A Lovely Day for a Walk

20190215 JGolf (22 of 68)Friday’s golf was as bad as Wednesday’s golf was good. They lit it up on the Ambiente course Wednesday, but it was the heart of the dark ages on the Padre course Friday. We needed one blind draw, but nearly everyone tried out for the part playing and putting as if blindfolded. The average score was more than six strokes higher than the previous match’s average. For those who believe Padre is easier than Ambiente, think again!

Nonetheless, it was a great day for a walk. Here are some of the people I found in my meanderings. It was great to see one golfer get off the injured reserve list. Pat Collins played his first round in more than three months. Welcome back.

As usual, a click on an image enlarges it and puts you in the slide show mode.


Sometimes You Can’t Catch a Break – Sometimes You Can!

JGolf20190213 (56 of 129)Some great golf yesterday! Jack Summers carded a gross 79 and wasn’t within ten strokes of the lead! Chip Nelson shot a strong 68 (isn’t that redundant?) while Hans Birkholz and Mike Smothermon each recorded 75s. Lee Mitchell was right on their heels with a 78.

But the round of the day was turned in by Ron Dobkin who fired a net 63 to take low net honors (and a lot of money). That should come as no surprise when considering that his partner, Hans Birkholz, turned in a net 64.

The day was punctuated with Mark Van Ark’s gross eagle on the par four fifth hole and Mike Smothermon’s gross eagle on the par five seventh hole. Lee Mitchell came close to negating Smothermon’s eagle, but his putt couldn’t quite find the bottom of the hole.

The shot of the day came from Dobkin who was in golf hell far to the right of the eighth green. He hit his second shot rather “thin” (that’s today’s understatement) and it rocketed across the green at head-height like it had been fired from a missile launcher. Before taking out the patio door on a house by the course, it hit a golf bag near the cart path high above the green. The ball bounced off the bag and began a circuitous route toward the green. It arrived on the green, began a sweeping break and rolled steadily toward the hole. It rolled to a stop at “tap-in” distance, but didn’t fall for birdie. Some guys just can’t catch a break.

Not everyone had such good JGolf20190213 (59 of 129)fortune. Mike Allison’s approach shot on the fourteenth hole narrowly missed the pin… and the green… and the fairway… and the rough… and the golf course. The picture shown here is his attempt to extricate the ball from the outback. I’ve titled it “Allison in Blunderland”. There are many additional pictures for your viewing pleasure shown below.

(Click on any photo to enlarge into “Slide Show” mode.)

Slow Play – The Solution

SlowGolfThose of you that have weighed in on the conundrum of slow play will be pleased to know we’ve settled on the recommended solution. It’s a hybrid of one of the survey choices and a proposal submitted by one of our more creative golfers. This innovative solution is the synergistic product of the collective mind of our golf group not unlike the “invisible hand” of Adam Smith’s capitalism. As you’ll see, it’s also rather Darwinist in both its application and effect.

Survey responses were nearly evenly divided between assessing penalty strokes to the offending group’s players and creating a public rating system for golfer’s pace-of-play history. I have invested a significant amount of time creating a computer generated “Pace-of-Play Ranking” system. Rankings will periodically be posted to the “Match Sign-Ups” page. I’ll be happy to share the mathematics behind the rankings upon request, but suffice it to say, they will become more accurate as system familiarity increases.

The chosen solution to the slow play problem is to use the rankings to choose the players that will be put in the lead groups. The players in the group behind them will be obligated to hit into them whenever there is an open hole in front of the lead group. Golfers in the lead group will be obligated to wear clothing color-coded to reflect their standings in the ranking system. “Slow” players must wear yellow while “very slow” players will wear “red”. “Extremely slow” players will wear black.

Players in the following group will get points for actually hitting the designated slow players. Points awarded will be higher for striking the players wearing darker colors. The points then may be used to discard the number of holes on their scorecards corresponding to the number of points earned.

The feeling is that this will provide slow golfers an incentive to pick up the pace in order to survive. This will be known as the “Adam Smith Effect”. It will also make the overall golf group collectively faster as the slower golfers are culled from the herd. This shall be known as the “Darwin Effect”.

You may see some of our slower golfers wearing helmets rather than traditional golf hats. You may also see them hitting the ball and moving faster.

