An Interview with Matt Cardis, golf nomad
Earning the title “Golf Nomad,” Matt Cardis established his footing in golf with many professions: photographer, content creator, travel expert and entrepreneur. However, the online community knows him best for merging his love for travel and golf into a fresh perspective that showcases the culture of American golf and the “modern golfer.”
And it’s called Golf In Your State.
Since its inception in the fall of 2016, Matt has traveled more than 100,000 miles, photographed 300-plus courses and connected with thousands of like-minded golfers. He photographs his love for the sport and its culture throughout his travels. Spending nights in parking lots, truck stops, Interstate rest areas, roadside pullouts and golfers’ driveways, he sleeps anywhere he can so he can continue documenting life on the road.
In December 2018, Cardis traveled to Rams Hill Golf Club for the first time. He described the experience as “getting lost and found” in the desert. In addition to finding himself, Cardis found the idea for a meet-up experience like none other.
As January transitioned to February, the next chapter of Golf in Your State initiated The Highway Golf Series with Rams Hill listed as the first course featured. Our growing golf destination had the privilege to host a “destination immersion.” Consisting of talented professionals ranging from a wedge designer to a surfboard shaper to a golf instructor, The Highway Golf Series with Golf in Your State was one for the books.
We caught up with Matt for a Q&A about his adventures as a successful golf-content creator.
So many of us have distant dreams of traveling the world, but many of us don’t have the courage to drop everything and start. What initiated Golf in Your State, the idea of traveling from course to course, photographing your journey and turning it into a career?
I decided right out of college I was going to live life and do the things I love every single day. I found myself living in the ski town of Jackson, Wyoming, which I still call home base today. Graduating from college in Utah, I was drawn to the outdoor lifestyle. I worked seasonal jobs out of college so I could snowboard every day in the winter and fly-fish or mountain bike every day in the summer. During the off-seasons, I traveled to places all over the world. I fell in love with the lifestyle and always found it a part of me. As I progressed into my professional career in advertising, I found myself making good money but going against everything I said I wanted in life. I was working in a cubicle, a typical nine-to-five kind of job. I found myself just going through the routine with day after day passing and all of a sudden four years went by. I couldn’t snowboard anymore in the winters with the exception of the weekends and I grew tired of it.
Then, a young friend of mine passed away unexpectedly. He was 25 years old, died doing something he loved, and I knew he wouldn’t have regretted anything in life. People say life is too short. Well this was one of those moments. The next day I walked into my bosses’ office and gave notice. I had been thinking about this travel photography idea for a long time. And it was time for me to pull the trigger.
Your photos are breathtaking. How did you start developing an eye for photography and what made you want to focus those efforts on golf?
I’ve been shooting images since I was around 15 years old. In college I took a few photojournalism classes and that’s when I really got into it. Throughout the years in Jackson, I shot a variety of things including some commercial work, weddings and engagement photos, but I was always drawn to the outdoors and recreation. My favorite things were to photograph landscapes and wildlife. Through my involvement in advertising, I was really involved in social media. I followed a few golf photography accounts and always kept and eye on them. Golf kind of brought my two loves of landscape and wildlife together. You’d be surprised how similar my movements are shooting golfers and an animal in the wild.
Although our course has won some notable titles such as Best of Golf Advisor, Best Course Conditions in Southern California and has been ranked among the Best Resort Courses in the U.S., we can be a little difficult to find. How did you discover Rams Hill and what made you want to visit?
I have known about the superbloom in Anza-Borrego [Desert State Park] for years. I’ve never had the chance to see it in person and was dying to make it happen. I actually came in December to scout the location knowing I was about to upgrade into the van and am always looking for unreal settings for images. While I was researching the area, I looked up the golf courses as I almost always do in my travels and noticed the name Rams Hill. I had heard the name and seen the photos but didn’t know much about it. Two weeks later, I was in Borrego Springs scouting the location for a number of reasons.
As mentioned, shortly after you visited the course, The Highway Golf Series began with Rams Hill as the first destination listed. What gave you the idea to create the Highway Golf Series?
The Highway Golf Series is one of my formats for meet-up events. It combines my love for places I’ve found in my travels and introducing people to them. I consider it more of a destination immersion. I basically take them through all the things I did to fall in love with the place on my initial trip. These are all off-the-beaten path courses that maybe people have heard of but never have had the chance to experience them. I’m giving them a reason to come experience them in a really cool and different way.
What motivated you to not only to return to Rams Hill but make us the first?
Rams Hill was the perfect place to launch this concept. Not only is the course fantastic, but the area offers a lot of other elements that fit the bill for the Highway Golf Series. The statues in the desert are probably one of the more creative opportunities to capture content that I’ve ever seen. The camping is unreal.
On a present note, you’ve developed the Golf Wall Project, a mission to travel the country, raise money for creative giveback initiatives relating to golf and bring golfers together to perform various types of community service with the money raised. What gave you the idea to combine traveling, golf and community service?
The Golf Wall Project has been a concept I’ve been developing for over a year now. Throughout my travels so far, I have done a lot of community service on my own in the places I visit. I try to give back to every community in some way, shape or form, and it’s become something that is very important to me. It’s something people always gravitate toward — whether it’s cleaning a beach, feeding the homeless, donating blood or whatever. The documentation of my travels is about a lot more than just golf, and I noticed how much people loved when I donated my time. I try to throw in environmental issues and social awareness to inform the public about things that are important to me. I’m always looking for trip concepts that no one has done before and this felt like a great fit that a lot of others wouldn’t be willing to take on.