Coming up the 9th fairway
This past Thursday, my partner Jo & I played in the third round of the Daily Mail Foursomes, a national match play competition. We were playing against our good friends and neighbours Pyecombe Golf Club in wonderful conditions. The match was close and on the 4th hole, after missing her putt and halving the hole with us, our opponent put a ball down and putted again. “Be careful,” I said. “You’re not allowed to practice your putting on the front 9.” “Really? It must be a local rule”, she replied. “It’s a 9 hole course rule. As we’re going to play this hole again, this is similar to testing the green”, I said. In our women’s section, we often remind each other of that rule, as it’s so easy to forget. They asked us if we wanted to claim the hole because of the unlawful practice stroke, and of course we said no. We halved the hole.
When I got home, I thought I’d check the exact ruling. To my horror, even though I combed the whole entire golf rules-related internet and beyond, I couldn’t find anything that confirmed my oh so very confident assertion. The relevant ruling reads as follows:
Rule 7-2 – Practice during a round
Between the play of two holes a player must not make a practice stroke, except that she may practise putting or chipping on or near:
a. the putting green of the hole last played,
b. any practice putting green, or
c. the teeing ground of the next hole to be played in the round, provided a practice stroke is not made from a hazard and does not unduly delay play.
On to the 4th round of the Daily Mail Foursomes!
I even checked all the 15 decisions mentioned on the R&A website, and I found nothing. I talked to our pro and he explained that even though the 4th and the 13th holes share the same green on a 9 hole course, they are both considered two distinct holes. Thus, practicing on the 4th isn’t tantamount to testing the 13th green. How come everyone in our section thinks otherwise?
So, Lorraine, I’m very sorry that I told you the wrong rule, but there was no doubt in my mind. And I’m really, really glad we didn’t claim the hole! I will clarify this in our women’s section’s next newsletter – this particular 9 hole course myth must be dispelled.
I love a good head to head
I love match play (see this article for the difference with stroke play). I’m not quite sure how or why, but for whatever reason, I tend to play well in this format. Maybe I’ve just had a lot of luck. Maybe it’s because I find it hugely fun. You’re not just playing against the course, you’re also playing against another golfer. On every hole, you need to assess not just distances, hazards and slopes, but you must also react to what your opponent is doing. There’s so much going on. I love it. I don’t have a particular strategy, so I thought I’d comb the Internet in search for good tips. Here are the ones that resonate the most with my experience.
React to what your opponent does…
A lot of players say that they just play each hole as well as they can without bothering themselves with what the other person is doing. I can understand that, but that’s not how I approach match play. Say my opponent’s second shot goes into the rough on a par 4. Instead of using my 5 wood, which goes like a rocket, but likes to stray, I’ll pick my hybrid, which is shorter, but much safer. Like her, I will need an extra shot to get on the green, but I have a better chance of getting close to the pin than my opponent, who’s in the rough. Although of course, she might chip in from the rough. It’s a game of chess. Do I attack or do I play safe? I really like the challenge of the decision process.
… but play your own game when it makes more sense
I remember a match last year where my opponent outdrove me consistently. My initial reaction? Try and hit the ball harder to keep up with her, of course. That was a mistake, as my shots went all over the place. After a few holes, I admitted defeat in the long hitter department and stopped trying to compete with her style. Things improved. Ok, I still lost, but at least I gave myself a chance by focusing on playing my own game and not letting her (or rather, my stupid competitive streak) dictate my shots.
Act calm to feel calm
Most articles on the subject insist that it is important to appear absolutely calm and confident at all times, even though inside, you’re breaking all your clubs in half and chucking them in a pond. Behaving like you’re calm actually helps you feel calm. The cliché “Act the way you want to feel” really works on the golf course. The great thing about match play is that every hole is an individual match, so if you have a bad one, you immediately have the chance to make up for it. No need to panic.
Convert to stoicism
A run of bad holes needn’t be a disaster. In fact, with match play, it can be a blessing in disguise, as your opponent can become complacent and that’s when you POUNCE like a panther. And there is nothing more unnerving than a player suddenly upping her game. Some players also don’t like leading, so they’ll make mistakes. I much prefer a slow start than a conquering first few holes, because keeping the momentum can be difficult and any mishap can feel like the beginning of the end. I guess the ideal reaction to any hole, won or lost, would be “meh”. Discover your inner stoic and accept whatever comes your way, with no passion or judgement.
