Saturday, April 23, 2011

In Defense of 3/4 Handicap Allowance

Dear readers,
I received this delightful response to the reader's question in Ask Linda #291. While it is not a question, per se, I found it an interesting read. I hope you will enjoy it.

Having thoroughly enjoyed over 20 years of the best form of golf (4-ball) I would say that the 3/4 handicap rule is a great deal fairer than full h/caps. This is because the higher h/cap player is almost always less consistent. This reults in her/him on average losing individual holes by more shots than when she/he wins a hole.

Of more significance is the high/low versus mid/mid situation where I feel the matchplay handicap rules (still) favour the former combination.

Playing off ~12, I found out by accident* over the long term that I was better off with a an erratic high handicapper (off say 25 and receiving 10 strokes) when playing against a couple of say, 14-18 handicappers. All I had to do was play steadily, holding off the opposition, and wait for my partner (who might be playing as if with brooms and shovels) to nip in with 2 or 3 blinder/bandit holes - which were frequently pivotal in match-score AND psychological terms. Even when I failed in my role, leaving us say 2 or 3 down at the turn, a (possible flukey) nett birdie by my partner and a belated birdie by me would have our opponents in terminal disarray.

* I never felt guilty about this advantage I felt I had when playing with a high handicapper because this situation invariably arose from the mid-handicappers despicably avoiding the hapless rabbit (a la playground games)!
Obviously your high-handicap partner will benefit from a light touch of positivity and distracting banter - together with the odd nip of malt &/or liqueur (a small price to pay!)

Using this format I was happily successful in club, winter league and works' competitions, accumulating a number of prized scalps and a priceless collection of sometimes epic memories.

On one occasion I was obliged to play for recklessly substantial (and arguably illegal) stakes on the oppositions' long and testing home course. With us an all-too-predictable 3 down at the 8th, the enemy carelessly allowed my partner to scramble a nett par win at the long par 4 9th. I then managed (frankly epic!) back-to-back birdies at consecutive par 5s. Surfing the wave we pressed our psychological advantage. At the wicked par 4 14th I conjured my best ever 6-iron over trees and water to claim the advantage. Following a ginger downhill chip on the following hole and a nervy half at the tricky par 3 16th it only remained for our shell-shocked opponents to miss a short putt at the 17th for us be able to casually bounce the now meaningless 18th, in anticipation of the various delights of the 19th and the amusingly grudging handover of the stash.

For what it's worth I would offer the following comments to a double figure handicap golfer:
No.1 priority always is psychology.
N0.2 your short game - chip* til your hands blister (once mastered this skill never leaves you - and whatever they say about the 'dustbin lid' you should be confidently aiming to hole out - and, hey presto...! Have the pin out if you can 'see' the shot - because relying on the pin to stop your chip is an extraordinarily common but ludicrous and negative strategy - and when you regularly get close even your opponents will start to believe you can hole out) and practise putting outside your comfort zone (always treating bad sessions with indifference). Chip and putt to beyond the hole. Where allowed 'finish off' putts that go by whist the line is fresh in your mind but mark and wait if you insist on coming up short!
No.3 'course management' - play short/long/wide of difficult greens and obstacles as appropriate - shut out the Hooray-Henry Master-Blasters - you will tend to out score (and annoy) your over-ambitious opponents
N0.4 - shorten your backswing and take the heave out of your downswing - both fatally unbalance the mortal.
*practise short lobs but with a locked out dominant arm as in putting and save them for when they're NECESSARY.