Pay No Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain

Behind the CurtainI have a much greater understanding of one of the most famous quotes from the 1939 Hollywood spectacular, “The Wizard of Oz”. For I have indeed looked behind the curtain. As a result, rumors fly that I am no longer a member of Gainey Ranch Golf Club. I have received numerous calls and emails asking me if it is true. So allow me to put the rumors to rest. Continue reading “Pay No Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain”

Discoveries in the Laboratory of the Inferno Cup

Mad ScientistAfter an immensely successful Inferno Cup season, we reflect on our successes and our failures. When you coordinate nearly a thousand rounds of golf, only the severely delusional would expect perfection. However, in retrospect, we couldn’t have asked for a much higher level of success. Forty-seven golfers endured the heat of summer, monsoon rains, course closures, greens that rolled as true as a basketball bouncing in a mine field, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday play and a seemingly endless array of games and match formats – some tried and true, others on the cutting edge and experimental. Despite a few secret expressions of frustration (which were soon forgotten) by the event organizers, how much smoother could a fifty-three round tournament with four dozen golfers have run? We’re proud and pleased with its success. But to make the next Inferno Cup event even more successful, we’re looking back on what could be improved. We’ll keep you posted on what we’ll propose for future improvements. We already know of some that will appeal to nearly everyone.

Discovery Number One – The USGA Handicap System Works, But Only If You Let It.

After spending four years at Gainey Ranch Golf Club, I’ve heard every manner of bitching imaginable when it comes to handicaps. This guy’s cheating; that guy’s cheating. He always wins; I never win. After serving on the Handicap Committee for a couple of years, I discovered that much of the complaining was justified. However, I also learned most golfers truly don’t understand more than about half of the USGA Handicap System. I actually discovered that most of the Handicap Committee members didn’t (and still don’t) fully understand the Handicap System. As much as they pound their chests and boast about what they think they know, the reality is the system has not been properly implemented and applied in recent years. Continue reading “Discoveries in the Laboratory of the Inferno Cup”

T Minus Seven and Counting

Anthony Arvidson fires a 69
Anthony Arvidson fires a 69

Mike Forde, Jason Sample and Sandy Wiener all carded net scores of 68 Wednesday to capture low net honors. Anthony Arvidson won low gross. In the Inferno Cup team game, Arvidson and Rich McGee paired to capture first place by three strokes over Sandy Wiener and Kris Rosser. Skins were plentiful with a dozen holes donating a skin to the field. There was some movement in the standings for the Inferno Cup competition, but the top five contenders maintained their positions.

There are seven Inferno Cup matches remaining before the champion is crowned. Continue reading “T Minus Seven and Counting”

August 15th – Book Release

Cover Front WebHow to Cheat in Golf – Confessions of the Handicap Committee Chairman is a light-hearted treatment of a serious subject. In his discussion of cheating on and off the golf course, author (The Man on the Bench) h. Alton Jones identifies numerous techniques golfers use to game-the-system. In the past, exposing the sandbaggers hasn’t been an easy task. Jones has developed and explains a number of techniques that can make it easier for golfers to identify and expose those who seem to win over and over again while defying the odds. It’s a fast and easy read that will appeal to every golfer who has ever lost a nickel on the course. It makes a great gift for your golfing partner, the Handicap Committee Chairman or the District Attorney.

How to Cheat in Golf – Confessions of the Handicap Committee Chairman is available through Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com and other fine booksellers in the United States and Europe.

Tales from your Handicap Committee

If you’re not a “math guy”, this may be of little interest. Unless that is, you’re interested in reading a simple “how to piece” on how to manipulate your handicap. Before I get started, let me point out that there are those – on and off the Handicap Committee – that don’t believe the “numbers” can reveal anything. What follows is an example of what the numbers can tell us. You be the judge. And yes, this is very real data for a very real golfer at Gainey. It may have been moved to slightly to mask the identity of this golfer, but it is real.

