Why Play the Ball “Down”?

intheroughFrom time-to-time, competitors approach me before a match and suggest that because it rained the day before or the course was over-seeded a month ago or the mower blades need to be sharpened or the tides have been running higher than normal in Malaysia or their grandmothers have been ill or their balls don’t like bad lies or blah, blah, blah. In all but the rarest of circumstances, we elect to play the ball “down”. No winter rules. No improving the lie.

Why? Because the rules of the game say play it down!

However, I don’t opt to play it down solely so I can be a “good boy” and play by the rules. You know me better than that. The rules say “play it down” for reasons. And here they are – straight out of the USGA Handicap System Manual, Section 7-2.

  1. Such a Local Rule conflicts with the fundamental principle of playing the ball as it lies;
  2. Preferred lies is sometimes adopted under the guise of protecting the course when, in fact, the practical effect is just the opposite – it permits moving the ball to the best turf, from which divots are then taken to injure the course further;
  3. Preferred lies generally tends to lower scores and a Handicap Index, thus penalizing players in competition with players whose scores are made without preferred lies;
  4. Extended use or indiscriminate use of preferred lies will place players at a disadvantage when competing at a course where the ball must be played as it lies.

In a book entitled “How to Cheat in Golf – Confessions of the Handicap Committee Chairman”, the author (one of my favorites) dedicates Chapter Four to “The Biggest Cheat in Golf”. He makes it clear the biggest cheater is the golfer that takes steps of any kind that result in a unjustified lowering of his handicap index. Bumping your ball, improving your lie, and playing “winter rules” means that the biggest cheat in golf is you!

Let’s play it down.

Monday’s Match – Something was Missing

Joe Baldo – R.I.P.

We were on the Ambiente course for the first time in three weeks. We were reminded once again what a great layout it is and what a fabulous job the grounds crew does in maintaining the course. Mike Allison, John Raines and Howard Jones teamed extremely well together and ran away from the field to capture first place. Allison carded his finest round in two years, a net 62. Given his handicap, the course rating and slope, he put the dressing on a round of golf with a nearly 600 to 1 probability. Raines and Jones did their fair share, but Allison was the rock.

Low Net

  1. 62 – Mike Allison
  2. 66 – Howard Jones
  3. 70 – Jack Summers

Low Gross

  1. 77 – Jack Summers
  2. 79 – Howard Jones
  3. 82 – Mike Allison

Despite the enjoyable competition, there was something missing. Was it the missed putts? The missed fairways? No, this time it was something bigger – much bigger. We were missing the omnipresent smile of course ranger Big Joe Baldo. Joe died last Tuesday and will be missed by everyone who knew him. To honor Joe, the players in Monday’s group kicked in nearly $500 to be given to Joe’s favorite charity, Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix. We’ve got a great bunch of golfers in our group and their generosity is a welcome sign of their big hearts. Even though he was unable to play golf Monday, Pat Collins made a special trip to the course to make sure he contributed to honor Joe. We’re paying it forward in Joe’s name.

B’nai Mitzvah and Golf’s Moral Dilemmas

Dr. John Raines ran away from the field

Alright – Let’s not kid around. It was an odd round of golf. Someone had rented the Lakeview Lodge building for a Bar Mitzvah. Apparently the proud father included a round of golf for a dozen or so young men who were in attendance. All would have been well had not these young men been in front of our group on the course. Most of them were horrible golfers and even if they could have found their errant shots, they would have taken forever to get around the eighteen hole course. One man was so bad, he hit his tee shot into the backyard of a house fronting the course. In of itself, that’s not that big a deal; I’ve done it myself. However, in this case, the house was immediately adjacent to the tee box. These guys were so bad, the validity of the Bar Mitzvah itself was in jeopardy. They’re supposed to begin when a Jewish boy reaches the age of accountability, thirteen. However, they’re supposed to end while the boy is still thirteen. There were times we wondered if the celebration was going to turn into his fourteenth birthday party. After nearly five hours, we finally finished the round.

