Good Fun Games?

One of my roles this year is to organise fun competitions on the Sundays when we’re not playing formal Medal or Stableford comps that act as qualifiers for the Player of the Year event next September.
I’ve read the books and whilst some seem attractive, it’s not the time of year to be cutting up lengths of string. I’ve also had a bit of grief when setting up team games as some members, (sadly), get the hump before they’ve left the clubhouse if they don’t fancy playing with their team mates.
So far, we’ve had bonus points for holing 1st putt on the green combined with loss of points for 3-putting, double points on certain holes and taking your best 9 holes from the 18 on a stroke play format. These have gone down well but I’m trying to avoid repeating the same format if possible.

As the weather improves we will have 7 iron + putter, 3 clubs + putter and 6 clubs + putter comps as well as the Fairway trophy in which any shot that ends in the rough incurs a penalty point and replacement of the ball at the edge of the fairway.
Does anyone out there have suggestions for a fun, yet simple format which we can use over these cold and damp weeks ahead?

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BBC Sports Personality of the Year – do UK golfers owe Rory an apology?

So the annual big night of televised sporting celebration was all set up to deliver the final trophy of a stellar year for Rory McIlroy. Back to back Majors, the Ryder Cup, World Number One and on it goes – we all know the list of quite brilliant achievements and so did the bookmakers, some of whom had him at odds as low as 1 / 4 on.
It was therefore something of a surprise and terrible anti-climax when he was announced as runner up, having to play second fiddle to the recently crowned F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton. Something he did with extreme professionalism when he must have been feeling gutted inside. Almost immediately golfing websites were flooded with cries of indignation and theories to explain the result, many of which focused on the relative lack of terrestrial TV coverage and a lack of public understanding of our game.
As the dust settles however, let’s take another look at events in the cold light of day.
The award is voted for by the public during the programme itself and the various options for voting were clearly set out both in advance of and during the show. A total of just over 620,000 votes were cast. Let’s pause briefly to compare that to the fact that on the very same evening, over 10 Million voted in the finals of the X-Factor, a karaoke style singing show that normally allows the winner a brief shot at stardom before they fade back into the obscurity from which they came a few months previously. Perhaps that says something about how the UK population sees sport as a whole but that’s not my main point.
Rory picked up 123,745 votes. Let’s assume that half of those came from Northern Ireland where he is of the course the hometown hero and that many of those who did vote there are not golfers themselves but were just supporting their man. That means that around 60,000 came from the rest of the UK. Latest studies suggest that whilst the numbers of regular golfers are in decline, there are still in excess of 3.3 million of us who have played a full length course in the past 12 months. The UK has over 700,000 registered golf club members and it is believed that 750,000 golfers play at least once per week.
If these figures are broadly accurate, we can deduce that less than 10% of regular golfers bothered to give Rory their backing. If even 25% had made the effort, it would probably have been good enough for McIlroy to win. The noise the result has already generated about the need to get golf a better public exposure is welcome and let’s hope some good does come of an unfortunate situation but maybe those venting their spleen on the chat rooms and web forums need to ask themselves if they voted or was the golfing family too complacent or too busy doing something else to back our best player. If Rory finds himself in the same position again next year or at some other time, let’s hope we all give him the support he deserved this time but was sadly lacking.

Funday Sunday

After several consecutive weeks of serious competition play, this Sunday was officially a ‘fun’ competition and what a devilish one it was.
Everything was normal Stableford rules up to the moment your ball came to rest on the green. Putting had to be undertaken one-handed only and anyone who reverted to both hands was penalised with no score on the hole. If that wasn’t enough of a twist, you could score double points on the hole but only if you sank your first putt. The ideal plan was therefore to lie up just short of the green and ensure your chip on left you close enough for a decent attempt at double points. Take a Par 4 – rather than hitting the green in regulation 2 and then 2-putting for Par and 2 points, it was best to lie up with your 2nd, make sure your 3rd finished close to the flag and then one putt gave you 4 points! In truth it suited the better players who have the ability to both measure their approach shots to perfection and possess a great short game to set up the double points putt. I did have one opportunity on a par 5 to score 10, (yes ten), points if I could sink my first putt but unfortunately I had just crept on to the edge of the green so would have needed a miracle putt under normal circumstances let alone one-handed. In case you’re wondering, if you chipped in from off the green you only scored normal points, not double, as you hadn’t putted single handed!
Winning score was 48 points whereas I had a reasonable 41 and had it not been for 3 blobs, who knows what might have happened. Something different and led to several outbreaks of laughter during the round which is never a bad thing in my book.

Think to Win

Since taking this great game up, I’ve often read that a good round is as much in the mind as the physical perfection of the swing. As a relative novice, I all too often revert to the mentality of “hit is as far as I can”, rather than course management.
A few weeks back The Grateful Golfer, (Jim), wrote a piece about strategy for a forthcoming round and how he and his partner planned to do things. I had my singles matchplay final coming up and his words struck a chord with me. My opponent, who was also my doubles partner, had to give me a shot on 16 holes due to a 100% HCP rule which is madness, but they are the rules and that’s what we all agreed to play by when we signed up. I knew J was a much better player than me but having read Jim’s post, I also knew I had to use those free shots.
First tee – a short Par 4, elevated green with water on one side and hedge on other. J drives straight and long, great bounce and is on green 25 feet from flag. I accept I cannot match that and drive safely to 60 yards short. My chip lands on green about 6 inches behind J’s. Me to putt first, my 3rd shot whilst he has yet to take his 2nd. I can sense him thinking that this is his hole, he’s one up already. Suddenly I remember to think strategy – I have a shot here. If I sink this for a birdie 3 ,I will win the hole unless he makes an eagle 2. My putt ends up within centimetres and I tap in for Par. The momentum has shifted massively. From J driving the green and being in the box seat, he needs to sink a 25 footer to win…… he runs it 3 foot past and now has a testy birdie putt to get a half. He is a top player so he nails that putt but I walk off the green with my tail up despite the fact we are level.
He rushes a fairway shot at the 2nd and clatters into water. I’m now 1 Up and although he pegs me back briefly, I regain the upper hand. For the rest of the round I think about my free shot and play within my means. The end comes at the Par 3 16th when he shaves the cup and I walk up to a 6 footer to win. I have already told myself that if he misses his putt I will hole this. I have no doubt. The ball drops and it’s a 4&3 victory. My name is going up on the Board.
So I can now fully agree with Jim’s post – thinking ahead and working out the best option is the way to win.
Winter moving in here so winter boots and thermal gear at the ready!!