Always assume she’ll play a blinding shot
However pretty you’re sitting on a hole, always assume that your opponent is capable of a stupendous shot that will win her the hole. Indeed, it’s very hard to turn that inside smug grim into a resolute grimace. Better to stick with the resolute grimace and never, ever assume the hole is won too early. Prepare for the worst. Embrace pessimism. Let doom and gloom be your guide.
Never, ever give up
I remember a match two years ago at Cowdray Park, where my opponent was three up with three holes to go. She was much better than me and I felt that all I could do was delay the inevitable. I’d pretty much given up. Then on the 16th, her usually steady, dead straight drive went left into the trees. She just never recovered from that bad shot and I won the last three holes for a half. It was quite bizarre. It showed me that anything can happen. Sometimes I’ve even started putting well 14 holes into a match! It’s a crazy game.
Gamesmanship has never figured in any of my matches, and I would never resort to it. However, I love the following quote by Brad Wuhs, because it perfectly encapsulates how golf is mostly played in the head and how an apparently simple and innocent question can completely ruin your game.
“A little gamesmanship goes a long way. Just ask your opponent ‘So, do you breathe in or out when you swing?’”.
An eclectic competition to encourage people to play over the winter
Spot the ball
One of my goals as Captain is to encourage our members to play more. Of course, for most people, winter is a time when a round of golf slips down the list of priorities at the weekend. Who would want to go out on a windy, freezing hill wearing so many layers to avoid hypothermia that they can barely move their arms? A pub lunch and a snooze are so much more appealing. That’s why I had the idea of organising a 9 hole winter eclectic competition.
What is an eclectic competition?
The principle of an eclectic competition is brilliant: for every round you play, only the best score on each and every hole is kept. You end up with one eclectic card showing all your best scores for the rounds you played within the specified period. I made it so people could hand in 9 holes at a time to try and make it even more accessible. That way, Thundersnow-shy golfers as well as our older members who rarely play 18 holes could participate. I mentioned it to a few people at the club and they told me they used to have one. They had a whiteboard where they would keep their scores, which they would wipe off and change when they improved. I wasn’t surprised to hear that it got quite messy. Surely, there had to be a better way.
Stats and a new competition: it’s almost too much fun
Enter Excel, the program I love to hate, because as a translator, it’s the worst possible format to work in. However, a workbook seemed to me to be the high-tech version of the whiteboard. Plus, golf geeks like me would have the untold pleasure of finishing with a clear idea of where their strength and weaknesses lie in terms of the various holes on the course. I used to think the 11th was one of the easiest holes for me, but records reveal that I make par far less often than I thought. Never, in fact. I thought I was useless at par 3s (3rd, 6th and 8th); in fact, I’m not that bad. Anyway, enough about me. The benefits were many: giving members, old and young, a reason to go out and play golf, stats for the geeks and an extra competition that was longer and very different from the rest.
A user-friendly Excel workbook
All I needed for a ready-made eclectic workbook, because I don’t have the skills to build one myself. It was surprisingly hard to find one that suited my needs, but the Internet provided. It is called Excel Golf Scores Workbook and is provided by Contextures. It was an excellent starting point, but not exactly what I wanted, as it’s for a single user. I needed one worksheet per player feeding into a general results’ table for the competition. Thankfully we have many talented people in our section, so I asked one clever member to help me out (thank you Susannah). She built the bones of the file I needed, and I fleshed it out.
The result is a thing of beauty. Every player has a results’ worksheet. This is mine:
Each player’s result worksheet feeds into a table that gives the nett and gross scores as well as the number of 9 hole cards put in.
Et voilà! All you need to do is click the little arrow in the Nett column to end with a table for your competition.
The result? I’m not certain it did encourage people to go out in the awful weather we had this winter. However, people must have enjoyed it, as they were keen to have a Summer eclectic competition and many more have signed up for it. So I guess the eclectic competition is here to stay at Brighton and Hove!
