What's it really like playing 100 holes in a Youth on Course hike?

Even playing a short course like Orlando's Winter Park 9 was tougher mentally and physically than one golfer imagined.
Drake Dunaway and Allen Shoup before the first hole (left) and after finishing the 100th (right).

WINTER PARK, Fla. - Walking 100 holes of golf in one day is hard to wrap your head around.

I knew it would be both fun and, at times, difficult, but I was up for the challenge. On Nov. 6, I completed my first Youth on Course 100 Hole Hike at Winter Park Golf Course outside Orlando. Hitting my first tee shot at just past 6:50 a.m. and holing my last putt around 4:45 p.m., it was a 10-hour experience full of fun, laughter, muscle pain and blisters. I learned some valuable lessons about golf, and myself, along the way.

Starting strong on a Youth on Course 100 Hole hike

The first 5 times around WP9, the first 45 holes, were fantastic. I’m a fast player by nature and having an entire course in front of you with the expectation of playing quickly was about as fun as it gets. I decided to carry a Sunday bag and had 6 clubs for the journey: Driver, 3-iron, 7-iron, wedge, sand wedge, putter. It’s interesting how when you turn your brain off and are forced into weird yardages, some good results happen. I did learn early from my playing partner, Allen Shoup, that it was going to be a “putt with the glove on day”. I was uncomfortable committing one of golf’s great faux pas, but I would have been even more uncomfortable taking my glove off, and putting it back on, 100 times. I like to think putting with the glove led to my dozens of 3 putts throughout the day, but maybe it was just that I was trying to play as fast as possible (the green complexes at WP9 are not the easiest). We were able to get around the 2,100 yard, par-35 course at a pace of roughly 45 minutes per nine for most of the day. This started to have a wear-and-tear effect on my body as the day got longer.

Grind time on the hike

Holes 50 to 75 are where I really started to struggle. Just like a late July Major League Baseball game, the middle 33 holes are the “dog days” of the 100 Hole Hike. You’ve already put in a good amount of work and yet the finish line is not in sight. I also started to develop a few blisters on my feet just after the halfway mark that made walking more difficult. A sock change after 63 holes did offer some relief, but the real damage was already done. It’s during this stretch that I hit some truly dreadful shots, both due to exhaustion and lack of focus. I came to the par 5 3rd hole, our 75th hole of the day, and proceeded to hit three iron shots in traveled no more than 50 yards. The mind is simply not capable of staying present for that much golf! 

Surviving down the home stretch

The final stretch was all about energy conservation. The last 18 I started to hit mostly punch shots and thought about the tee box on the next hole often before I was done with the current challenge in front of me. It actually was a blast to strategize the most energy-efficient ways to play golf and where to hit the golf ball. It became a game within the game and I hit some quality shots. Adrenaline kicked in and my feet started to feel better for my last loop. I started to take in the scenery a bit more and just enjoy the little things. We all know that dusk might be the most spectacular time to play golf - the shadows get longer and, at the WP9, the trains race by every few minutes.

All-in-all, it was a memorable experience. It was far more difficult to accomplish than I thought it would be, both mentally and physically. The final tally included almost 25 miles walked, 15 birdies, 1 eagle, 7 lost balls and a 20.6 strain score on my Whoop (max is 21.0).

When you're raising money for a great cause like Youth on Course, all the physical and mental challenges felt totally worth it. You can still donate to my hike at this webpage. Currently more than $1.8 million has been raised so far this year.

Could you play 100 holes in a day?
Hiking 100 holes is more fun than you might ever have on the golf course.
I'm participating in a Youth on Course 100 Hole Hike this summer. Why aren't you?
Youth on Course continues to grow. We at GolfPass are happy to support it.
Rounds at tough-to-access private clubs, luxury travel experiences and more are on offer, all for a good cause.
Both the boys and girls USGA champions are YOC members who took advantage of $5 rounds of golf to hone their games.
With other sports on the sidelines, YOC rounds and membership on the rise.

Drake Dunaway grew up in Dayton, Ohio, where he started playing golf at a young age before playing collegiately at DePauw University. Recently he’s lived in Phoenix and now in Orlando, where he still tries to play once or twice a week. He’s worked in golf since 2016 and joined the GolfPass team in 2019. Follow him on Twitter @drake_dunaway
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