Collect Them All

David Fanning’s quest: Play every golf course in Colorado.

When David Fanning dropped in a 15-foot bogey putt on the eighteenth hole at Montrose’s Cornerstone Club, it was more than the last stroke on a challenging par five–or even the end of a round on one of the state’s most scenic courses. For Fanning, it represented the finale to an unprecedented 20-year golf odyssey, which has taken him across Colorado’s stunning high country and vast plains, from its largest cities to its tiniest towns.
After his round at Cornerstone–and one at Aurora’s new CommonGround Golf Course a week earlier–Fanning had played every single golf course in Colorado. Actually, to be more precise, he’s played every single golf hole in the state, including the 20-some par-threes and nine-hole sand-green courses tucked into the furthest reaches of the Centennial State—a number of which don’t even appear in our Official State Guide to Golf Courses. That’s a grand total of 276.
The idea to complete the state’s entire golf catalog struck in 1990 when he read an article about a man who completed a similar feat in Nebraska. Having already played about 75 courses, he figured he’d knock off about 20 per year. 
“At the time it was more of a notion,” says Fanning, who was a traveling salesman at the time. “I didn’t know they were going to build 30 or 40 courses in the mid-90s, and at one point I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish them all. When I got within the final 25 a few years ago, all of a sudden it turned from a notion into a goal.”
So how did Fanning gain access to every course in the state, including its 60-plus private clubs? Credit that to Fanning’s affable nature and ability to network. Through many generous connections and a heavy dose of patience, he’s been able to get onto the state’s most prestigious and exclusive courses. The most difficult? Wolcott’s Eagle Springs Golf Club, which he accessed through his dentist’s sister’s father-in-law.
In an attempt to get onto Castle Pines Golf Club, his step-daughter wrote a letter to General Manager Keith Schneider. Although the bid to play was unsuccessful, the last line revealed Fanning’s intense passion for the game:
“P.S–I don’t know his handicap, but he plays in men’s club tournaments, he eats, sleeps and breathes golf every day to improve his game.”
He eventually played Castle Pines during a charity tournament.
Other courses were just downright difficult to locate, like Crook Golf Course in the northeast corner of the state, where he had to flag down a group of beet farmers for directions and followed a canal to find the first tee and a scorecard holder that had become a beehive.
“Golf is more than the score,” reflects Fanning. “It’s experiencing all that Colorado has to offer through the eyes of a golfer–the people, towns and terrain.”
And throughout his quest, Fanning has become a veritable Colorado golf expert. Want to know about the dozen or so courses that have closed, such as the Great Sand Dunes Golf Course at Zapata Ranch, during the past twenty years? Ask Dave. Which golf course’s clubhouse is actually a converted 1926 two-room schoolhouse where one room is the golf shop and the other is the restaurant? Dave’s your guy. (The answer, by the way, is Eads Golf Course.)
“Somebody called me the most knowledgeable person in the state when it comes to golf,” says Fanning. “I don’t know about that, but I’ve gotten to know about the architects and the history of many courses–and even learned a lot about the history of a lot of Colorado’s towns.”

Fanning even met his wife of nine years, Candy, on a golf course. And while she hasn’t played all 276, she’s easily as avid–if not slightly more so–logging more rounds in 2008 than her husband did.
“For me golf is about never having the same experience twice and just appreciating God’s beautiful scenery,” says Candy, whose 10.9 handicap is a mere half-stroke behind David’s. “It’s such a challenge and you don’t have to depend on someone else to play.”
Their Westminster home testifies to their shared passion. From the garage, in which sits a practice net and a rack with dozens of pairs of old golf shoes, to their living room, which prominently features a shrine to their trip to St. Andrews, (complete with an antique course map and bronzed scorecards), their house overflows with golf paraphernalia including pictures, towel racks, tapestries, furniture, shower curtains, pillows, racks of logo balls collected at each course he and Candy have played since getting together, and other knickknacks gathered throughout the years. 
His most prized piece is an old shoebox packed with scorecards of every course, which serves as an archive of his achievement, including the date and time he played, photographs and notes.
And with golf course construction grinding to a virtual halt, Fanning won’t add to that box anytime soon. Instead he’s just content playing his home course of Hyland Hills and going back to check up on courses that have been touched up, like Cherry Hills, or revisiting courses he’s simply forgotten, such as Murphy Creek.
His passion for the game has led him into other golf-related pursuits and spends much of his time learning the club making business at Dimension Z and teaching at Hyland Hills, where he works junior clinics a couple times each week. It’s his way to returning the favor to golf, which has been such an essential part of his life.