Scary Icons Create Tee Times

Whenever rain is in the forecast, even if it’s only a 20 percent chance of showers, play at my club goes way down. Seeing a thunderstorm icon in their web browser apparently causes many members to make non-golf plans for the day. On Sunday, twenty guys showed up for our regular game—a good turnout—but we had the course to ourselves until noon, I think because the Weather Channel icon that morning had lightning bolts in it. There was enough drizzle at one point to make me put on rain gloves, but there was never any lightning or even real rain, and the sun was shining by the time we finished. Our club’s website has a weather app. Maybe someone could modify it to show lightning bolts all the time.

In honor of the Ryder Cup, we used scorecards from Medinah, which Hacker (real name) had downloaded from the club’s website. (We did the same thing during the PGA Championship with scorecards from the Ocean Course at Kiawah.) The only real effect was to shuffle the holes where the handicap strokes fell, but using the scorecard of a major venue is a respectful way to acknowledge the efforts of the big boys, and, besides, variety is interesting.

We also randomly divided into Ryder Cup teams—ten guys representing the United States and ten representing Europe—and played five four-ball matches, for one point each. I was on the U.S. team, which won, 4½ points to ½. We all assumed that the real U.S. team would win, too, by annihilating the Europeans in the singles matches, in the afternoon. Imagine our surprise. The Sunday Morning Group’s record in using golf to predict important events is now 2-1-0; matches of ours correctly called the outcome of the 2008 presidential election and the 2012 Super Bowl.

We’ll play our Presidential Special game again on Election Day. It was created by Tim, who is the inventor of several core concepts, including negative skins, “shooting your pants,” and the mathematical formula by which we predict the winning team score in our regular Sunday games (13 minus the lowest handicap in the field, times -1). Half the field will represent Obama and half Romney, and each hole will have an Electoral College value equal to the sum of its number and its handicap stroke index.(Our 16th hole has a stroke index of 17, so it’s worth 33 electoral votes—16 plus 17.) An entire golf course adds up to 342 electoral votes—172 needed to win.

Future trivia question: Who made the winning putt in the 2012 Ryder Cup Matches? Answer: It wasn’t Martin Kaymer, whose 1-up victory over Steve Stricker guaranteed only a 14-14 tie (and thus a European “retention” of the trophy). The winning putt was the short par putt that Tiger Woods conceded to Francesco Molinari on the eighteenth hole, because their halved match gave Europe a 14½ -13½ victory. If Tiger had made his putt, 2012 would have been the third tie in Ryder Cup history.

How to Hold Your Own Golf Major

Hacker (real name), Ocean Course Scorecard, Les, August 12, 2012.

When my friends and I play on Sunday mornings, we use our Sunday Morning Group scorecard, which Jim created for us with a desktop publishing program that he uses in his job. Among other features, it lists our local rules, such as “You get an extra stroke if you wear shorts after November 1” and “No one gets a stroke on a par 3.” Some of the older guys complain about the par-3 rule, but what can we do? It’s printed right on the card.

This year, Hacker (real name) had the idea of celebrating golf’s four majors, on each major’s final day, by using not our own Sunday scorecard but the scorecard from whatever course the major was being played on. So during our regular game this weekend we used the scorecard of the Ocean Course at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort, where the PGA Championship was held. (You can download the Ocean Course card yourself, from either of the links in this paragraph.)

The main effect of using another course’s scorecard on your own course is that most of the handicap strokes fall in unfamiliar places. This impacts one of our local rules, because (for example) although our sixteenth hole is ordinarily a par 3 (meaning that no one gets a stroke on it), on the Ocean Course it’s a par 5 with a stroke index of 4 (meaning that anyone receiving 4 or more strokes that day gets a pop).

We compounded the impact by using a best-ball feature that I introduced a few years ago, called All Birdies. In All Birdies, all under-par scores on any hole count. On the sixteenth hole, for example, I had a 2 and my three teammates had net 2s. Since Kiawah’s sixteenth is a par 5, our four 2s counted as albatrosses and our team went -12 on that hole alone. That wasn’t enough to win, unfortunately, but we felt pretty tough for a while. (The winning team was Tim’s, at -31. Theirs is the top card on the pile in the photo below.)

Major results, Sunday Morning Group, August 12, 2012.