Stroke Bank: A Refinement

Last night, we tried to reserve a tee time for today at the Links at Union Vale, but the course was fully booked into the afternoon—a February Wednesday in New England as busy as a summer Saturday. So we went back to Tunxis Plantation, which was still first-come-first-served. We teed off a little after 9:00, and again played Stroke Bank/Second Ball Decides—see earlier post—and thought of a further improvement: Stroke Deposits.

Let’s say you make a 4 and your partner makes a 5 on a par-four, while your opponents both slice their drives out of bounds and end up with 7s. You and your partner have the low gross score on the hole, so you have to commit first. If you keep your 4 and 5, your opponents, if they wish to halve the hole, will need to use a lot of strokes. In fact, one of them will have to use three strokes (to turn his 7 into a 4, tying your par) and the other will have to use two strokes (to turn his 7 into a 5, tying your partner’s bogey). Alternatively, your opponents could choose to win the hole outright—if either of them is able and willing to spend four strokes (to turn his 7 into a 3, thereby beating your 4, which is your team’s better ball).

If you don’t think they’re likely to do those things, or if you don’t care whether they do—maybe because you’re ahead in the match, or because they’re running out of strokes with hard holes still to play—you or your partner can choose to bank some or all of your surplus. For example, you yourself could deposit as many as three strokes, turning your 4 into a 7. Now your opponents can halve the hole if one of them spends just two strokes, turning his 7 into a 5 (thereby tying the other ball as well). But you’d have increased your stroke-bank balance by three, a trade-off that might be advantageous for you on the holes ahead.

This game, in practice, is nowhere near as complicated as it probably sounds. But there’s lots of psychological intrigue, and the four of us had many long, whispered strategy discussions as we walked from green to tee. Hacker (real name) and I lost three ways to Rick and our superintendent, but the match, as somehow always happens, came down to the final putt. And when we walked off the eighteenth green the sun was shining, and the Weather Underground app on my phone said the temperature was 56 degrees. We stopped at a barbecue place for lunch on the way home, and we’re all going to play again on Sunday.

These guys were warming up on the range at Tunxis when we finished.