I’d like to thank David Allen for his work on bringing this excellent free-market solution to the fore. I’d also like to thank all of you for playing faster, limiting your search times (when you’re not pushing the group in front of you) to the 2019 Rules mandate of three minutes.

I’d also like to thank everyone for chanting the mantra … “Just hit the damn ball”.

We Hold This Truth to Be Self-Evident …

I am NOT a slow player.

That is pretty much the refrain heard from all golfers, especially the slow ones. But … if you’re not the slow player, then who is that slow player? Him! Of course! Who else?

Obviously, someone’s estimate of his (or her) pace of play is in error. Here are a couple tricks for determining who that pokey player might be.

Assuming that statistically, one out of four players is “slow”, look around your foursome. If the other three golfers are not slow, then it’s you.

Look around your foursome. If the group in front of you isn’t impeding your pace of play and no one in your group is hitting the ball, then it’s you. Hit the damn ball. Play “ready-golf”. Someone, for crying out loud, someone hit the damn ball.

If you’re walking up to the tee box without a club or two, but with your range-finder in hand, then it’s you. Hit the damn ball. You can’t hit the damn ball without a club.

If you have more than one hole open in front of you (assuming someone teed off on the first hole in front of you), then your group is slow. Refer to the suggestions above to identify the offending player or players. But while you’re going through that process of elimination, hit the damn ball.

The secret to playing faster golf is not to run off the greens. Play “ready golf”. It’s as simple as “hit the damn ball.”

Slow players penalize the others in the group. They trigger the angst of those waiting for them to finish and prompt deep philosophical contemplation and esoteric questions about reality and “What the hell can be taking them so long?” For some golfers, the question of “Why are you slow?” gets broken into two separate questions. The first – “Why?” This has been pondered by thinkers for eons and remains without a definitive answer. The second – “Are you slow?” The answer is clearly, “Yes”. Hit the damn ball.

What can be done to improve the pace-of-play and make our players happy? For those habitually waiting in the Acacia Lounge for others to finish, a great many suggestions have been put forth. I offer some of them for your deliberation and comment. I also try to help you respond by presenting a survey and ask you to cast your vote. To vote, cast your votes in the survey to the right and click the “Vote” button.

Recommendation #1: A common suggestion is to penalize each and every player in the offending group one or two strokes. If we assume a standard of a four hour round, a player has to cover each one hundred yards of golf course in well under four minutes. Assuming a group finishes on a 500 yard, par five hole … if it finishes more than twenty minutes behind the group in front of it, we have an instance of slow play. A penalty of one stroke on the final hole is assessed. It can and will be argued that the entire group shouldn’t be penalized for the actions of one slow player. It can also be argued that the three faster players should be doing all within their power to move the slower player along. This could be defined as the “Too Bad Tad” rule which roughly translates into “it sucks to be you”. Incidentally, the rule can be uniformly administered as follows: When entered into the scoring computer, there is a hidden time stamp put on each record. The computer can easily be programmed to sound the alarm and assess the penalty when the score of one group is entered more than twenty minutes later than the score of the previous group.

Recommendation #2: Any group finishing more than twenty minutes behind is assessed a fine of $5.00 per player that is put into the prize money pot. This suffers from a perhaps minor drawback in that the offending slow player could win a skin with a high face value attributable to the fines levied against his faster playing partners. This objection can arguably be countered by citing the “Too Bad Tad” rule above.

Recommendation #3: A group finishing late (by whatever definition we adopt) becomes responsible for the drink tabs of the group in front of it. This option has merit by virtue of the fact that it not only incents faster play in the slow group, it also encourages faster play in the group in front, especially if members of that group are “libatiously accomplished”, i.e., of Irish or Welsh descent. If we stack the deck by putting the O’Malleys, O’Conners, McCartys, Joneses and O’Sullivans in the first groups, not only do Acacia’s profit go up, we also will enter the era of two-and-a-half hour golf rounds.

Recommendation #4: Create a rating system for golfers within the J-Golf group. Each of us is rated by our peers and will fall into one of five (A through E) categories. Your rating will be done anonymously, but will be public. If you don’t like being rated as a “D” pace player, hit the damn ball. The rating can then be used to assign tee times, pairings, etc. When you think about it, this system is already in place; it’s just not formalized. Most everyone knows who’s fast and who’s slow. I’m constantly inundated with requests (that shall remain private) about not being paired with slower players or not putting slower players toward the front of the group. I try to take such requests into consideration, but my job would be made much easier, if slow players would just “hit the damn ball”.

