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!

He settled down a bit and parred the next two holes. On the 210 yard par 3 eighth hole, Chip found the pin tucked in behind the massive trap known for eating golfers and their balls. After a masterful tee shot, he drained the putt for another birdie. He was eight under par after eight holes of golf.

With a par on #9, he recorded an almost unbelievable 28 on the front side.

It’s hard to imagine someone being a bit disappointed to shoot a 32 on the very challenging back nine of Ambiente, but that’s the score Chip had to live with … a mere four under par 32. All golfers come to the scorer’s table with the thought of “If only that one putt would have fallen …” In Chip’s case, he narrowly missed a putt on #18 that would have left him with a 59. Poor guy – he’ll do his best to own up to his record setting and personal best 60. We saw Camelback history made yesterday. A rousing cheer for Chip Nelson for an absolutely spectacular round of golf.

Chip with card
Ten holes with 3 or lower!

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.

Camelback’s Peter Arena and Gainey’s Bill Petsas shared low net honors with excellent scores of 68. Camelback’s Hans Birkholz and Gainey’s Jr Grow ended up one stroke back at 69.

An interesting sidelight to the match involved the skins match. There was a lot of time and effort invested in putting the competition together. Negotiations between the clubs were lengthy and at times, complex. One of the issues discussed was whether or not the skins should be validated, i.e., where a skin is not won unless the winner gets a net par of better on the subsequent hole. The Gainey team felt strongly that there should be no validation requirement.

When all the cards were evaluated, there were five skins. Jim Mantle (Gainey), Hans Birkholz (Camelback), Matt Flores (Camelback), Bill Burleson (Camelback) and Bill Petsas (Gainey) each walked away with $120 for his efforts. However, had the validation requirement been in effect, only one skin would have been paid and that would have been a $600 skin.  Four out of the five did not validate. What’s surprising is that the four that failed to validate were the players with the four lowest handicaps in the group. The only validation came from the golfer whose handicap was more than double the average of the other four. Jim Mantle would have gone home with $600.

It seemed like all the participants had fun and some new friends were made while old acquaintance were renewed.

A special, albeit mysterious, thanks to Aaron Thomas and Bill Newton. They contributed handsomely to the victory for the Camelback team. Shiloh Hagey also contributed to the effort and as always, we owe him a debt of gratitude for his efforts. Course Ranger Rick Issac did another fine job of player assistance while monitoring the tournament.

Finally, a very special thank you to Camelback member Bob Joselyn who spent hours sitting in hundred degree heat in order to capture some memories of the event.  A few of his images are shown below. Click on any one of them to enlarge it. Enjoy!

Diabolical Plan Rattles the Group!

With an understanding of and an abiding faith in the USGA Handicap System, we have permitted participants in our games to play from any rated set of tees. We have adjusted handicaps accordingly as stipulated by the USGA Handicap System. With literally thousands of rounds of golf to analyze, I can say the Handicap System works. It has its flaws, but by-and-large, it does the job of leveling the playing field as it was intended.

With the said, let’s look at what we did yesterday. Unlike in nearly all of our matches where the arbitrary selection of the “base tees” is the forward men’s tees, yesterday’s chosen base tees were the tips, i.e., the championship tees (Black) on the Padre course. The end result was that anyone moving forward (and everyone did) actually had to give up strokes. For example, Mike Clifton elected to play the forward tees (Yellow). He actually had to give up five strokes to the field. So instead of a course handicap of 20, he had to play with a course handicap of 15. Everyone else in the field also gave up strokes by moving forward. You can see in the images below exactly how many strokes everyone had to yield by comparing the “Hdcp” columns in the two images.

As Played (Black)
Handicaps with the Black tees as base tees
Play yellow base
Handicaps with the Yellow (forward) tees as base tees

When I made the announcement that the “Black” tees would be the base tees, I wrote I did so “… just to cause trouble.” Well, what do you know? It worked. People fretted over which tees to play. “I can’t afford to give up five strokes,” some said. The psychological piece of the pie was a real show stopper. It’s funny to see how traumatic it was to “give back” something, but that it’s never a concern when the base tees are designated as the forward tees. You’re giving up five strokes by NOT moving back to the tips, but that’s not a big deal, presumably because you never had them in the first place.

Truth be known, it really doesn’t make much of difference what your handicap is as long as it is set to a number that reflects your scoring ability relative to the rest of the field. If you’re playing against Bubba and you’re two strokes better than Bubba, you can play scratch and give Bubba two pops or you can claim a handicap of 30 as long as you give Bubba a 32. As further evidence of all this sleight-of-hand, the images that follow show the match results from yesterday with the “Black” tees set as the base tees. Below that, the image shows the match results as they would have been with the “Yellow” tees set as the base tees.  Not much different!

Results as played
Match results – Black tees as base
Results (Yellow base)
Results with Yellow tees as base

 

There is some impact on the prize money in the area of skins. Those who move back may find it a little more difficult to win gross skins. You might be adding thirty or forty yards to your tee shot on some holes. There a good chance that birdies will be a little more elusive when you’re playing another 500 or so yards of golf course. Note that there were four gross skins awarded yesterday, but there would have been five if the yellow tees had been the base set.

