Golf Course Strategy: Open For Debate
Tripp Davis is as good a player as I could ever hope to be. He makes trips to my neighborhood for the Porter Cup and typically shoots under 300 for 4 rounds. He played division one golf at Oklahoma and hob-nobbed with the finest golfers of his day. By hob-nobbing, I don’t mean the traditional interpretation of nobbing off some very angry hobs; instead, I defer to “going toe-to-toe for a meager number of starting spots against teammates, all the while keeping a smile on your face and hatred in your heart.”
These days, Mr. Tripp designs golf courses, in addition to competing in national amateur events. He also writes a column or two on the web and revealed his take on why the sequencing of holes often trumps the individuality of them. Drawing on his own experiences, he gave me fodder for issuing a challenge in this blog. Here’s the quote:
When a player didn’t birdie one of the first three holes and, knowing that such a talented team would produce a fair share of low scores, the player began to press. It was not unusual to see a player, who was likely among the best in college golf, shoot over par on a course where the average score would be 4-under. This is an example of how a simple golf course with no individually distinguished holes can be difficult because of how its rhythm of the course upsets a player’s focus. It proved that the perception of what a player should shoot can be affected by a tough stretch of holes situated at the right place in a round.
My challenge considers the caliber of player involved and the stakes at hand. Perhaps for Tripp these two go hand-in-hand during all rounds of golf, but not so for the non-competing, talentless hack that populates courses and clubs around. A less-than-anticipated start ramps up the pressure for the birdie-gobbling scholarship athlete, forcing her/him to take greater risks (albeit with greater talent) than the chop might need. These holes, described by Davis as “a short par-5, a wedge par-3 and a drivable par-4,” certainly would lead to an under-par beginning for this rare creature.
For the foosler in all of us, an even or +1 start (+3 at worst) would not be cause for alarm. Instead of serving as a challenge from the get-go, this first sixth of the course instead would be an extension of the practice tee, with the knowledge that we could dump a shot on each hole and still have a chance at par. The remaining holes on the outward nine, described by Davis as “a stretch where six of eight holes were not necessarily “birdie holes,” offering enough danger to bring bogey or worse into the picture,” would again present different challenges and opportunities. The top-shelf golfer, as Davis hints, would feel the pressure to take risks and gain or lose shots accordingly. The handicap golfer, more often than not buoyed by a solid if not spectacular beginning, might find her or his rhythm on this particular sequence of golf holes.
It is my guess that the triumvirate of opening holes lends itself more to the situation than to generalities. It would be interesting if Tripp Davis could return to the course and poll the members on how they approach the openers. Their psychological state might support or dash his application of the sequencing theory to this situation. Read the rest of the fine article here.
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