Recommendation #5: Do nothing – just keep it the way it is. It has been said that everyone needs a villain. As long as some of our players wander around the course in a semi-comatose state trying to remember if he put on matching socks (or any socks at all), we’ll all have ready-made villains. They will continue to cause us to arrive late for dinner engagements or leave the “scoring tent” without knowing match results. We will continue to bitch about waiting for the last group to arrive. We will continue to hear that ubiquitous sarcastic refrain as a group enters the building, “Did you stop for lunch?”

Cast your vote and/or submit additional suggestions via the “Comments” function of this site. Consider ways to improve your pace-of-play or to tactfully (or not) encourage your playing partners to get the lead out, but above all else … Hit the Damn Ball!

(You might want to also review this post for additional tips on playing faster)

Golf Scorekeeper’s Primer

golf bobbiesWhat follows is applicable to our immediate golf group. It is recommended for all golf groups. It’s a combination of policy and “The Law” of the USGA Handicap System. If you find yourself keeping score in our regular golf group, please make certain you are familiar with these guidelines and adhere to them rigorously.

We putt everything out – all the way out. A ball that stops a quarter inch from the hole MUST be putted INTO the hole. Admittedly, few (with the possible exception of this writer) has more than a one-in-a-million chance of missing that putt, but it still must be putted into the hole.

Why? Because if there is ever an exception to the rule, then we have tacitly accepted “exceptions”. Once we accept one exception, we have opened Pandora’s Box and it becomes a question of “What is an acceptable exception?” If a quarter inch putt is forgiven, then it becomes a half inch putt, then one inch, then four, then twelve, thirty and the collapse of the rules is complete and our system is poisoned. Putt them out.

On to scorekeeping …

If someone fails to put the ball into the hole, a scorekeeper is duty bound to (1) record what in the opinion of the scorekeeper is the player’s “most probable” score and (2) denote that score with a “X” placed by it on the card. The “X” (depending upon the game format) will be construed as a disqualification (in the event of individual stroke play) or the highest score imaginable in a team game or Stableford format.

We’re still operating under the “benevolent dictator rule”. If someone absentmindedly picks up a two inch putt either because he’s new to the group and doesn’t understand the rules or he carries the evolutionary remnants of bad gimme habits, the scorekeeper MAY in his sole discretion allow the player to replace his ball on the spot from which it was lifted and complete the hole with no penalty.

“Most probable” score or “ESC” (equitable stroke control) score. The scorekeeper should record the MOST PROBABLE score. Even though a player with a course handicap of nineteen cannot post a hole score greater the seven, the score can (and should) be adjusted at the time of posting into the GHIN system.

A couple of questions and answers may help eliminate any confusion.

  1. A player’s sixth shot comes to rest two inches from the hole. He slaps it away and says “That’s a seven.” What’s the scorekeeper to record?

The scorekeeper writes down a seven. That is the “most probable score”. However, the scorekeeper is obligated to record an “X” adjacent to the seven. The player didn’t finish the hole and is either disqualified from the match or from the hole.

  1. A player’s second shot lies seventy yards from the green on a par five hole. The player’s partner in a two player “best ball” puts his eighty yard wedge into the hole for a gross eagle. His partner pockets his ball and doesn’t finish the hole. What is the second player’s score?

As in the previous case, the “most probable score” is recorded. But now there’s some leeway as to what the most probable score might be. If the person’s a low handicap golfer, chances are he’ll hit the next shot onto the green and two-putt. A five is the “most probable score”. If he’s a twenty-six handicap, a six or even a seven could be justified. However, an “X” must still be written on whatever score is recorded.

  1. A twenty-one handicap golfer (maximum allowable score for posting is eight) is out of the hole for the game being played. He lies seven twenty-two feet from the hole. He picks up and says “Just give me an eight.” What does the scorekeeper record?

Again, an “X” is an absolute requirement. If he makes the long putt, he gets an eight (his maximum), but odds are he’s not going to drain a twenty-two footer especially in his current state of discombobulation. The scorekeeper should record a nine (if not a ten – if he’s three putted the last five holes). The correct answer is “x9”.

For our system to function, we have got to maintain certain inalterable standards. The scorekeeper’s role is critical to the integrity and success of our system. Nobody likes missing a two foot putt; trust me – I’m an expert on that front). But nobody likes playing in a group when different rules and different standards apply to different golfers, especially when there’s a nickel or two on the line.