John Doe DifferentialsThis particular member plays a fair amount of his golf on courses other than his home course. The chart below shows his posted differentials for a substantial (read: statistically significant) period of time. The blue diamonds show his differentials when playing on Gainey Ranch G.C. The red squares are his posted differentials when playing at away courses.

A couple of things immediately jump out at you. Home differentials are clearly randomly distributed around roughly thirteen. The actual number isn’t the important thing; it’s the distribution that is significant. You can see they range from a low of around seven to a high of roughly twenty. If you analyze the distribution, it is what you would expect for someone in this golfer’s handicap range, i.e., standard deviation of around three strokes. Ninety-five percent of the differentials should (given the laws of statistics) fall between approximately seven and nineteen. What an amazing coincidence – they do!

Now look at the away scores. Their average is closer to sixteen, nearly three strokes higher than those recorded at Gainey. Does this fact imply handicap manipulation? Maybe – maybe not. It can certainly be argued that Gainey Ranch’s handicap doesn’t “travel well”. I’m confident there’s an element of truth to that. You can also make a case that a golfer isn’t as familiar with away courses and a lack of course knowledge results in higher scores. Perhaps this is true, but how many times can that excuse be used? After all, once you’ve played a particular course four or five times, you should have a pretty good level of familiarity and that excuse tends to evaporate into the morning mist.

For the sake of this discussion, let’s temporarily accept that a three stroke difference in the scoring average is acceptable. If that’s the case, shouldn’t the entire grouping of data points move up approximately three strokes? For this golfer, it does, but . . .

The “randomness” disappears! It’s as if the entire bottom half of the distribution is missing! Could it be that the scores weren’t posted “properly”? Hell yes. That’s one possible explanation. The standard deviation of away postings is approximately one stroke! This seems to be statistically “improbable” (for those of you not paying attention, this is called a gross understatement).

An average differential of sixteen with a standard deviation of one stroke means that ninety-five percent of this golfer’s away differentials fall within the range of fourteen and eighteen. This is well within the “you must be joking” range of statistical probabilities.

There are possible explanations. For example, it could be that by playing a more difficult course with which you have no familiarity whatsoever magically makes you a much steadier and more consistent golfer than you are at home. To me, that’s like saying the more you drink, the better you drive.

There are a couple of other explanations. I’ll sit back and see if any of you come up with them and post them as comments here. In the meantime, I continue to do battle with those who say numbers don’t prove anything and I’ll watch to see how this golfer performs in the upcoming Member/Member tournament. This golfer isn’t alone. He has company. I’d love to say, “If you don’t mind, I don’t mind”, but I do. It’s my job.

The Curse of the Scorekeeper

ScorecardSome say half the club’s golfers are padding their handicaps. Well, if it ain’t me – it must be you. That’s sometimes how it feels. The same guys seem to spend more than their fair share of time in the winner’s circle while some of us have permanent seats in the back row. How is that possible?

We already established the average golfer does more to hurt his own chances of winning than the biggest cheaters in any club – albeit innocently and unknowingly – but that is the reality. Ego handicaps don’t win tournaments. But there’s another guy at the club that hurts your chances more than you might imagine – the scorekeeper.

There are so many misconceptions about scorekeeping, it’s a wonder some guy’s handicaps are within three strokes of the “real” number. If you’re going to be the scorekeeper, consider the following.

You’re playing a best ball of two format. You shoot a birdie three for a net eagle. Your partner’s ball is on the green laying three twenty feet from the hole. He picks up and says “Gimme a seven. That’s the max I can take.” You’re response is . . .

  1. “You bet” as you write a seven on the card.
  2. “Don’t worry. We don’t need you.” You leave his score blank on the card.
  3. “Up your’s Bubba. I’m putting you down for a five.”
  4. “I’m giving you par plus the stroke you get here – a five.”
  5. You say nothing, but write a three on the card knowing the s.o.b. is going to pad his handicap anyway and you’re not going to help.

