Listen Up Pilgrim – New Rules

GolferDownI’m sure most of you have read the USGA “Rules of Golf” from cover to cover countless times. Many of you can cite chapter and verse from memory. Just the other night, I woke myself up at 2:30 a.m. screaming something about Rule 28 and how my ball was unplayable. My wife mumbled something about taking a Mulligan and going back to sleep.

Much of our effort to committing the rule book to memory becomes of little value on January 1st when the 2019 Rules of Golf officially go into effect. That means we’ve got to memorize a completely new book of rules (and it contains 240 pages). Egad. Although some of you have already done so, the rest of you have work to do. Get on it!

There are some major changes, especially with regard to the way the native grass areas on Ambiente (soon to be called “penalty areas”) are played.

To give those who play in our group a heads-up on getting ready for 2019, our games on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will – by decree – be played under the 2019 rules beginning with our first November match (Nov. 2nd). Note this decree applies ONLY to matches played within our regular golf group. There has been and probably will not be any such declaration by Camelback Golf Club or any other group within it.

For those of you who used to buy the Cliff Notes versions of your books in school rather than wasting time actually reading the classics, Bob Sznewajs has been kind enough to give us a link to a simple summary of the changes. I highly encourage you to watch it. Click here to view the video.

The primary reason for adopting the 2019 rules sooner rather than later is to help all of us in the transition. I’m sure there will be countless errors due to force-of-habit and boundless confusion for a while. Designated scorekeepers need to exercise a little understanding and compassion in enforcing the new rules. We’ll struggle a little bit, but we’ll be much better off in the long run.

If It Feels Good, Do It!

elsGive yourself the joy of hearing it slide into the hole, of seeing it disappear, of knowing that you completed the task as nature meant it to be done. Putt the ball into the hole, not near it, not by it, not within a foot, two feet, three feet; putt the ball INTO the hole. If you take a step back and look at the game of golf, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that putting the ball INTO the hole is actually defined as the object of the game. Don’t deny yourself that pleasure.

Section 1-1 of the USGA Rules of Golf: The Game of Golf consists of playing a ball with a club from the teeing ground into the hole by a stroke or successive strokes in accordance with the rules.

Within our golf group at Camelback, we have adopted a policy which coincidentally corresponds with the USGA Rules of Golf. We are putting the ball INTO the hole. As expected, there is grumbling. “That’s ridiculous. I would never miss a putt that close!”

If that is true, then what are you bitching about? If you can’t miss it, enjoy the sound of the ball rolling in the bottom of the hole. Bathe yourself with the satisfaction of playing the hole in the manner in which the game was designed. Bask in the glory of having upheld the honor of the game of golf by playing by the rules.

As a reality check, consider the case of Sue Clark. In her last twenty or so rounds, she has carded a 74, a 75, a 78 and a 79. It’s probably reasonable to assume that with scores like that, she’s a better than average golfer. (I’m practicing my understatement skills.) However, on Friday past, she three-putted from three feet! It happens. It is not uncommon to see someone “give” a three footer, but obviously, it shouldn’t be a given. I still have nightmares about the time I four-putted from six feet in a tournament. Maybe if I hadn’t been so willing to accept gratuitous “gimmes” in previous rounds, I might have improved my score by only three-putting.

Why do golfers give and accept “gimmes”? When someone gives you a two-footer and you pick it up, the reality is you do so because you’re scared half to death that you might miss the putt.

Why does someone offer to give you a putt? Because it gives him a feeling of magnanimity and authority. There may also be a darker side to the act, an implied quid-pro-quo. “Hey you jerk, I gave you a three-footer back on two and you’re going to make me putt this one?” (Hint: The correct answer is “Yes”.) If you feel the words “Pick it up” or “That’s good” welling to your lips, spit them out, but don’t say them. Don’t lead your fellow golfers into temptation.

One of the arguments, lame as it might be, for awarding gimmes is … it speeds up play. Nonsense! Truth be known, if we assume someone has a one-footer remaining on each of the eighteen holes and he takes a full three seconds to tap that “automatic” putt into the hole, then you’ve added a full 54 seconds to the round. Oh my, call the marshall.

Sandy volcano
Everyone misses the short one, even Sandy Wiener

Since we’ve been playing with a more rigorous approach to putting out, hardly a soul hasn’t missed a two-footer. I certainly have. If we accept the gimmes, we’re hurting ourselves. We’re fooling ourselves into thinking we’re actually a little better than we really are. We’re gazing into a carnival mirror to evaluate our own abilities. The only thing a vanity handicap buys is a place near the bottom of the standings in legitimate tournaments. We’re denying ourselves the practice we need on the short putts and that practice is a critical component to becoming a better golfer. On the two-footer, the stroke is shorter. The follow-through is shorter. The muscle control is in many respects more demanding. Miss a thirty inch putt in the club championship and you’ll kick yourself for taking all those gimmes.

Old habits may be tough to break. You may slap at the ball that stopped four inches from the hole and you may miss it. It’s possible; ask Ernie Els ( Ernie has won nearly fifty million dollars on the pro tour, but he seven-putted in The Masters. If he can do it, so can you. And note that no one said to Els, “Hey, that was good.” If you miss your putt – it’s a stroke.

