New Golf Playoff Format: Reverse Putt-Like-Pete

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When the Sunday Morning Group’s regular game ends in a tie, we don’t divide the pot—a semi-corollary of Hacker (real name)’s rule that Money Never Flows Backward. We hold a playoff instead, and, over the years, we have invented many compelling formats. Last Sunday, we came up a new one, in honor of Peter P., who is in the hospital. Peter uses a long putter, so Corey, our pro, picked a similar one from the golf shop, and we made the eight playoff participants use it on a long putt on the practice green, closest to the hole wins. To make the competition more interesting, we made them use it wrong-way-around: righties had to putt lefty, and lefties had to putt righty. Furthermore, they had to strike the ball with the round thing on the back of the putter head, not the face. As always in our playoffs, the stymie rule was in effect. Here’s Chic, our new golf chairman, taking his turn:

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And here’s Rafael, who is from Mexico:

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Putting backward off the round thing on the back of a long putter turned out to be harder than anyone had guessed, and only two balls—Rafael’s and Tim’s—ended up within twenty-five feet of the hole. We couldn’t tell whose ball was closer, so Corey paced them off. (By law, golf professionals wear shoes that are exactly twelve inches long.)

P1090255We still couldn’t tell, so Hacker got a measuring tape from the back of his car:

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The winner, by half an inch, was Tim:

That's Tim,

That’s Tim, in the green shirt, third from the right. Barney, left, was on his team. Fritz is holding the tape, and Hacker is supervising.

Then everybody went back to the patio for a couple more beers.

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Hurricane Sandy Golf

On Sunday, two three-man teams tied at -10, so we held a playoff: wrong-handed overhand throw over the fence between the first tee and the putting green, closest to the pin. This was supposed to present a “perfect storm” of difficulty, but Corey (our new pro) and Nick (who works in the golf shop and plays three sports at a local high school) can throw better lefty than most of the rest of us can throw righty, and since the two of them were on the same team it wasn’t close. That’s Corey, throwing, in the photo above. At the far right is Stanley, nervously practicing.

While the burgers were grilling, Hacker (real name) suggested that we play golf during the hurricane “to monitor the storm and protect the course.” We’re going to try that on whichever day the weather seems worst, assuming that trees haven’t fallen across our driveways. Someone said that we might as well play naked, because if we didn’t the hundred-mile-an-hour winds would “blow our clothes off.”

This hurricane has made everyone think about the storm we had exactly a year ago, when we lost power for a week and I had to fly to Chicago to take a shower. Here’s what things looked like then:

And here’s what the golf course looked like a week later, when I got back from Chicago:

No one thought we’d play again that year, but, thanks to Gary and his crew, we were open again as soon as the snow had melted, and we stayed open through New Year’s Day—a record by almost a month.

How to Conduct a Golf Playoff

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.

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.