Summer Fun in the Sun

So, far too long since my last blog but that’s not to say nothing has been going on in my golfing world, in fact quite the reverse! Various things have got in the way of me posting but that’s a poor excuse really.
Progress over the summer season has been slow and not without a few backwards steps that caused frustrations but things are definitely moving forward.
At the time of my Spring Forward article, my HCP had just been cut to 24 and that’s where it remained all summer. Inconsistency has been the name of the game with several solid scoring holes ruined by a few moments of madness, or at least that’s how it was in formal scoring competitions anyway. There have been several highlights though.
I was asked to join the Longest Day Team, playing 72 holes for charity in June and much to my surprise I carded an 86 on my 2nd round. It was no fluke as I also turned in a couple in the low 90s before we had to really push on before darkness fell.
I played in the County Final of the 4 + 1 competition which was my first ‘big event’ at a new course. Finished in bottom third but no disgrace and a box ticked.
If that was daunting, out of the blue I got an invitation to play in the Audi Cup at the London Club no less. This was a golf day like no other in my short career to date! Full breakfast, trick shot display, 18 holes on the same course the World Matchplay is on next month and then a 3 course dinner. My score was dead last but I actually didn’t play that badly all things considered. They even gave me more new balls than I’d actually lost.
Next up were the club knock-out competitions. Last year’s Player of the Season approached me to be his doubles partner and we’ve made the Final. In the singles, I won my semi-final on the 18th green and will now face my doubles partner in the Final of that event. One query I have for any readers however is the application of HCP for these games. In the singles QF I played someone with HCP 9 and under our local rules that meant he had to give me a stroke at 15 holes! Although I beat him 5 & 4, it was a little hollow as he is clearly a much better player than I and I only outscored him on one solitary hole. I believe many other clubs apply a 75% of HCP rule and that seems more fair to me.
Last but not least, my aim all summer was to win a Medal rather than a Stableford competition which I finally managed 2 weeks ago. That said, I did my best to throw it away with 2 poor closing holes but scraped home on countback. Plus, my HCP did at last come down to 23.
If I don’t beat the 100 now I’m disappointed and the next target is to dip into the 80s on a more regular basis.
Final golfing query – you’re on the 4th Tee when the most senior member of your group lets rip with what can only be best described as a watery release of wind. Do you point out the fresh brown stain on his shorts or play out the round like you’ve seen nothing?
Ryder Cup next week ……

Spring Forward

I’m not quite sure what to say about the past few weeks since my last blog.

One big step forward has been the club Pro running a 45m pre-competition warm-up session every Sunday morning in advance of the weekly bash. With only a few of us taking advantage, it’s really a cheap lesson although he is at pains to stress it is a general coaching session and that we shouldn’t try to change our game the same day. We go through a few stretches and then start with wedges to a close target, working our way up the bag until we finish with the club with which we will hit on 1st tee. After that, a few pitches onto the practice green and then several putts. What I like is that he starts with putts from 12 feet or so, the ones you don’t always expect to hole rather than the 3 footers. As he says, if you miss a few ‘easy’ ones early, that will stick in your mind for the round ahead.

Competition wise, I’ve had a stormer recently! Last year I mentioned the Rose Bowl, in which you are allowed a kick per hole in memory of a serial cheat who was thrown out of the club. This year I won it! Image

2 weeks later we had the 3+1 qualifier for the County Championship. I decided to go for 3 Wood, 21 degree Hybrid, 9 Iron plus putter. Recently I have been working on a hybrid chip or punch shot which seems to be more accurate from 100 yards in if there are no obvious traps in the way. Much to my surprise I won again but the downside is that I will now line up in a County Final against more than 40 other club representatives! The idea of being introduced on the 1st tee in front of a crowd has me both quaking and smiling.

Today we had the final Stableford of the Winter season and errmmmm, I won again with 40 points this time. My stroke score of 94 is my best to date and I know that could have been better as I knocked a few loose shots out of bounds on the back 9. Big lesson for me was on the last. I’d hit a decent drive and 2nd to leave myself 120 yards (approx) from the green which is protected by a large pond. In previous weeks I’ve gambled and hit the green so I went for it again but fired my ball straight into the water. Thankfully I recovered for a point but as one of my playing partners said in the bar, I was a fool. In that position, with a solid score on my card already, all I had to do was play safe and go for the 2 point option rather than the glory shot. It didn’t matter today but it has got me thinking about course management and the percentage game rather than just aiming for the flag every time!

The other thing is that my Handicap was now been cut to 24 so I have less strokes to play with!

As I left the club today, I watched the Pro hitting a few balls himself on the range. What struck me was the shift in balance and the whip-like motion as he drove his club down and launched the ball high and far. He reckons he can get me below a 20 HCP this summer ……. that’s a challenge I accept with relish.

I hope you’re all enjoying your rounds too 🙂