In the Laboratory of Golf

mad-scientistIt was “Experimental Wednesday” with the J-Golf group. We were in the golf lab on two fronts – playing under adverse conditions and dealing with human behavior and decision making.

Six four-player teams competed with sustained winds of fifteen to twenty miles per hour. Gusts reached forty miles per hour. Keeping a golf ball in a straight line was all but impossible. In some situations, just placing the ball on the putting green meant chasing it down after the wind took it east. There were times when simply remaining upright was a formidable challenge; not everyone was successful. Adjusting for wind velocity became an issue even on short putts.

In our golf laboratory, we looked at how the extreme conditions impacted golfer performance in general and in particular, which groups of golfers would be most impacted by the adverse conditions.

One school of thought held that the low handicap golfers had the most experience and would be better equipped mentally and physically to adapt. The opposing school of thought argued that low handicap players would be prone to hitting their drives much longer than high handicappers and that the longer ball flight would yield control to the whims of nature for a much longer time and offer the potential for greater disaster.

In the realm of human behavior and decision making, we threw in an experiment with pari-mutuel betting. If you’re a moralist, don’t get your knickers in a knot – this is not “gambling”; it is science. “Gambling” implies the existence of a random result. In this case, the goal of the participants was to apply all the deductive prowess available to deduce the correct outcome. It was interesting to observe that as the odds (as determined by the wager volume distribution) of any given team winning changed, the betting vectors swung wildly in one direction or another.

To provide additional control to the overall experiment, teams were created where one team had an average handicap of three, another averaged twenty-one, and others fell somewhere in between. One group’s total handicap was half the handicap of one player in a competing group.

The pre-match odds favored the lower handicap golfers. For the most part, bettors believed skill and experience would triumph. The long odds on some of the higher handicap teams did bring in some bets from those hoping for a good payout, but the two teams with the lowest handicaps dominated the betting.

So how did it work out? The results tend to support the old adage that “Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance.”

With twenty-three golfers in the field, only two played better than their handicaps, Bob Joselyn and Scott Hull, the 22nd and 23rd ranked players in the field by handicap finished tied for first place in the low net category with 64s. On the front nine, the team with the highest total handicap finished in first place. The team with the second highest handicap finished in second place. The team with the lowest handicap came in last. The results on the back nine weren’t much different from the perspective of statistically significance. Of the seven skins won, five of those seven went to players with handicaps well above the average.

What can we conclude from these results? Frankly, probably a fair amount. However, if we’re going to try this experiment again with pari-mutuel betting, I’m not sure I want to share my conclusions. After all, I bet on the two teams with the highest handicaps. Good luck next time.

Gender War

Gender War (5 of 53)
Howard Jones and Harold Hoeg (the vanquished) and Phyllis Laschuk and Karen Stevison (the conquerors)

They bring us into the world. They nurture us, feed us, take care of us. Our first hugs come from the women we call Mom. They wipe away our tears and tend our bumps and bruises. They are our protectors, our guardians. I’m not yet sure what went wrong, but yesterday’s Gender War didn’t go according to the script.

In what has all the earmarks of an annual event, those known for having “sugar and spice and everything nice” kicked the living hell out of those of us constituted of “snips and snails and puppy dog tails.”

The women squared off against the men in a series of head-to-head match play contests. The ladies prevailed. In the opening match, I faced the diminutive Phyllis Laschuk of Vancouver, British Columbia. I thought to myself, “This really isn’t fair. A man of my experience level charged with the task of abusing a wisp of a woman who would need to seek the shelter of her golf bag if the wind blew.” I only hoped I didn’t embarrass her; she seemed like such a nice girl.

After five holes, I was four down. She turned me every which way but loose as she toyed with me. She carded a gross 73 on the day and buried my hopes of winning by the 15th hole. I felt like I was at the State Fair locked in a cage with a 700 pound wrestling bear.

The day’s second match wasn’t much better for the men. Harold Hoeg, a fine golfer and an outstanding competitor tenaciously battled Karen Stevison, but by the 12th hole, found himself two down. He mounted his charge. On the difficult 12th hole, he hit an excellent drive and put his second shot within inches of the hole for a tap-in birdie. His opponent had put her second shot five yards over the green into the tall rough. Everyone knew Harold was about to get within one hole of tying the match … well, everyone except Karen. With the confidence of a street corner preacher, she announced, “Well, I guess I’ll have to run this in.”

It’s a fine line between optimism and delusion and I wasn’t sure which side of the line she was on. I knew she had to hit a pretty good shot just to get it on the green. Putting it in the hole was beyond pipe dream. She put it in the hole!

Harold had nearly eagled one of the toughest holes on the course and lost the hole to go three down with six to play. The air leaked violently from Harold’s balloon. He fought valiantly for the last six holes, but it was an exercise in futility.

Things didn’t get much better as subsequent groups turned their cards in to the scorekeeper. The only matches the men really dominated were those where one man played against another.

As the competitors warmed up on the range, one of the grounds crew captured a snake. It got away so I helped by running over and picking it up. I placed it in a box. The snake hissed at me and tried to bite me. At the time, I didn’t view the event as a portent of what was about to happen. Next time, I’ll let the snake run free and hope for the best. “Sugar and spice and everything nice”? Don’t be fooled. Put a seven-iron in her hand and you have created a ruthless predator.

Here are a few pictures from the day’s event. You can click on any of the images to enter the “slide show” mode.

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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