Here’s what we’re going to do within our group until we establish the habit of finishing the hole the way the rule book says we should. If someone absentmindedly picks up his six-incher through the force of habit, his playing partners MAY allow him to place the ball back on the spot from which it was lifted with no penalty. The golfer must then make the putt.

Golf is a game of honor. Play it with honor. Putt it into the hole. Do it for Ernie. Do it for yourself. If it feels good, do it.


High in the Pines

Pinetop Golf (12 of 66)
Our gracious hosts, Mike and Vicky Smothermon

Pinetop, Arizona was the site of some fun golf and great camaraderie this past weekend. More than a dozen Camelback Golf Club members and some additional friends and family played golf at more than 7,200 feet high in the mountains where long drives went longer than ever. Participants played one or more of some great courses.

Torreon offered magnificent views and a course to test any golfer’s skills. Silver Creek was a great layout with eighteen challenging and beautiful holes. Pinetop Lakes Country Club was a scenic test of golfing skill. Finally, the historic White Mountain Country Club gave every golfer breathtaking views and some monumental tests of golfing skills.

Being a gracious host for dinner and golf must pay rewards in golfer heaven. Mike Smothermon carded at 75 Monday at White Mountain Country Club, but his wife, Vicky, finished with a strong round of 79 (net 64) to more than hold her own. Mike shot a 69 on Sunday giving him low gross honors two days in a row. Continue reading “High in the Pines”

Predicting the Future by Controlling the Future

Nearly three thousand years ago, The Oracle at Delphi opened for business in Athens, Greece. The Oracle operated for a few hundred years administering advice, wisdom and philosophical insights. Rumor has it the business waned and finally failed when some smooth-taking Roman convinced the Oracle to franchise. Nonetheless, they had a great run for a few centuries.

The tradition lives on in Arizona through The Oracle at Hot Stix. After suffering consternation over life’s great philosophical quandaries, e.g., “Why do wedges chunk when you hit’em?” and “Why are twenty foot putts easy while three footers are nearly impossible?”, I was at wit’s end. Fortunately, humanity has evolved in such a manner that its members find survival value in helping other members of their club. First, Joe Busch (the club whisperer) confided in me. In his customary nuanced way, he said, “Your game sucks! You need to visit the Oracle at Hot Stix.” Naturally, I ignored Joe thinking … opinions are like … oh, never mind. I ignored him. A week later, he looked at my scorecard and blurted out his soon to be recurrent advice, “Go see the Oracle at Hot Stix.” Continue reading “Predicting the Future by Controlling the Future”

Camelback Golf History is Made

Chip smilesWow!!! Those who know me will assure you that it is a rare occasion when I’m left speechless. Chip Nelson created one of those instants Wednesday when I was handed his group’s scorecard. Chip had just obliterated the existing course record for the Ambiente course by shooting a 60 from the Verde tees.

It was a warm day. Winds occasionally gusted to ten knots. The course was in good shape. The stage was set for an 11:10 a.m. tee off in a group with Dr. Jack Summers and Captain Lee Mitchell. The opening hole on the Ambiente course sets the tone. It’s a challenging dogleg with both fairway and green guarded with cavernous sand traps. Chip carded a birdie three.

Chip birdied the second hole and stood on the tee box of the 504 yard par 5 third hole. He was already two under par. He carded an eagle on the third to go four under after three. After another birdie on the fourth hole, Chip just missed the green with his drive on the par 4 fifth. That didn’t appear to hurt him because he chipped it in for another eagle. After five holes, Chip was seven under par!

Continue reading “Camelback Golf History is Made”

All Hail! The Cup is Home

The CupFor the first time in three years, The Camel Cup has been brought home. With sixteen spirited and competitive individual matches and eight tough team matches, the team from Camelback Golf Club defeated Gainey Ranch 15-9 on the Padre course. Camelback golfers had the edge 9-7 in the individual matches. They also prevailed 6-2 in the team matches.

Gainey’s Sam Engel took home low gross honors with a strong 67 from the White tees. Sam’s opponent, Chip Nelson, threw four birdies at him, but he couldn’t quite overcome Sam’s six birdies and fell to Sam one down.

Continue reading “All Hail! The Cup is Home”

The Artistry of Being a Marshal

Marshall DillonI’ve been swinging at golf balls for more than sixty years (although I’m barely into my late forties). There was a period in my life when I played seven days a week. I’ve since cut it back to three or four times a week. I estimate that in all, I’ve played on the order of 3,500 rounds of golf. With that said, you can trust me when I say I’ve seen a course “ranger” or two. I think I’ve earned the right to comment on the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I will refer to them as “rangers” or “marshals” synonymously in this piece. I also suggest that either term is a pejorative in that it implies they have the role of an overbearing “cop” or enforcer which of course, they are, but why raise the hackles of the customer unnecessarily? Golf course operators would serve themselves well to give them titles that convey a warm, fuzzy, beneficent function. Consider “Player Assistant”. Think about it. The “marshal” is the enforcer trying to “catch you” doing something wrong and punishing you for any transgressions. A “Player Assistant” loves you and is there to “assist” you, to give you love and administer an occasional hug following an errant tee shot. He only entreats you to pick up the pace a bit because he loves you and wants to help you avoid the stress of having the group behind continue to shout obscenities at your group. Continue reading “The Artistry of Being a Marshal”