At the Rush Creek Golf Club in Maple Grove, Minn., Jeff and Liz Cohen Goldstein of East Meadow grew nervous when the general manager rushed out to see them on the third hole. They worried they were going to get yelled at for playing too slowly. Instead, the man just wanted to take their picture.
At Pebble Beach, Jeff and Liz had a caddie who was so good that they invited him to carry their bags when they played Spyglass the next day.
At the Moose Run Creek Golf Club in Anchorage, Alaska, the Long Island couple met a friendly starter named Helen, who told them all about bears and moose that sometimes walked the course. The Goldsteins played with a local who pointed at some, um, evidence that a bear had been there pretty recently. Fortunately, their round was safe and smooth.
At every stop, the two amateur golfers who live across the street from Eisenhower Park were grateful they stuck to the plan they had made in 1997: to play golf in each of the 50 states.
"When we tell people we were in Alaska," Liz said, referring to their final stop last spring, "they ask, 'They actually play golf there?' Well, they play golf everywhere."
The Goldsteins played golf everywhere, and rediscovered America through the game. "It opened history to us a lot more. I knew a little history, but when you get to see it, it's big and beautiful," said Jeff, a 17 handicap who did the research that found courses near the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and Mount Rushmore and everywhere else.
They finished their tour ahead of schedule, with a fresh respect for all the states, for golf and golfers. "Ninety nine percent of them were just really nice people," said Liz, whose scores are in the 105 range, and improving.
Traveling is in their marriage's DNA. Liz works for Marriott so she often has to go on the road. "A lot of times I'll go with her," said Jeff, a partner in a candy distributorship in Syosset.
Golf is a big part of their lives, too. Jeff became serious about it a few years ago and brought Liz for lessons ("He was smart enough not to try to teach me himself," she said). They volunteer for The First Tee, a program that tells young people, basically, that golf can take you places.
It became literally true during the Goldsteins' 1997 vacation in Vail, Colo. "It's good to go to skiing areas in the summer because they're not that crowded," Liz said, "and the views and scenery are spectacular."
On the way home, they talked about touring the entire country through golf. They set a goal of finishing by their 20th wedding anniversary in 2012. Once they got started, they gained momentum. They blogged their stops (golfat50together.blogspot.com). Their story was so compelling that the Rush Creek executive rushed out to take their photo so he could display it in the pro shop.
Classics made their itinerary: Pinehurst No. 2, Doral, Bandon Dunes, Torrey Pines, Kapalua, Erin Hills. "People always ask me what my favorite was and, clearly, it was Pebble Beach," Jeff said of the site of their 10th anniversary. "It is such a great course."
But they also liked the unusual -- Idaho's Lake Coeur D'Alene has a floating green that requires a ferry ride -- and wide-open spaces. In June 2008, they took in Montana and North and South Dakota. "It's a good thing we like each other, because there was a lot of driving, a lot of driving," Liz said.
They still are driven. There's a big world out there. "For our 20th anniversary," she said, "we're planning to play in Ireland and Scotland."