I’ve got a big Member-Guest next week. JCK invited me. It’s my first time on the playing side of one of these things. I’ve observed several from various vantage points on the golf course employment tree. I feel that in some ways, this has made me an expert, but really this is my impression from the outside looking in. What you must realize is, these events are incredibly hard to win. Not only is there a big field, but there will people in the tournament who are blatant cheaters. There’s no way around it.
The field is supposed to be protected by the players having a USGA handicap. A golf handicap is like a self-graded midterm. Some people give themselves what they deserve and others give themselves what they want. In theory, tournaments throughout the year weed out some of the cheaters, but all of this can be easily manipulated. Some guys are artists. Others do their dirty work in plain sight.
I was working an event once and a member brought in “his old fraternity brother.” We heard for weeks leading up to the event that he didn’t, “technically,” have a USGA handicap, but he had this “other thing.” What the players don’t realize is that the professional staff has very little interest in maintaining the integrity of the field. We didn’t care at all, but the guy has to have some number, just to put on the scorecard. So, the time finally comes and he produces a “12” handicap from like “Jim’s Golf and OTB.” By the way, twelve is the most shady handicap you can have. It’s sneaky high. When someone hears 12 they think decent golfer, but in actuality that should mean 1/2 your rounds are about 90. Then someone shoots 77 and you say, well…they are a 12, failing to realize that’s net 65. Twelve is the magic number.
So, this team of frat bros moves through the flight portion of the event without too much fanfare. Then we get to the shootout, which is an alternate shot format. The guest in the group tees off and they alternate in from there. Also at this point about 60 other members are watching, so you usually see some of the worst shots ever hit. Pressure’s a bitch. Up steps the “12” and he just smooths this driver right down the middle of a par-five. It wasn’t a 300 yard bomb or anything, but he stepped up there like he had no pulse, and just drilled it. They get out to the fairway and the member is not as seasoned. He takes out some hybrid looking thing to lay-up, and ropes a hook into the trees. Trouble?
Hardly. This is where it gets really good. Mr. 12 surveys the shot in the trees for a little while. He’s got about 140 and he’s not blocked out, but he has to play a hook. A bogey golfer would have punched out to about 80 yards. This guy takes a 7-iron, waggles, and hits this little low rocket-draw out of there. It lands about 30 yards short of the green and bounds up there to about 20 feet. Now, if he’d holed a putt from 40 feet you can write it off as luck. But, this? Come on. So, the first rule of winning a Member-Guest is: Watch Out for the 12s. Other rules:
1. Never give a putt. Some don’t allow you to give putts anyway, but in match-play situations, just make the guys putt everything. F’em. You’d be surprised how many two foot putts a person can miss.
2. Bring a bottle of something. Strong-arming your opponents into a quick shot is always a good play. Of course you spit yours out, or dump it down your shirt.
3. Make Friends. You never know when you are going to need someone to lay down so you can win your flight.
4. Never Bring a Scratch. I’ve never seen a scratch golfer do anything in the Net portion of these events, and that’s usually where the big cash and prizes are.
5. Don’t dress alike. This won’t help you win, but at least you won’t look like a total a-hole.
6. Don’t walk. Some guys like to be all traditional during these things and they walk 54 holes in two days in what is usually stifling summer heat. Don’t be a hero. This isn’t an IronMan, hop in a buggy.
7. Learn the rules. Calling penalties on people is fun! (half-joke)
8. Tip well. It’s important to get the staff on your side. Golf Karma.
9. Apologize to your partner before you play. Say, “Look, I am going to hit some atrocious shots. I might gork a wide array of putts, but I promise you, I actually am trying out there.” Then, go have a good time. Teams that say sorry after every balloon ball into the foliage are doomed.
10. Make your damn 3-footers.
That’s it. After that, just sit back and collect the cash and bask in everyone else’s hatred.