16 rounds, 288 holes, over 120km covered and roughly 1150 shots played...all in just four days.
Sounds fun, right? That's what I thought when I laid out the plans for my charity challenge.
My name's Craig Salter; I'm a golf enthusiast, YouTuber and Hole19 Ambassador from the UK.
This year, from June 21st-24th I completed four rounds of golf per day for four straight days, all to raise money for Macmillan Cancer support.
Over the four days I had many ups and downs and, at times, I thought I wouldn't make it. Let's start from the beginning...
I was a little apprehensive at the get go. Just days before the first tee-off, I’d fallen at work awkwardly and twisted my ankle.
I was fortunate, I'd narrowly avoided a break, but it was badly sprained and I did have a fair bit of trouble walking on it for the first few days. Against better advice, I forged on and began my challenge.
I spent the first day playing with a friend, Danny and his mates Stuart and Stephen. The day wasn’t too bad, although the ankle was still swollen and my right knee was starting to give some pain. Hitting some great shots and playing very well on what was the hottest day of the year in England since 1976 didn't seem too bad.
The day seemed fairly relaxed with Stuart’s dad driving around in a buggy carrying water for us. Also, Danny's family came down so we had a picnic halfway through the third round, which really made the day seem more relaxed.
A towering 210 yard 5 iron into the par-5 fifth that finished 6 foot away from the pin is always going to make your day a bit brighter, right? (Albeit, even if the putt is missed...as mine was.)
Day one had taken its toll on me.
I walked into Thursday with my ankle giving me a lot of pain, at just halfway through the first round I thought I had bitten off more than I could chew.
Luckily that day I was playing with my best friend Lucy Matthews; Lucy also, a hole19 user, had just finished her first semester at William Woods University in Missouri. Back for the summer and with plenty of stories about her time to keep me pre-occupied.
We broke for a long lunch break after struggling through the first two rounds and had what can only be described as a 'miracle' burger. I managed to finish the following round one under par and was almost pain-free; giving me a huge boost the last and final round of the day which, though long, flew past.
The real struggle came that night. I had to travel to the other side of London ready for the third day of play. By the time I had got to the hotel, checked in and got myself organised it was already 12:30 AM. Having to be up at 4 o'clock in the morning, it only gave me 3 and a half hours sleep and rest for my already weary body.
Day three was the real make or break day. I knew if I could just get through the day I’d be able to complete the challenge.
I was playing with two mates I met through using the Hole19 App itself, Rocky and Alex. Spirits were high and I got to play a course I'd never played before. With some pretty looking approaches and risk and reward par-4 out there, it was a joy to plot my way around.
After 27 holes, my energy was all but sapped; my body was starting to pay the price of only a few hours sleep the night before. Not to mention the previous two days of golf. This was the hardest point of my journey.
The only thing that kept me going was the thought of the money I'd be raising, and the thought of a nice rest and getting some good food once the day was through.
Mentally, I was ready to tackle the last two rounds of that day...but it was tough to get my body moving again in the third round. As much as the break did me good it had also casued me to seize up a but. Thankfully, and with great support from both Alex and Rocky pushing me, on I managed to struggle through the last two rounds.
I finished Friday with a long drive home, but with the knowledge of having just 1 day to go, my spirit felt lifted and I was embued with a fresh energy.
The fourth and final day of my challenge had finally arrived; I’d gotten this far so I was adamant I’d finish it. I’d had a little more sleep than previous nights, and was playing with some of my best friends so I knew I was in store for a great laugh.
I played at two different courses that day and it actually helped keep my mind on the golf and off the pain.
My playing partners were Chris, Matt and Dom; they were always going to be the best people to play with on the last day. The laughs we shared and the bante truly helped me forget about my pain and enjoy my day.
The day was drawing to a close and I was lucky enough to have my friends and family come down to cheer me through the final stages.
There must have been around 10 of us on the course for the last few holes. With the rain clouds parting and the sun beginning to set over the beautiful greens, I knew I’d achieved my goal.
It was an incredible end to what turned out to be an incredible journey...but my God did my body feel it the net day!
Looking back, I’m proud I undertook the Journey to 288 and to have completed 16 rounds in 4 days..but the golf itself was always secondary for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I was glad to have a chance to play a lot (a lot!) of golf; but knowing I was raising money for a cause like Macmillan Cancer Research is what inspired me to push through.
The work that Macmillan does, the support they provide for patients and their families that have to deal with cancer is unparalleled. MacMillan nurses are always on hand to support their patients even in the darkest of times, and will always need our help to continue to do their great work.
Until next year...