Golf For The Greater Good: The Golf Nomad
MATT CARDIS TRAVELS THE COUNTRY IN A VAN WHILE INSPIRING GOLFERS TO JOIN COMMUNITY SERVICE PROJECTS
You figure a guy known as the Golf Nomad, who lives in a van and plays more than a hundred golf courses a year is, of course, a bum, and you envy him mightily. In
the case of Matt Cardis, the envy may be appropriate, but the impression is off. Matt, who earns his living as a golf course photographer and a brand ambassador for the likes of Malbon and Adidas, is devoted not only to the game of golf, but to raising its profile as a force for good in the world. Under the umbrella of his Golf in Your State brand, he’s created the Golf Wall Project — an initiative that brings golfers together to perform community service, and, because they’re golfers, to have a good time in the process. Got it? Well, let’s allow Matt to explain.
You meet somebody at a course or at a party. How do you answer the inevitable, “So what do you do?” question?
My profession is photography. For example, for Electric Sunglasses. And I’m a brand ambassador, which means I create assets for brands and help them create content.
How do you characterize your lifestyle?
I live full-time out of my Mercedes van, traveling the country, and highlighting the modern culture of golf.
How does the Golf Wall Project fit in?
Since starting Golf in Your State in 2013, I was already doing community service projects during my travels — picking up trash on beaches, cleaning up streets. I’d come up with different [service project] concept trips. So I thought how cool it would be to organize groups together and showcase golfers doing cool things in their communities.
What are some examples of Golf Wall Projects?
The first was a beach cleanup in San Clemente — not just picking up trash, but sifting the sand for microplastics. We fed homeless people in East Oakland. We painted a retaining wall at a New York City municipal course and another one in Scottsdale. Seeded fairways at Jefferson Park [municipal course] in Seattle. Did a cleanup at Oakland Cemetery [in Atlanta], final resting place of Bobby Jones.
How do people get the word about your projects?
Primarily Instagram (@golfinyourstate, with 20,000+ followers). I put it out there, brand partners also put it out there, then friends put it out, and they each bring a friend. The ideal turnout is 15 to 30 people. That way I can spend time with everybody and shoot the content myself.
After the service is done, what do you do?
We go play golf! Everyone has gotten to know each other, so it’s a fun atmosphere. We play as large groups and continue to build camaraderie. People who have met at my events have connected and continued to play together. It’s all resulted in a huge network of friends, all connecting on Instagram.
What’s your favorite type of course?
I’m a visual guy, so I like visually appealing courses and designers who have this visual sense. I’m a big Pete Dye fan. Terrain is always something I love. I think my best shots (photos) are on the flanks, out in the fescue.
Any favorites in SoCal?
I think SoCal has one of the best collections of golf courses anywhere. Rams Hill is one not a lot of people are aware of. I like Rustic Canyon, Sandpiper in Santa Barbara — it feels very Torrey Pines, but people don’t know it exists. Soule Park is another great one.
How long do you see yourself living out of a van — and what does your mom have to say about that?
It’s not an easy lifestyle, but hey, I lived out of a pop-up tent on my Subaru Outback for two years. Now I have a stove and fridge. I’m committed through 2020. My parents didn’t understand at first, but they see that I’m doing this for good. They support me, as crazy as they think I am.
You mentioned the “modern culture of golf.” What do you mean by that?
The culture is definitely changing. Look at fashion trends, the apparel sector. A 25-year-old can say, Hey, golf isn’t what I thought it was. He might wear his [golf] clothes to dinner and then out to bars. I want the culture to appeal to a larger audience. Music on the course. Larger groups. Getting away from “Golf is this. Foursomes.” How can we make golf fun again?
What’s your big hairy audacious goal?
To inspire people to look at their lives a little bit differently. To showcase the game in a different light. Through my travels,
to inspire people to think about the environment and social issues, and through my actions inspire people to do something bigger, better, different.