Admittedly, Ballston Spa Country Club members Bob and Ginny Charbonneau are not the best golfers in the world, but they may be among the most well-traveled.
The couple completed their 50-state “Golf America Tour” last July with a trip to Alaska and Oregon. Ironically, the last official course they played was called Charbonneau Country Club, near Portland, Ore.
“No relation to us, of course,” said Bob Charbonneau. “We expected that they would be just as excited to see us as we were to see them, but some guy from Canada also named Charbonneau got there first last year. So our visit was no big deal to them, in spite of all the money we dropped in the pro shop on Charbonneau-labeled golf items.”
Charbonneau, an administrator for Seton Health, and his wife, who also works for the hospital system as a compliance officer, joined Ballston Spa CC in 2000, the same year that they decided to make golfing trips to all 50 states.
“We wanted to play in all 50 states, but not just the best courses. We also wanted to play in courses that had nice amenities. We both love good food,” Bob Charbonneau said. “We decided to play in all 50 states when we were playing together on a business trip in Minnesota. It took a lot of planning, and it took us 11 years to get all the trips in.”
One of the most memorable trips was to Alaska, where they competed at the Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage. They didn’t finish their round until 11:15 p.m.
“We were never in the dark at all. It got a little dusky after the round around 1 a.m., but to be honest with you, we never noticed the time. It must be a lot tougher for the people who live in Alaska all the time, because they don’t have sunlight for such long periods at a time,” Charbonneau said.
Charbonneau said one of his favorites was the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia.
“Not only was it a great golfing experience, but it was so unbelievable with Southern charm and amenities,” he said. “It was very beautiful there, and they took care of your every need.”
Other golf destinations that stood out included Torrey Pines, Sand Hills in northeastern Nebraska, Teton Pines in Wyoming and Coeur D’Alene in Idaho.
“Torrey Pines is just as cool in person as it is on TV. Navy jets, Marine helicopters, hang-gliders and nudists on the beach below, although they aren’t visible to golfers.
“The grains of sand at Sand Hills are actually shaped by Mother Nature to provide the exact, perfect amount of drainage for a pristine golf layout,’ he said.
“At Teton Pines, after golf, you can visit the Million Dollar Cowboy Saloon, where the bar stools are capped with saddles. Coeur D’Alene is famous for its floating/movable green.”
The Charbonneaus figured they traveled more than 100,000 miles, including 87,000 through the air and 14,000 on the ground. They also played on 165 different courses
“We collected a logo ball from the courses we played in each of the 50 states, and also saved our scorecards and bag tags,” Charbonneau said. “Those mementos are in a scrapbook now, and the main purpose is to look back at our own sometimes miserably high scores when we see the pros on TV playing at one of ‘our’ courses.”
Charbonneau said playing on so many great courses with his wife has only made the couple more in love with the game.
“We’re still avid golfers. We play every day on the weekends. I run a league for the hospital at Fairways of Halfmoon. We are just average golfers. We both have similar handicaps at between 14 and 16. We’re not very good golfers, but we really enjoy the game.”