Recently, I wrote that I’d had an extremely rare dream-within-a-dream, about the rules of golf. Reading about my dream made my friend Hacker (shown above) recall that he, too, had recently dreamt about golf, and that in his dream he had invented a new kind of scramble. (In a scramble, all the players on each team drive on each hole, then choose the best drive and play their second shots from there, then choose the best second shot and play their third shots from there, and so on, until the ball is holed out.) In Hacker’s dream version, each four-man team had to count two balls on each hole. As he explained the rules to me: “All four drive. Pick two balls. Assign two players to play each ball until holed out. Score both balls. No handicap.”
In Hacker’s dream, the purpose of this game was “to screw Tim” (another of our friends, who invented our game Perfect Skins “to screw Gilllen”). But it’s a great idea, no matter whom it screws, and we’re going to try it next fall, during the Crystal Anniversary of our annual golf trip to Atlantic City, if not before. Hacker’s dream format is especially attractive because it prevents a team from depending too heavily on any one player.
I love scrambles, and I’ve put some thought into what my ideal scramble team would look like, in any format. The first thing I want is a guy who can drive the ball really long and really straight. On my dream team, that will be me—but not the me who usually hangs out at my club. The me I want is the me who hits all my provisional drives, after I’ve pumped my first drive out of bounds. The provisional me never fails to find the middle of the fairway, and he is scary, scary long.
Next, I want someone who pures his approach shots, so that we can be sure of getting at least one ball close on every hole. That player will be me, too, but not the same me who’s so awesome with a driver. The me I want for approach shots is the me who, during my regular rounds, hits all my lay-ups. The lay-up me hits nothing but smooth, high draws, and he’s a club and a half longer than the me who hits my tee shots on par 3s.
Pitching, chipping, and bunker play usually don’t count for much in a scramble, because with multiple tries at every approach shot you seldom get into serious trouble, and when you do get into trouble you have multiple chances to get out. Still, it’s important to have at least one guy on the team who’s really good at sticking it tight from fifty yards and in. On my dream team, that will be me—but not the provisional me, the lay-up me, or the regular me. For the short stuff, we’re going to need the me who handles my up-and-downs when I’m playing by myself. That me has the softest hands you ever saw. He can knock it dead from any lie—with backspin!—as long as nobody’s watching.
The truly crucial skill in a scramble is putting. The secret weapon on my dream team will be a guy who is probably the best putter I’ve ever played with: me. In a weekend tournament at my club several years ago, every participant had a floating mulligan, which could be used on any shot. I forgot about mine until I got to the sixteenth green, where I faced a tricky ten-footer. I told myself that that I didn’t have to make the putt, because I’d have a second chance if I missed—and the ball went in. And I never even got to use my do-over, because just knowing I had it enabled me to one-putt the next two greens, too, from about as far away. “Leave your putters in your bags, boys,” the mulligan me will say. With a guy like that on the team, how can we do anything but win?