The one and only correct answer in this case is “Up your’s Bubba.” The “Good Book”, a.k.a., The USGA Handicap System manual, is very clear on this matter in Section 4-1.

“A player who starts, but does not complete a hole or is conceded a stroke MUST record for handicap purposes the most likely score.”

If you’re living by what the “Good Book” says, you MAY NOT leave the player’s score blank simply because his ball didn’t count in the match. Neither may you simply give the player his maximum allowable score under the rules of “Equitable Stroke Control”. If you do, you’re aiding and abetting in the crime.

There are those who are under the impression that someone who doesn’t finish a hole is to be given par plus any handicap strokes allotted on the hole. NOT so. This technique is to be used if and only if – after the round is complete – the score on the hole is left blank and the player can’t be found or can’t recall what his correct score was on the hole in question. It is the solution of last resort.

Here’s an interesting little tidbit. I’ve heard a number of explanations. At this moment in time, the first fifteen prize money positions on the Men’s Day Money List are held by members of the Kildare Group. What’s your explanation? I suggest to you that the single biggest contributing factor is Dennis Kildare’s insistence upon a rigorous adherence to the Rules of Golf. All putts go into the hole. Scores are properly recorded. No “gimmes”. The ball is played “down”. The odds of the first fifteen positions being held by guys from a group that is comprised of only a third of the Men’s Day golfers are pretty low. But the odds that fifteen guys are conspiring together to cheat for fun and profit are far lower. There’s another explanation. If it’s not coming to you yet, you may want to start reading from the top of this column again.

If you want the handicap system to work and you’re the scorekeeper – know your job and do it per the rules. DO NOT leave scores blank simply because the ball wasn’t counted in the match at hand.

One other thing you might want to do is double-check to make sure the golfers with whom you played properly recorded their scores for handicap purposes (with Equitable Stroke Control – properly applied).

Keep score properly and you may find yourself in the winner’s circle at last.

 

 

 

Handicap Committee Meeting Summary

Three StoogesThursday’s Handicap Committee meeting was lengthy, but highly productive. There were a total of seven golfers reviewed in detail. Under the new review process, golfers are identified not only in the traditional manner, i.e., member “requests”, but also by a number of statistical “triggers”. Exceptional rounds, groups of exceptional rounds and positions on various money lists trigger automatic reviews. One of the golfers under review at the meeting would stun most members, but if your numbers trip the wire, you’re reviewed. “Win the game, take the blame.” No exceptions – fair to everyone. If you’re reviewed, it doesn’t mean anyone thinks you’re cheating. It simply says, “You’ve played well. Congratulations.” And don’t forget, the review process is now “blind”. No voting member of the Committee knows who is under review until after recommendations have been made and acted upon.

There were a number of requests in the “Suggestion Box” located by the posting computer in the pro-shop. Those who identified themselves will receive personal responses. There was one anonymous suggestion of using only Wednesday scores to prepare a special handicap for Men’s Day play. The idea was researched and the Committee agreed that although it had merit, it would be too difficult to implement. It called for an excessive amount of work for an already burdened club staff.

This isn’t to say we didn’t recognize the reason for the request. We did an extensive amount of research on golfer’s handicaps when based upon only Wednesday play. We found that some players do indeed seem to get “luckier” when playing on Wednesdays. We have some of them identified and are taking steps to help them spread out their luck in a more realistic fashion. It is one of many factors that are being looked at closely when the golfer reviews take place. I’m sure this will become more apparent as time goes by and the new Handicap Committee’s efforts get traction.

Keep your thoughts and suggestions coming. The more of us that work together toward our common goal, the greater our successes will be.

One other item of note, the web survey on grass length in the arroyos showed that more than 75% of the membership feels the club is headed in the right direction and supports making them true hazards. There is a new survey on the site. If you have an opinion of fivesomes on the course, be sure to cast your vote at http://www.GaineyGolf.org.