.
“That particular year, there wasn’t a whole lot of bad weather,” he noted. “But you have the West Maui Mountains to the west and Haleakala to the east, so it’s a wind tunnel. An average day up there is a 3-club wind. There were days up there where it was blowing 50, 60 miles per hour.”
While world records are hard to set in the first place they are hard to overtake once established. For James, the desire to keep going speaks to the belief he could overtake what was in front of him. For Adam, things were on a slightly different level.
“It wasn’t really about setting the record, it was about becoming a better player,” Adam said about his chase back in 2012. “In playing that much, I drastically saw the improvement. And the more you play, the better you become so there was never any consideration to give it (the chase) up.”
For James, the thought of quitting after a couple of unsuccessful attempts never really entered the picture. As he went along he realized that “shaving a few seconds on simple processes over the course of a day adds up to minutes which is vital.” That process helped him come close on his second try when he played 844.5 holes.
“The first time, it was just about getting through the 24 hours. After the first couple hours the math didn’t add up,” in setting a new mark. “It was just a matter of the plan I thought was bullet-proof really having some holes in it,” he stated.
“After that second time, coming so close, I knew we just needed to improve a couple of things. The third year, at the halfway split, we were on pace for 880 holes. There was just so much banked time saved for the nighttime portion and we were on pace for a great 24 hour mark. And then weather rolled in in the middle of the night and turned the course into a swamp. The carts were skidding, I was falling on the ground. It was a nightmare!”
While others have gone after their marks, no one has yet topped either one. Interestingly enough, Adam said he has had one person tell him that he had played more golf than the current record holder. The only thing with that, Adam noted, is “He played a lot of the rounds by himself and when I did it under the USGA rules, you were allowed to play by yourself. As of the beginning of 2016, if you play by yourself it’s like you never played the round. I look at it and say, “It’s nice you broke the record but you didn’t do it following the rules of golf, so … I really don’t see the record being broken anytime soon because it’s hard enough to find one person that wants to do that, but to find someone else that wants to be there for that much golf, that in itself is going to be a hard thing to do.”
James said a gent in England had contacted him about the record and set out to break it, but he never heard back, meaning his achievement set over a decade ago still stands. To set the mark though, several rules of thumb had to be met.
“Guinness states it has to be a course of 6,000 yards in total,” so they sawed the Edmonton muni track used in half, with only James playing the 3.002 yard front nine holes. Those had to be played in consecutive order, which he did in June of 2004.
Interestingly enough, Adam feels the record set by James, who he has met and golfed with, is the one that will stand the test of time, “Because of the time constraints. To play that many rounds, or holes, in one day, if there’s any little glitch it gets screwed up. As for me, I had a whole year. If I missed a day, I’d just go and play more the next day.”
James said the mental part of his achievement was the toughest to deal with, but there were physical factors as well, like cramps, pulled muscles, and bathroom breaks. “I hate to say this, but there was too much time in the Porta-Potty (on one of his early journeys). Thinking ‘This isn’t something I should be doing right now, wasting valuable time!’ ”
And there was more: “I can remember falling asleep in some of the cart rides (between shots) that were 15, 20 seconds. I’d drift off and can remember being bumped a couple of times,” by his driver to spring back into action.
In closing, both said it’s special to hold such a record but it hasn’t led to any riches.
“It wasn’t so much the record itself. I just wanted to be a better player and the record itself was just a bonus,” said Adam, who admits to “only playing three or four times a week now.”
Speaking to his record, James said, “I think it’s going to stand the test of time, to be honest. It’s been challenged. I know no one is going to break this record on their first attempt which means you have to have the willpower to continue. Not breaking the record is just devastating.”
Now that he holds that record, alongside a fellow Western Canadian, the pair could well reside in the hallowed halls of the Guinness World Records for a long time to come.
About the writer: Gord Montgomery is a retired sports editor of two weekly newspapers in the Edmonton area and is a member of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. He is now in his ninth year of writing for Inside Golf.
He can be reached at . He’s also on Twitter at @gordinsidegolf and on Instagram at gordinsidegolf2.