How to use the Amazing eclectic competition workbook
Download my Amazing eclectic competition workbook.
Enter the course information
Start by entering the par for each hole in your golf course on the player’s sheet.
Create a worksheet per player
The method will vary according to your version of Excel, so there’s no point in me explaining how. I can help with Excel for Mac, but that’s about it!
Enter your scores
After each round, enter the date and your score for each hole. The pars will be coloured orange, and scores below par are bright green (see example above).
The player’s summary at the top gives the best and average scores and the number of rounds played. There’s also a tally of your pars, bogeys, birdies, etc., for each hole. The most frequent type of score is highlighted for each hole.
Enter the names of the players In the A column.
The B column needs to be populated with their gross score, so enter =REF!V10 in the formula bar, replacing “REF” with the name of the player’s worksheet (in this example, “LauraD“).
Enter the player’s handicap in the C column manually (I couldn’t work out how to make it automatic, as handicaps change).
Column D is populated automatically.
Column E is for a competition where players are allowed to enter 9 hole cards. If you want to base your competition on 18 hole rounds, in every player’s sheet, click on cell C4 and delete “+L49” in the formula bar.
I’m very happy to help if any of this is unclear. Just fire me an email.
Judy: “She won on count back.” Me, nodding gravely: “I see.”
The fact is, I’ve been playing golf for five years and the famous “count back” was still a mystery to me. It’s a side of the game that I leave to more experienced players (like Judy), because I’m not great with numbers. Or anything that doesn’t involve hitting a ball, really. So I though I’d investigate, and it turns out it’s quite simple.
Count back is simple, honest
Count back for Stableford competitions
When the format is Stableford and you’ve played 18 holes, you total up the points of everyone sharing the tie over the last 9 holes of the event. If one player is ahead with the best score, they win. If several players are still tied, count the scores over the final six holes. Still no winner? Repeat the process over the last three holes. That’s still not enough? Resort to the last hole.
Still no winner? Things get creative. The winner is the best score on the most difficult hole (stroke index 1). If that still doesn’t work, add up the best scores across the three most difficult holes, then six, then nine.
Still no winner? It’s ok: at this stage, everyone is so fed up with counting that they will probably go home and vow never to play golf again.
Count back for stroke competitions
For a handicap stroke (medal) competition, things are a bit more complicated, as handicap has to be deducted in proportion. For count back on the last nine holes, half the handicap is applied, for the final six holes, a third of the handicap, and a sixth of the handicap for the last three holes.
Long live sudden death!
It’s all very clever, but I think a sudden death contest should determine the winner. Less counting, more golf!
My team at the Sundridge Park Open last year
‘Tis the season to apply for Opens, and I love Opens. What’s not to love? You get fed before, during and after your round and with a bit of luck, you might even win a prize. I also love maps. And cheese. So I was wondering whether I should try and combine everything into one lovely thing. I can’t really work out the cheese bit, but what about a map of Ladies’ Opens in the area? Wouldn’t that be useful? Of course, there are excellent resources like Golf Empire that give comprehensive listings to help you decide which competitions you should pick. However, wouldn’t it be handy to have a visual representation of all the competitions within a reasonable distance of where you live? Nobody wants to drive for hours to get there or those lovely pastries might go a bit stale.
We won a MASSIVE cup at the Chobham Open two years ago
This season, I’ve applied for Opens at Piltdown, Crowborough Beacon, Hindhead, Pyecombe, Betchworth Park, Rowlands Castle and Castle Royle. I’ve played quite a few others over the last three years and Crowborough Beacon and Piltdown are my favourites so far. They combine the three essentials: great course, great food, great prizes (a warm welcome is a given at these events). If you’ve never played in one, I highly recommend trying them. For a bit more than the price of a round, you spend a day playing golf in a friendly and competitive atmosphere and you get to sample some delicious treats. Those lady golfers can bake! Don’t hang about though, as they fill up quickly.
How to use the ladies’ golf Opens map
Click on the close/open window icon on the top left corner to select what types of competitions you want to view: individual, pairs, teams of 3 or teams of 4. Click on the flag icons to view more information on the competitions, then on to each club website or Golf Empire to download the entry form.