How to Conduct a Golf Playoff

Montereau-Fault-Yonne That’s Stanley preparing to hit a lob shot over the patio from the bed of Nick’s pickup truck during a playoff in 2007.

Mannheim The Sunday Morning Group’s games sometimes end in ties. Matching cards would be boring, and playing extra holes would force everyone to walk too far from the beer coolers, so we almost always hold playoffs on or around the practice green.

We don’t have just one format. On various occasions over the years, we have required playoff contestants to: putt balls from the top of a beer can while standing on one leg on the seat of a chair on the patio; throw balls onto the roof of the clubhouse so that they roll down the porch roof, down the porch steps, across the patio, and down a short, steep grassy slope and onto the practice green; chip through the split-rail fence that separates the patio from the parking lot; pitch from the pinnacle of a four-foot-tall pile of dirt in the middle of the first tee, which was being rebuilt; throw balls wrong-handed (overhand only) onto the practice green from the edge of the first fairway; and hit lob shots from the plastic liner in the bed of Nick’s pickup truck, which he had backed up to the fence.

Hacker (real name) improving his lie in the bed of Nick’s pickup truck.

In all our playoffs, we use the stymie rule, which the rest of the golf world abandoned in 1953: your ball stays where it stops, even if it’s blocking someone else’s putt, pitch, or throw. When we have large groups, we sometimes save time by making everyone putt, pitch, or throw at the same time, toward a single hole. Once, in pouring rain, we held a playoff inside the clubhouse, with a long putt that had to run from the (linoleum) floor of the kitchen all the way across the (carpeted) floor of the living room. The target was a beer bottle.

Last weekend, the playoff was a throw to the practice green from the window above the urinal in the men’s bathroom. (The men’s bathroom was designed by Reese, who is an architect and a 12-handicap. The window is ideally situated: directly overlooking the grill on which we cook our cheeseburgers.) The throw from the urinal is tough, because the ball has to miss the recycling barrels and clear a fairly tall fence. Barney went first and almost holed out; nobody else came close. (In almost any playoff format, the person who goes first has a huge advantage, for unknown reasons.)

Rick holding the bathroom window for Chic during last Sunday’s playoff.

Doug holding the window for Les, who is (arguably cheating by) standing in the urinal.

Sometimes, a playoff seems like so much fun that we open it to the whole group—including caddies, if there happen to be any. Other members, getting ready to tee off on the first hole, invariably scowl when they see us standing in a long row with our backs to the practice green, holding a beer in one hand and weighing a ball in the other, getting ready to throw the ball over a shoulder at one of the holes and quietly dreading the moment when, finally, it will be time to go home.

3 thoughts on “How to Conduct a Golf Playoff

  1. You just have to join. And, believe me, our standards are low. Your nickname may be a problem, however. Our spiritual leader is a guy whose real last name is Hacker, so “Hackinator” would probably be considered disrespectful. We’ll think of something, though.

  2. David, if I lived in your area and wasn’t already a member of your club I would be asking for an application this morning. From the posts I’ve read it sounds like a truly delightful place.

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