Play’em down! Putt’em out! Record the correct scores!

They Sacrificed for You

Peñasco Golf Trip (5 of 55)As the caravan approached the border, armed guards braced for its arrival. The disparate group of refugees was hopeful they could talk their way through the barrier. As Hans Birkholz dutifully scanned the wall for breaks in the concertina wire, David Harbour and Mike Forde rehearsed the plan. “If Jones pisses them off, we tell them he’s a hired driver and we had no idea that trying to cross the border with a loose-cannon violated Mexican laws against arms importation.” The last car in the caravan carried Dave and Lauri Allen poised to retreat at the first sign of discord on the frontera.

The crossing went as planned as Jones’ charm instantly disarmed all the guards at the border. Their AR-15s remained lowered and they waved us through with smiles on their faces. We were in!

Peñasco Golf Trip (1 of 55)We quickly checked into our barracks at the Puesta del Sol Hotel and immediately went to a secret location five miles southeast of town. Restaurante El Barco was a wooden shack on a beach a couple miles off the road. They promptly provided our team of commandos with eleven dozen oysters on the half-shell and twenty Xs. With two Xs on each bottle, that amounted to ten beers. The oysters were positively delectable and the entire eleven dozen cost less than two dozen had they been purchased in Scottsdale. The image to the right is of Commandante Jones and Commandante Allen reviewing the plans for the next four days.

Peñasco Golf Trip (2 of 55)The team relaxed until the following morning when they convened at a German restaurant for breakfast. If that doesn’t sound suspicious enough, check out the expression on Lauri Allen’s face while she previews the plan for the day while doing everything possible to appear that she’s reading a menu.

After a great breakfast, it was time to head onto the field of battle, Vidanta Golf Course, a spectacular layout designed by Jack Nicklaus and his son.  The picture was taken upon our arrival. Jones, Harbour and Forde are all smiles at this point, but they didn’t know the intensity with which they were about to be attacked. They teed off and the assault was Peñasco Golf Trip (9 of 55)on. The battle had been joined. Frankly, we were flogged. The course laid siege from the beaches, the air, the under-brush, the hillsides and from the many traps that had been placed in our path. Nicklaus’ approach was obviously, “Let there be no survivors.” There weren’t. The campo-de-golf slaughtered us after repulsing each advance we offered.

We returned to the barracks after losing our balls one at a time all across the field of battle. Some of us medicated, others (such as Dave and Lauri) indulged in various forms of physical rehabilitation. Later that evening, we reconvened our strategic planning Peñasco Golf Trip (8 of 55)committee meeting, this time at La Curva, Peñascos finest for traditional Sonoran Mexican food. We recharged and did what we could to prepare to launch our counter attack the following morning.

Again on Saturday, the course emerged victorious. We fared better than we had the previous day, but in the end, we were still forced to raise the white flag of surrender. Vidanta was better than we were and still stands like the summit of K-2, all but invincible. But being a hard-headed bunch of upstarts, we intend on trying again. It’s one of the most beautiful courses on the planet and it will give any and every golfer, regardless of ability, all he or she can handle. Each hole is unique with its own character. We were merely its victims.

All in all, even though the course won every battle, it was a great four days. We had great golf, great food (and a little bit of crappy food), great weather, great scenery and fantastic oysters. We’ll be back. Here are a few pictures from the front.


Hey Scrooge – Can I Have Word with You?

ScroogeIt’s the holiday season. It’s a time when warm and fuzzy phrases abound. “Good will to men. Merry Christmas. Happy Chanukah. Peace on Earth.” The list goes on. One phrase I heard incessantly from my mother as I was growing up was, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Even old hard-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge lightened up and made Tiny Tim’s day. Never mind that he probably evicted the family after the holidays passed. The less fortunate have needs for things some of us take for granted, especially at this time of year.

Speaking of the less fortunate, let’s remember our staff and servers at Camelback Golf Club. We’re incredibly fortunate to have a great group of people working hard to keep us happy. For many of us, life is tough. A few of us actually still have to “work”, albeit usually more for ego gratification than for further financial gain. Our lives are filled with tragedies like bogeys, frost delays, and lost balls, but we endure.

Continue reading “Hey Scrooge – Can I Have Word with You?”