Perhaps it's unusual to say that a member's house is a required stop when playing a golf course. Visitors to Belfair Golf Club, the 36-hole golf community in Bluffton, S.C., which hosts next week's PGA Professional Championship, can attest to Doug Coupe's collection of 15,000 assorted golf balls as being one of golf's most impressive displays.
Meticulously alphabetized, sorted by color and separated by category, Coupe's collection includes prized autographs from players like Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, and logoed entries from golf clubs around the world.
"Anybody who sees it can't believe there's this mad man who has spent the last 20-plus years collecting these nuggets of golf artifacts. But that's me," says the 75-year-old Coupe.
It started when Coupe and his wife, Vivian, lived at the Quechee Club in Vermont, and Doug found himself wandering around the meandering Ottauquechee River, where he became fascinated with the various logoed golf balls he came across. He decided to display them in his Vermont townhouse, but when he moved down to South Carolina and built a second house in the Belfair community, was when this golf ball collection really took form.
Any golfer could appreciate the construction requirements Coupe set for his golf-ball collection in his new home.
"I'm looking for museum-quality here," Coupe told his builders.
As the thousands of tiny shelves were being custom built in his attic, Coupe hand-drilled little depressions to allow for the golf balls to rest perfectly on each beam. The result is definitely museum-quality—and must be seen to be fully appreciated.
Builders surprised Coupe with a mini putting green, too, which his grandchildren particularly enjoy. A tube spits out holed putts, rolling the ball back to the front of the green, a l`a a mini-golf hole. All putts break slightly toward a little pond in Coupe's backyard, he says, adding to the experience of visiting Coupe's home.
Often, visitors will bring Coupe a golf ball that he might not possess. With impressive memory, Coupe can usually tell right away whether or not it's one he owns. Then he checks his extensive display, organized by categories such as golf courses he has played (about 490), other courses displayed alphabetically, college teams, NFL teams and even items in the supermarket (Heinz ketchup, Chiquita bananas, etc.). If it's a new ball, it's added to the collection—and the tally grows.
"It's my ongoing Easter egg hunt," says Coupe, a retired sales executive and high school guidance counselor. "You're out there looking for the golden egg, and you're looking for the logo that might complete my collection."
As word has gotten around about Coupe, the collection has grown more rapidly. In just a year, he has found more than 2,000 new balls. Players at this week's PGA Professional Championship will be encouraged by Belfair to check out Coupe's collection. And many of the 312 players and their caddies and family will take him up on it.
Coupe's favorite ball? He tells people it's his Bushwood Country Club ball—and he has an accompanying flag as a nod to "Caddyshack."
"Everybody loves 'Caddyshack,' " Coupe says. "All in all, this is meant to be fun. And it's a fun way for me to spend my time."