I recently had the privilege of playing in a Member-Guest Tournament in Rockford, IL. This was the 6th time in the past 7 years that we’ve played this event. My friend and I look forward to it every year – and talk about it most of the year, always preparing for next year.
If you’ve never had the chance to play in an event like this, let me tell you it is a blast. First off, the golf is usually different than what we play year round – you play 4 or 5 9-hole matches. The past years were match play – you against your opponents, each hole worth a point.
This year they mixed up the format. Literally. We played 4 9-hole matches – Better Ball of Pairs, Chapman, Scramble, and finally Straight Up – both players’ scores count. The event was scored using a Modified Stableford format with adjusted handicaps. Basically every hole was worth whatever score you could post.
Neither Colin nor I played very well that weekend. I putted like I’ve never touched a golf club before. For three days I could not figure out anything on the greens. I was worthless! I went into the weekend having played good golf and feeling very solid. I limped out of it feeling beat down and defeated.
I think the format change hurt us a little. We’re both big hitters, longer than most, and in the match play format that had an effect on our opponents. This year, we were playing the field, so our length lost its’ intimidation factor. It also put more pressure on each shot. In Match Play we could lift each other up – in these formats it was harder to rely on your partner.
But the funny thing is, as bad as we played all weekend, we were just out of it! Like every round of golf (and every group in the event) we dissected our performance. We were 4 holes out of first place! If we could have turned 4 Pars into Birdies then we’re tied for First in our flight. If I Could have eliminated my Double Bogeys in the final match we’d only be 2 holes out!
That’s the beauty of the system (and handicaps!). We honestly played very poorly both days and were still 4 holes out of contention for the Shootout! Speaking of the Shootout (the Tournament of Flight Champions), if you want to feel pressure, qualify for a shootout like this.
Basically, every Flight champion pairing plays 3 holes, with handicap. After each hole 2 pairs are eliminated until they get to the final hole with just 2 pairs left. Not only do you feel the pressure of the moment – you’re three holes from a championship! But you also have to perform in front of the rest of the membership, as everyone rides out in carts and rings the greens to watch. The first year, we made it to the shootout, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more nervous on any shot. And I was only hitting a 9-iron!
In the end, the A Flight Champions won the whole thing. They made some clutch putts to win the flight, then brought it home with some quality golf and some more great putting on the final hole.
It was a great time even though we didn’t play well. It’s always great playing with a friend. The next time I spoke to Colin after I got back home we already decided on a new strategy for next year. I’ll let you know how it goes!