It’s November. It’s wet and generally speaking the conditions underfoot can most generously be described as squelchy. The water table is particularly high this year and so greenkeepers the length and breadth of the country are working hard to keep courses open after even the slightest downpour. I don’t envy them.
With challenging conditions in mind, I thought I’d suggest a couple of games to play that inject a little fun and get your mind off your soggy scorecard. There’s a little strategy and shot-making thrown in for good measure (and luck, depending on your perspective). This will sound a bit like an episode of Blue Peter, but you’ll need to arm yourself with some string, a pair of scissors and a deck of cards. I know it all sounds bit odd but bear with me and all will become clear.
String & Scissors
Before you and your partners reach the first tee, quickly agree on a length of string that each person should be given – “1 foot for every shot of your handicap” or “6 feet each”, for example. Then cut the string to the agreed length, giving each player his personal length of string to pop in a pocket of the bag. And with that, you’re all set.
So, here’s the game. Each player can use their piece of string to effectively “string” the ball to their advantage. From the position of your ball you might, for example, string your ball in to the hole, out of a bunker or from behind a tree. So, let’s say your first birdie putt stops just 3 inches short of the hole, you might choose to use three inches of your string to bag your first birdie of the day. Equally, if you’ve just hit your approach into a greenside bunker and sand isn’t your forte, you might choose to ‘string’ it out the hazard. The string is used to measure movements each time and the “used” amount is then cut and discarded, leaving you with just the remainder of the original length of what’s left of your round. The idea is to use your designated allowance of string tactically to improve your score, without ever knowing what may be lurking around the corner.
For the wickedly-minded, the rule has been twisted to allow players to use their string against opponents, as well as to their own advantage. . So that 30 foot bomb your opponent just holed and is now celebrating by dancing wildly around the green can suddenly reappear and be “strung” to a missable three feet. Birdie turns to potential bogey in a heartbeat!
Personally I’d encourage a friendly game so that particular modification might be saved for very special occasions. And my one caveat – don’t let it slow the pace of play or you’ll be rightly strung up yourself when you get back to the clubhouse.
As for the pack of cards, this one presents a genuine test of shot making. Firstly, each playing card is assigned a golf club. So, for simplicity’s sake, let’s say the 3s,4s,5s of each suit represent your 3 iron, 4 iron, and 5 iron, etc, with the 10 your wedge. The ace might be your driver, and the other picture cards might be your woods or utility clubs. However you choose to do, it’s simple enough.
Out on the course, each player draws a card on the par threes, having to play their tee shot with the corresponding club. Assuming you’re not playing with Lee Trevino, watching your opponent struggle to manufacture a 120yard bunt with a 3 iron tends to be a hilarious experience.
Alternatively (or as well as), you might give each player three opportunities to demand their opponent draw a card to determine what they hit their next shot with. That awkward chip might look even harder with a driver in hand, or your opponent’s approach to the par 4 lengthened by the fact he drew a 9 stood on the tee.
I know I risk the wrath of purists up and down the country even suggesting these games and the idea will often be greeted with bewilderment at first, but speaking from firsthand experience I know that dreary winter’s days can be brightened up significantly and it all makes for a more amusing chat in the bar afterwards.
At this time of year, we all know the elements are against us – there’s moisture in the air, no roll on the fairways, cold hands, bumpy greens, mud on your ball – so why not forget about your score every now and then and inject a little light hearted fun into your match. After all, it’s easy to forget golf really is just a game.