A couple other comments are in order lest this diatribe run off the rails. This leveling of the playing field occurs if and only if the following conditions are met

  1. The course rating and slope are property determined,
  2. The course is setup as it was rated,
  3. Player handicaps are “honest” in that they truly represent the player’s ability.

In reality, picking your tee set can give you a slight edge or put you at a slight disadvantage. A thousand-and-one considerations come into play in selecting your best tees. If you’re not a good trap player, pick the tees that take the traps out of play from the tee box. If there’s a strong wind blowing, the shorter course means you’re ball will spend less time in the air being blown around by the wind. There are other examples, but you get the drift.

Also realize that a significant component of a course rating is its length. As a general rule, the course rating increases by one full stroke for every 220 yards of length. If your average drive is 240 yards or longer, you’re basically getting a little extra bonus relative to the course rating and your handicap. Play the longer tees. On the other hand, if you typically hit your drives 190 yards, playing the shorter course is to your advantage from a handicap (not to mention pace-of-play) standpoint. Move it forward.

Don’t Jump! Life Is Worth Living!

hangmans-nooseI pen this missive to encourage today’s competitors to not commit suicide. Yes, it was horrible. Yes, you looked like someone that isn’t ready to play on the big course, like someone who should be sticking to the course where putting through the witch’s mouth is nirvana, where you’re a hero if your first shot gets past the blades of the windmill. Most of you (like I played well) should have been putting with a white cane rather than a $300 putter. But sometimes, that’s the way the cookie bounces. And besides, the way you played today, even if you tried to shoot yourself, you’d most likely miss anyway.

I am a mathematician. To me, statistics have always been more exotic that any porn I’ve yet to see. Today’s statistics were true hard core. Here they are!

Scores20170529

At first glance, they are merely numbers, cold, hard, uncaring numbers. But look closer. Note the following …

The average “differential” was 11.0. “Big deal,” you say? Consider this; the average differential is normally on the order of 3.0 strokes. As a group, we were nearly four times the average today.

The average score was 91.1. With the handicaps carried by the group, the average score should have been roughly 85. The average was six strokes higher than expected!

Under normal circumstances, the average score to handicap is plus three, i.e., three strokes over the difference between course rating and gross score. Generally, about one in five golfers will shoot his handicap or better.

Here are the facts …

No one, not a single golfer shot better than four strokes over handicap today. One golfer (name withheld to protect the guilty) shot 24 strokes over handicap. Another was 19 over handicap.

Why did this happen? Because the course (Padre) was in a bad, very, very bad, mood. The greens were lightning fast, the fairways were as receptive as my first wife with a headache, the wind was constantly changing. I haven’t seen the golf gods this pissed off in years.

Now the up-side …

Everybody had to compete on the same course. If you had a bad day, so did everyone else. The field was level. Quitcherbichen.

Many moons ago – in my days of climbing the big mountains – I learned  that when the mountain’s in a bad mood, she’s not going to have any guests. On other days, she embraces even the novice climbers. Such is the case with a golf course. The Padre was not accepting guests today. If you survived, you did well.

There were some great shots hit out there today. In fact, on one hole (#2), I had six of them.

Wednesday’s another day. Suck it up. Play well. The field is level. If it’s tough for you, it’s tough for everyone. Oh my! I say that, but I’m going to quit golf altogether if I don’t do better, a lot better.

Cooler Weather – Hotter Golf

dobkin-2016-january
Ron Dobkin – eleven below handicap

It defied explanation. Fifteen Camelback golfers decided to bring their “A” games to the course all on the same day. Scores averaged more than three strokes below what would have normally been expected. Forty percent of the field posted scores in the 70s on the Ambiente course. Some golfers played very well; others played better than that.

Ron Dobkin rode his well-earned 21 handicap in route to a gross 79, net 58. He was eleven strokes under his handicap. It was his best round in two years. Interestingly enough, the competition was so tough that Dobkin’s net 58 only got his team a tie for second place. Regardless, it was a spectacular effort.

web-21-of-35
Dr. Jack Summer – gross 71

Dr. Jack Summers took medalist honors with a fine one-under-par 71. Bob Ewing was another competitor carding a super round five strokes under his handicap. Seven of fifteen golfers shot below handicap. Statistically, a golfer normally shoots three strokes over handicap. I’m not sure what virus had infected the field, but if it could be bottled and sold, there would be an insatiable market.

Low Net

  1. 58 – Ron Dobkin
  2. 64 – Bob Ewing
  3. 65 – Jack Summers

Low Gross

  1. 71 – Jack Summer
  2. 72 – Matt Flores
  3. 76 – Mike Smothermon

It was indeed an unusual day. With only fifteen golfers, it’s notable there were twenty gross birdies. Every single hole on the front side yielded at least one birdie. The third hole gave up four of them. There were eleven net eagles and one net double-eagle. Ron Dobkin had a net one on the challenging ninth hole. More than eighty percent of the scores recorded were net pars or better. The average gross score was 82! If I were to pick one word to describe Wednesday’s play … Wow!

Monday’s Match – Something was Missing

big-joe
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

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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.