A Feat for the Ages

Guinness world record or not, Ptarmigan CC’s Craig Chester still going strong after shooting his age — or better — well over 1,300 times

By Gary Baines – 4/1/2024

Every now and then, the Evans Scholars Foundation asks its caddie alums for life updates to use in its publications.

Craig Chester, a proud University of Michigan E.S. alum who lives in Fort Collins, certainly has some worthwhile material for upcoming Evans Scholar newsletters and such. 

First, he firmly believes the willingness of the caddie scholarship to work with him in allowing an Army stint to interrupt his years as an Evans Scholar led to a successful post-graduate career working for the National Security Agency.

And second, Chester’s most notable golf accomplishment is one that certainly stands out among E.S. alums — and really, any golfer in general.

A few years ago here at, we profiled Chester, who had just shot his age — or better — for the 1,000th time. Yes, you read that right.

Now, we’re revisiting Chester’s feat mainly in the wake of something Golf Digest published a few weeks ago. It was a feature about an 85-year-old golfer, Mike Barber, who a year ago made it into Guinness World Records for the number of times he’s shot his age or better. And, as noted in the story, Barber had racked up 1,266 such rounds as of February.

Which brings us back to Chester, who celebrated his 86th birthday last month. Barber may be officially recognized as holding the Guinness record, but Chester has more rounds shooting his age of better — by quite a bit. As of Monday, the Coloradan had 1,370 to his credit — with all but about 50 of those coming at Ptarmigan Country Club, where he’s been a member since 2000. 

Asked what his reaction was when he read that a person with fewer rounds beating his age actually holds the Guinness record, Chester took a practical view of the matter.

“I think there might be more people than me” that have higher such totals, Chester said. “There’s one guy at my course who’s probably close to the number of rounds where he shot his age, but he doesn’t keep the records like I do. I think Greg (With, a Ptarmigan member and also a prominent rules official) said the same thing: I’m sure there are other people here in the States or in the world where they have shot a number of rounds at their age or under, but they just didn’t keep the records.”

Barber, for his part, commented on the Guinness record page in which he’s recognized, responding to another golfer who indicated he has more rounds of matching or bettering his age.

“Guinness not only requires the scorecards but attestation from every course at which it was done, and the course must be 6,000 yards or more. Does your achievement meet these criteria?”

After contemplating whether to pursue record status with the Guinness folks, Chester indicated it isn’t a high priority for him.

“I have mixed emotions about pursuing this subject,” he said. “My intent in keeping a record of how many times I have shot a score equal to or less than my age was not to set a world record.” He added that he used to track in detail the number of times he shot in the 70s. Then, when he first shot his age — in 2009 — his new goal became to do that as often as possible when he played.

“Over the past couple of years, fellow members at Ptarmigan have mentioned that my feat must be Guinness Book golf record material,” Chester noted, mentioning that he had little luck in researching the matter until receiving the Golf Digest article With sent him. “Why do I have mixed emotions about submitting my accomplishment to Guinness? I don’t want to get into (an ongoing) competition with Mr. Barber. … I also think there are other people in the golf world who might have more rounds of their age or better but just don’t have the records to prove it.”

An example of the detailed golf record-keeping Chester has done for the last 15 years.

Chester religiously records the details of each of his rounds — and has since 2009, when he first shot his age. And all of his rounds in which he shot his age came at courses of more than 6,000 yards. 

But he acknowledges that if Guinness World Records would require scorecards for each of his rounds beating his age, “I don’t have that. I keep the statistics on every round I play. I have those going back to the first time I shot my age, which was in 2009. The numbers check out, but I don’t have the scorecards. If Guinness requires the scorecards, I think that’s a little bit much.”

Even if Chester isn’t formally recognized as the Guinness record holder, he’s still proud of what he’s achieved. At this point, he estimates he shoots his age or better 70 percent of the time he tees it up.

“It’s what keeps me going,” said the retired Russian linguist for the NSA, where he did intelligence research. “I’m 86 years old and I’m still doing it. It gets easier each year. I had an 86 in January — of course it didn’t count (toward his total at that point) — but then on my birthday (March 6) I shot 86.

“When you play golf, as far as I’m concerned, you have to have some sort of a goal.” And for Chester, shooting his age or better fits the bill.

For the record, Chester said in 2023 his average score was 82.81 (his current USGA handicap index is 11.3). He had some hip issues last year, so he played “only” 147 rounds in 2023 — down from his norm of 187 since he joined Ptarmigan. He shot his age or better 123 times last year.

“Jim Eyberg, the (former PGA head professional at Ptarmigan) for a number of years after I joined, used to call me ‘Everyday Craig’,” Chester noted. “When the course was open, I’d be there.”

These days, Chester makes certain concessions to age and ailments. As mentioned, he was bothered by some hip issues starting last May — to the point he took pretty much the entire month of June off from golf last year, something virtually unheard of for him in warm-weather months. He regularly exercises at the gym — and still does so — but these days he only does those exercises while sitting down at a given machine because standing sometimes bothers him. 

More directly related to golf, Chester used to walk rather than ride for the great majority of his rounds. But since his hip problems from the first half of last year, he’s taken to riding in a cart on a regular basis. 

“I’m sitting and resting between shots,” he noted. “I started riding in July and it’s been a remarkable improvement. I could probably walk at least nine holes — and ride the other nine — but I’ve become spoiled.” Whatever the case, the changes have Chester feeling like his old self again.

But there’s been one other adjustment: starting with his 85th birthday in March of 2023 he decided to move up to the white tees at Ptarmigan, which measure 6,056 yards. 

“I can still hit the ball pretty well, but the white tees are a little more fun — and I owe it to myself,” Chester said. “You have to enjoy yourself.”

And Chester does indeed enjoy himself just about anytime he’s playing golf. And if he matches or betters his age, even more so.

About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for since 2009. The University of Colorado Evans Scholar alum was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates