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Monday, 30 July 2012

The Power of Halves

One of my golfing companions (let's call him Dennis) had a set of goals this year that he called "The fourth power of halves". (Anybody that uses mathematical terms like "power" in normal everyday conversation is bound to be an engineer, and Dennis is no exception.)

The goals were:
  • To play half as much as Martin
  • To play half as well as Paul
  • To be half as competitive as John
  • To be half as negative as Rick

Let's look at each of these in turn.

Your humble author is the subject of Dennis's first goal. With another month and a half left in the year, I've played 210 nine-hole rounds. (Lots of times I play 18 holes, but then that would go on my list as two nine-hole rounds.) For some reason, Dennis seems to think either that a) he doesn't want to play as much golf as I do, or b) he aspires to increase his playing time significantly, and half as much as me is all that he can conceive of. Either that or he's secretly making fun of me for spending too much time on the golf course... Hmmm... I may be on to something...

"Paul" next. Paul is not actually a bogey golfer, which makes him a bit of an anomaly in our group. Paul actually has sub-par rounds every now and then. Dennis's goals here are a bit clearer. He wants to become a better golfer, but Paul is so far ahead of the rest of us, that to try to be actually as good as Paul is unrealistic. Hence the goal to be half as good. What does "half as good" mean? Good question. Half as many pars, maybe?

Now for John: John likes to have a game going on, at all times. The stakes don't have to be high -- dimes and quarters are just as good as dollars or fives (not that I've personally ever bet that much). The game can be best individual score, best team score, best ball with teams, rotating teams, the three little pigs, bingo-bango-bongo - it doesn't matter, as long as there's a game on. Even when John's not playing with us, we're usually trying to figure out how much we would owe him if he was. What's half as competitive? Maybe winning half the time -- even if that doesn't capture the true spirit of being half as competitive, I'll bet it would make Dennis happy.

And finally Rick: Rick is a believer in that old saying, "Always expect the worst and you won't be disappointed." If he hits a ball into the rough, he'll grouse, "Probably rolled in the water." If he hits it in the sand, he'll predict, "I'll bet it's in a footprint." If he hits it down the middle, he'll predict "It's probably in a pile of goose poop." Pretty soon we're all chiming in, "At the bottom of the cliff...", "... with a rattlesnake coiled around it", "... right where lightning is about to strike!" Half as negative? Maybe not predicting a triple bogey on every hole...

So how's Dennis doing?
  • He's right on track for half as many rounds
  • He's nowhere near half as good as Paul (although he is improving)
  • He's nowhere near half as competitive as John (and he's still losing bets)
  • He's struggling in the negativity department too, despite the fact that Rick once said "I like it!" after hitting a good drive last week.
Well, as Robert Browning famously said: "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

So Bad It's Good

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose -- Kris Kristofferson
Today I was playing nine at the Olde Course. (Mid-November, 65 degrees, another brutal day in Colorado...). I teed off on # 12, which is a narrowish dogleg left. This hole always grates on me, just like fingernails on a chalkboard, mainly because I tend to hit fades with my driver. Why not hit an iron? Why indeed... But I digress...

I lost it right into the trees, as I am wont to do on this shot. I strode hopefully into the woods, wondering if I'd have a line. Lots of times when I hit into the woods, I can find a possible route out -- if you get just enough altitude, and hit just the right amount of hook, you can get around the big cottonwood, and just over the scrub junipers, and leave yourself a short chip from in front of the green. Most of the time when I see that line, and envision just the right shot in my mind's eye, I yank the shot off the heel of my club and ricochet off the tree trunk to my left. One thing usually leads to another in these situtations, and I fight back and scramble, at last managing to curl in a 30 footer to save an eight.

Today, there was no hope. I was completely in jail. Boxed in. No overhead route. No shaped shot -- neither a hook nor a slice -- could possibly weave through the trees, despite the fact that the deciduous trees had all lost their foliage. No land route either. Even on my hands and knees I couldn't spot a path between the tree trunks where I might be able to scoot a worm-burner through the woods and onto the green with my two-iron. I had nothing. Heaving a sigh of despair, I had no choice but to knock down a seven-iron chip back into the middle of the fairway. From there I hit a sand wedge to the back corner of the green, narrowly missed a 10 foot putt, and had to settle for bogey.

Damn, I hate that! To be forced into doing the right thing because of a complete lack of alternatives! Oh sure, I know, saving bogey after a drive like that is something to be proud of. And I would have been proud if I had chipped back to the middle of the fairway despite seeing a possible line for a miracle shot!!! Because then I would have made "the smart play". Then I would have been using "course management". Then I would have been "taking my medicine". But this way, I wasn't a noble Nicklauseque golfer calmly taking double-bogey out of the picture. I was just a guy that hit a bad shot into the woods. I didn't make the smart play, I had to settle for the only play.

My problem (one of them, anyway) is that I turn my back on the smart play when I have a choice. Deep down inside, I yearn to be, not Jack Nicklaus, but Seve Ballesteros. Seve sprayed bad shots everywhere, and then amazed one and all with miraculous recovery shots. Golfing scholars will immediately point out that Jack didn't tend to hit a lot of balls into the woods in the first place. And here I am digressing again...

I always thought that the object of the game was to make the lowest score you could. I think I just realized that, at a subconscious level, I haven't been trying for that at all -- I've actually been aspiring to make superhuman shots. Why would anyone do that? Why would you set yourself up for the frustration and heartache of repeatedly trying to make shots that are beyond your capabilities? Well, that's a no-brainer, as all you bogey golfers know... it's because, every once in a blue moon, you pull one off!!!

And just like that, for that one brief moment, for that split second before your common sense kicks back in, you get a momentary glimpse of what it must feel like to be Tiger Woods, or Phil Mickelson, or Ernie Els, or any of the touring pros who can make a golf ball do wonderful things, who can seemingly bend inanimate objects to their will, who can exert control on uncontrollable situations. It's certainly a grand and glorious feeling, to pull off a miracle shot. Of course, it misses the large majority of what the touring pros mostly aspire to feel themselves. They mostly want to feel like they're incapable of hitting shots bad enough to find themselves in the woods to begin with. It's not the one exciting shot they make in a round -- it's the 72 boring shots right down the middle! (or 66...)

And with that blinding realization, I'm off for the Senior Tour, right? Doh! No. Realizing it, and actually being able to do it, are still two completely different things... Hey! Let me tell you about the sand save I made on 15! It was a horrible downhill lie...

Golf Betting Games

At nodivot.com we recognize that a lot of matches are played with "friendly wagers" on the line. While we neither condone nor condemn this activity, the fact remains that it is illegal in most places. In fact, many golf courses have signs stating that such activity is illegal. We suggest that any of the games listed below (or any others for that matter) be played in accordance with the laws of the state, country, etc. in which you are standing at the time. We're not even sure that golf course betting is legal in Las Vegas. Remember, not all games require a wager.

With that said, on course betting (where legal) can be fun...but unless you are a hardcore gambler, it should be kept simple and friendly. Most of us have found ourselves in a match that was something like,

"Dollar a hole for total score, automatic double if you're down two; 50 cents for longest drive, closest to the pin, and first in; 25 cents for each bunker you hit; birdie after hitting a tree goes pig for the hole. Tie on 18 carries over to the putting green."

For starters, some poor bastard has to keep track of all that. Of course, no one else will know if he's right or wrong so he'll at least end up even. Second, people who are playing poorly that day will end up so angry that you won't want to play with them anymore. At betheball.com, we believe that betting games should make the round more enjoyable. Here are a few suggestions:

Strokes

This is an easy one if everyone has an official index. The only decision to be made here is whether to go with the Current or Low index. Those who have never established an index can often be a problem. These guys will make statements such as, "My last three rounds were 101, 105, and 103 so I guess that makes me about a 30. Just give me a stroke a hole." This never works as we all know that the way handicaps are calculated (stupid as it is) is based on the best 10 or 20 rounds and multiplied by 96%. In short, they have very little to do with what you shot over your last three rounds. Here are two recommended ways to settle this:


If you play with this guy often, everyone should have an idea as to his "potential." Why potential? Because that is what the USGA has designed the handicap system to be. To be fair, don't hold him to the 84 he pulled out of his ass five months ago. Still, you should be able to come to a consensus and assign him an index.


Make him negotiate. This can be the easiest way of all. After a couple of minutes you should be able to come to an agreement such as "I want 12." "I'll give you six." and so on.

A word of advice. Try to avoid giving strokes on Par 3's. This will put you at a huge disadvantage.

Games

For maximum enjoyment, games should be simple to understand, require no extra equipment, and start with a low initial bet (to allow for presses, etc.).


Skins - Probably the easiest of all games. Lowest score on the hole wins a skin worth whatever stake was agreed upon. Ties can carry over or not. The rule of validation that was used on TV is a pretty crappy one. I don't recommend it.


Wolf - Another easy one. One player is selected as The Wolf for the first hole. All players hit their drives and the Wolf selects his partner for the hole. Lowest individual score on the hole wins a point for his team. The Wolf may opt to go PIG if he believes that he can beat all of the other players on the hole. If he succeeds, he receives three points. If he fails, the other team receives two points per member. Each player takes a turn being the Wolf on successive holes (based on an established rotation).


Vegas - This game is played in teams. The low score between partners is put first. For example, on a par four one player makes a 4 and his partner makes a 5, the team score is 45. If the other teams scores 56, the first team receives eleven points. If one team makes birdie, the other team must reverse it's score. If the above example were on a par five. Team One's score is still 45, but Team Two's score becomes 65 and therefore Teams One receives 20 points. If both teams birdie, both scores are reversed to figure the points. It's up to you to decide the value placed on each point. Just remember that there are a lot of points at stake.

We will be adding more games in the near future. Check back.

Golf on the Monterey Peninsula

Pebble Beach: go here, now
The golfing world is full of guys who say, "I really want to play Pebble Beach but it's way too expensive." or "My wife would kill me if I took her on vacation to a golf resort." If you are one of those guys, the first thing you need to do is repossess your nuts, you've gone without them too long. Once that is done, click here, read, pick up the phone, and make a reservation. You will thank me.

Still need convincing? OK fine. If your worried about the price, you should be, it's really expensive. Once you're done with accommodations, meals, golf, spa treatments, gifts, etc., three days at The Lodge will cost you about the same as two weeks in Italy. To that I say, "Money well spent." This is no ordinary experience boys. The staff at this resort treats you like royalty. They prepare fires in your fireplace, drive you into nearby Pacific Grove or Carmel, tell you numerous stories about the history of the resort and its guests, etc. This is a five-star place and you never doubt that for a minute you're there. Life is all about experiences and this is one that should not be missed.

Now let's address the wife issue. Guys, this is a NON issue. Contrary to popular belief, women don't necessarily want to spend every waking minute with us. Sure it may seem like that, especially when we're trying to watch Sports Center or the entire final round of the U.S. Open but I'll bet you don't have a world class spa & beach club within five minutes of your front door (those who do have no doubt already been to Pebble). Get her a half or full day spa treatment that coincides with your tee time and you're golden. If you need to sell this idea to her, tell her to invite one of her friends on a couple's trip up there (make sure that her friend's husband, boyfriend, etc. is not a total knob). The girls will have their fun and you will get to play some of the most memorable golf in your life.

Still not convinced? Click here, this site will help you come to grips with the real you.

For those of you who don't need convincing, make sure to try some of the following places while you're up there.

The Tap Room - This is one of the all-time great bars. Dark wood, great beer and whiskey selections, tasty food, U.S. Open memorabilia hanging on the walls, it just feels good. If I lived within 10 miles of this place I would spend happy hour there every night...that is until my liver transplant.

The Whaling Station - Located across the street from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Ask the concierge to make a reservation for you and to drive you there (they will pick you up too). While the name is rather...politically incorrect...this place is a pretty good steak house with a good wine list.

Passionfish - Located in Pacific Grove and frequented by locals, this place changes their menu every day and serves some of the best food in the area. They also have an exceptional wine list with prices that make you look twice. In some cases you would pay more at retail (if you could still find the wine).

The Tap Room - Oh, I mentioned this one already didn't I? Well, it's that good.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Ty Webb's Guide to Golf Etiquette

Ty Webb
If you clicked on this link with the expectation of finding items such as the proper place to stand when your opponent is teeing off, you are in the wrong place my friend. Go have a Zima and come back when you are ready to learn about something that really matters.

Ty Webb's Guide to Golf Etiquette will help you with some of the more...esoteric...aspects of the game.

Mulligans

Unless specifically ruled out as part of a betting game, all players with handicaps exceeding 15 are entitled to a mulligan on the first tee. To limit embarrassment, this should be referred to as a "Breakfast Ball" (if you are teeing off at twilight, it is acceptable to use the Japanese form known as a "Breakfast Bar" (since they are eating breakfast there at the time). Breakfast Balls may not be saved for use on another tee box.

