My friend Marion is possessed. She's possessed about keeping track of every single stoke. She counts the whiffs and records everything on beads, actually two sets of beads: one red and green, another blue and white. This spring she was excited when she showed up at the golf course.
"I don't need the red and green ones any more," she told us gleefully. "I can get all my strokes on the other one." We congratulated her. Progress.
As much as we like Marion, we only call her to fill in when we're desperate. The sad truth is, she is not on our short list. I'm not proud of this, but she spends so much time hitting and counting and talking and counting, it's annoying. Distracting.
She won't give up. She can be under a tree, in the rough, in the bunker - and she won't give up. Chop, chop, chop. Hit, whiff, hit. The divot police follow her around with a wheelbarrow and a shovel.
There is an upside. Marion is fun to play golf with. Laughs a lot - we overlook things like talking in our backswing, talking in our practice swing, talking as we walk. Actually when we play with Marion, we overlook our game entirely.
She, as some might say, has the gift of gab. She knows what golf is all about. She knows that, for women, golf is a social thing.
Marion takes that seriously. She stays awake nights storing up stories. We hear them all as she spills them, one-after-another, out on the golf course. At the end of the day, we may not break 100, but we've had such a good time, we don't care.
Marion reminds me of my friend Bernie. Bernie admits to being 80 something. When he was in is 30s, 40s and 70s he was, and still is, one amazing golfer. Sure, he remembers when you drank water from the garden hose, watched black-and-white television and rode bikes without helmets. But he still, occasionally with creative scoring, scores his age. When he turned 80, he started playing off the reds, and he is in no way ashamed of this.
The first time I rode on a golf cart with Bernie, he told a joke a minute - or so it seemed. As I got to know him, he repeated jokes he'd told me before, but his delivery was so good, his laughter so infectious, I laughed all over again. Laughter is good for your health. After I play with Marion and Bernie, I feel much healthier.
Marion and Bernie score differently. Marion counts everything, turns in her scores, and has a handicap higher than her waist size. Bernie counts only what he wants to count. He's a skilled master at foot wedgies, breakfast balls and selective memory loss.
I'm not sure which is better. Marion gets real angst with all that counting; Bernie's unique approach to scoring doesn't mean much. So why not come up with a better way to score, a way to make it easier yet give some measure of how well you played.
I call it the "Par Point Game." It's not just for beginners but for anyone who'd rather not deal with the scoring issue, for people like Marion and Bernie and those who play with them when the joy of being outside, playing with pals, is the most important reason to be there.
Here's the plan.
The Par Point game can help beginners build skills until they're ready to start keeping their strokes. Par Points are awarded hole by hole for positive actions. After each hole, you add the points, subtract deductions (for negative actions) and write down your total points plus or minus. After six, nine or however many holes you are playing, you total up the points for your final score.
Everyone plays from the forward tees.
• Par 5s: Reach Green in 4 or less - 1 point
• Par 4s: Reach green in 3 or less - 1 point
• Par 3s: Drive Green - 2 points
If you get tired of hitting the ball and haven't yet reached the green, you can pick up your ball and drop it two club lengths from the green to chip up and putt.
• Drive in Fairway: 2 points
• 2 Putts or less: 2 points
• 3 putts or less: 1
• Whiffs: 1
• Out of Bounds, Water & Lost Ball: 1 stroke penalty for each
• Talking while another player is swinging or putting: 1 stroke penalty
• Forgetting to repair punch marks or divots: 1 stroke penalty
The card: Vertical column for hole numbers one to nine. Horizontal headings across top for: Par Points, Bonus Points, Deductions/Penalties, Total.
1. Lost ball and Out of Bounds: Go where you think your ball went. If you can't find it after two minutes, drop two club lengths from where you think your ball entered the trouble spot. (1 stroke penalty.)
2. Water: Drop ball two club lengths on side of water closest to green. (1 stroke penalty.)
3. Ball in a hole or in other dreadful position. Free drop.
4. Ball in wretched rough? Tee it up.
You can also make up your own rules. After all, this is not the PGA Tour. The whole idea is to have a great time out there playing the game of golf, respect the golf course and keep moving so no one yells at you. If you aren't having fun, quit.
Katharine Dyson is a golf and travel writer for several national publications as well as guidebook author and radio commentator. Her journeys have taken her around the world playing courses and finding unique places to stay. She is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, Metropolitan Golf Writers of America; Golf Travel Writers Organization and Society of American Travel Writers.
April 14, 2008
Simply select where you want to play, find a tee time deal, and golf now!