I say “finished the round”, but that’s not entirely true. Bill Yarbrough had to leave after seventeen holes in order to make a dinner engagement. That leads me to the “moral dilemma”. Bill left his twenty dollar entry fee as he departed the course, but somehow, it just doesn’t seem right that I accept the fee. After all, he was deprived of the joy of playing the full five hour round and finishing in the near darkness. Don’t you agree that I should return his twenty dollars to him? Never mind the fact that his team prevailed and captured $160 in first place money. Pay no heed to the fact that Dr. Yarbrough also won thirty dollars’ worth of skins. What’s right is right. I’ll return his twenty dollars the next time I see him. I’ll take it out of the seventy dollars I have in my pocket.

Meanwhile, back on the golf course … The team of Dr. Jack Summers, Dr. Bill Yarbrough, Dr. John Raines and Dr. Marshall Block apparently healed themselves and beat the second place team by eleven strokes. No hard feelings there (I was on the second place team).

No doubt in large part due to the interminably slow play, few golfers performed well. With but one exception, no one shot his handicap. However, John Raines clearly didn’t get the memo. He finished his round with a bogey and still shot six strokes below his handicap with a gross 77.

Low Gross

  1. 77 – John Raines
  2. 80 – Jack Summers
  3. 81 – Tom Postorino

Low Net

  1. 64 – John Raines
  2. 68 – Mike Forde
  3. 72 – Pat Collins

The course played tough with the average scores falling more than seven strokes over handicap. Of the birdies that were cards, nearly half of them fell on either the seventh or thirteenth holes. There were no birdies on the eighteenth hole and only five pars. I’m sure that had nothing to do with the fact that the photographer working the Bar Mitzvah kept running out onto the eighteenth green trying to take pictures while members of our group had the audacity to try to play the hole.

Enjoy a few photos of the competitors.

Friday, September 30th – A War of Attrition

Joe Busch finished on top

The Padre course was tough on the field. Of the survivors, no one shot better than two strokes above handicap. The weather was warm, but the course was in good shape. Bob Joselyn didn’t finish after the heat seemed to take its toll. Bill Yarbrough had to retire after nine holes after suffering a back injury. Looking at the scores, it appears to have been a hard day for everyone including the finishers.

Joe Busch drew Lee Mitchell as his blind draw and they finished at the top of the pack. Howard Jones ended up with a blind draw of Howard Coren. They shared second place with the team of Stu Gilman and Howard Coren. Yes, Howard Coren won second place – twice!

Low Net

  1. 69 – Joe Busch
  2. 72 – Maddie Levy and Howard Coren

Low Gross

  1. 75 – Stu Gilman
  2. 78 – Tom Pastorino
  3. 81 – Jack Summers

Before talking about the payouts, let’s review the rules as they have existed for a number of years. In the event of an error in the score calculations or payments of prize money, the error – by definition – ceases to be an error as the competitors leave the scorer’s table. The computer used to determine winners and losers suffered from a battery failure and skins were determined quickly by eye. (Remember the “old days”?) As you can see looking at the final results, thirteen skins were paid. “By definition” (we’re no longer at the table), that is the correct number of skins. However, had the computer been up and running, there would have been only ten skins. As it turned out, Mike Allison, Bob Joselyn and Joe Busch each were paid for a skin that wasn’t actually earned. Congratulations. That’s a “rub of the green”.

Of note:

Stu Gilman carded an eagle on the par five thirteenth hole. There were eleven birdies or better on the round, five of which were contributed by Gilman and Joe Busch.

The question of poor play relative to handicap is partially attributable to the warm conditions, but there no doubt is more to consider. We played from the yellow (forward) tees yesterday. The grounds team at Camelback has been more conscientious in recent months when placing the yellow tees. The course has been setup with the tee placements closer to where they were when it was rated, i.e., in the correct positions. A review of the past 600 rounds of golf played on the Padre course show that the average to handicap from the yellow tees has been two and a quarter strokes higher than when playing from the white (middle) tees. The implications of this fact are varied and significant, but to summarize them … it’s not to your advantage to play a course that is made easier than it should be. Camelback staff is to be commended for making the course play properly.