Anyone with a handicap of 20 or higher is entitled to one mulligan per nine holes. Breakfast Balls are not charged as official mulligans.

Scoring

Any putt that is called "good" (as in "That's good") is automatically considered to be jarred. The golfer may practice the putt and shall incur no penalty if it is missed.

The phrase "Pick it up." shall be used any time that a player with a handicap of 20+ is lying 8 or more while still in the fairway. The player shall receive a score of double par (Beagle) and will be grateful.

Unless you're playing in a tournament, no penalty shall be incurred for balls lost in the rough or fairway. Tour pros have tournament officials and spectators to point out exactly where their ball settled. Moreover, they don't need to worry about someone picking up their Pro V1 and putting it in their bag. As long as you are certain that the ball stayed in bounds and is not buried in a bush, etc., you are entitled to a free drop in a location agreed to by at least one other member of your group.

Pace of Play

"Ready Golf" was thought up by a slow golfer and is a load of crap. Anyone who takes a triple and tees off before the guy who made birdie should be required to play his second shot from a bunker. Keep up with the group in front of you. Make sure your playing partners keep up. Ready Golf my ass.

If you have a hole open in front of you, do not re-try your 30 footer after everyone else has finished.

If the group in front of you is a hole behind and someone re-tries their 30 footer, it is acceptable to yell at them to hurry up.

If the above happens twice, it is acceptable to hit your approach shot the very second they step off the green. Remember to yell "FORE" as we don't want any lawsuits.

Drink Cart Girls

The amount of your tip should be directly proportional to how hot she is and how willing she is to pretend that you have a chance with her.

An extra dollar should be added if she is wearing a short skirt rather than shorts, etc.

An additional dollar should be added if she is wearing those lacy bobby socks.

There is absolutely no obligation to tip a cart girl if she is a bitch.

Urination

Urinating on the course is as much a part of the game as putting (this is, of course, only true if it's not an activity which can get you arrested).

Whenever possible, players should face away from houses while peeing. This is however not necessary if doing so requires peeing into the wind.

Players should refrain from peeing on the course if the Cart Girl is on green or fairway in front of the group.

Urinating on your opponents ball is strictly prohibited (unless you are sure you can get away with it without him knowing).

Miscellaneous

Golf carts must be kept off the greens and out of hazards. Other than that, they are toys.

Any player wearing more than four logos must buy the first round.

Asking opponents if they inhale or exhale in their backswing is not only legal, it is hilarious if it screws them up.

Are you a "Be The Ball" Golfer?

ty webb caddyshack


"There is a force in the universe that makes things happen...and all you have to do is get in touch with it. Stop thinking...let things happen...and Be the Ball."
Ty Webb (Chevy Chase), Caddyshack



To the "Be the Ball" Golfer there are certain truths:
  1. Courses should be Par 72's.
  2. You should ALWAYS be able to hit driver from the tee of a Par 5.
  3. Any green fee of $75 or more should include a bag tag. $100 or more, it should be engraved with your name.
  4. You will always hit someone else's driver better than your own...until you buy it from him.
  5. The 25 footers that you made in the store before you bought that new putter are the last you will ever make.
  6. Cart paths are tilted toward the nearest OB post.
  7. The drink cart girl should always be cute.
  8. Beer and Bloody Mary's make for a better golf swing but increase 3-Jacks.
  9. Caddyshack is the all-time best golf movie and Ty Webb and Carl Spackler are Great American Heroes.
  10. The Downhill Speed Limiter on Golf Carts was designed by someone's wife.
  11. Guys who can only hit their drivers 200 yards suck...even if they beat you (anyone over 60 is exempt).
  12. Substitute "Guys who play with Top Flights or Pinnacles" to the above rule and it is still true.
  13. If one of the guys in your foursome cancels, you will always be paired with a single who talks, non-stop, for the entire round.
  14. When the above happens, your round will take a minimum of six hours.
  15. The newer the golf ball, the greater its desire to escape. You must beat the little thing into submission. Anyone who doubts this should check the pocket of his bag for the three year old, yellowish, egg shaped thing with multiple cart path scars.
  16. Vegas golf is way too expensive but we'll continue to play there anyway.
  17. Courses should reduce their rates every time they require "Cart Paths Only" or punch their greens.
  18. Trips to Pebble Beach, St. Andrews, or any other course that has ever hosted a major are perfectly acceptable destinations for a wedding anniversary. 
How many boxes did you tick, caddyfans?