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Eight shots that deserve a mulligan

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Let’s start by clarifying that we are not here to debate the use of mulligans. This article, much like science fiction movies that force you to accept certain realities as part of the plot (don’t get me started on any movie about guys going up in space to stop asteroids), is based around the notion that mulligans do exist and are used by many around the globe. Got that?

I’m not here to argue for or against the use of mulligans. On that topic, I will be standing over there in the corner, with my fingers in ear humming loud noises and pretending I don’t see anything. So let’s accept the premise that mulligans exist, shall we? What shots deserve them the most? What shots make you want to walk up, grab the ball and put it right back down where it was before you ruined your round and four hours of your day?

There really is nothing worse then coasting along around par and then making an octal bogey because you, well you….you probably did one of the below things. Should you really shoot an 80 instead of a 76 because of one swing? Oh crap, don’t answer that, we are not here to discuss that. We are here to discuss why you ended up with that 80. And here are some guesses:

1) The OB first drive

A classic staple of any terrible round. You get to the course early, you sink every putt on the practice green, you hit pure shot after pure shot on the range. It’s 8:15am and the sun is up, not a cloud in the sky, not super windy — going to be a great day. Maybe you make a little small talk on the first tee, “Hey Jim, what did you get up to last night?” followed by a few obviously predictable quips about your married friend being forced to do something by his wife, your single friend having a few too many and your workaholic friend already answering texts and emails on his Blackberry. Life is good. Oh it’s your turn to tee off now, no problem. Just stick that tee in and take a couple of practice swings from good measure. Start your nice smooth backswing and smack! Oh crap. It started a little left but might be OK, might be OK….oh god, please let it be OK. Aaaaaand, it’s not OK. Here’s some advice: just put the 80 on the card and save yourself four hours.

2) The 2-foot lip out early in the round

On the surface, it’s just one shot. But we all know that’s not true right? Usually the dreaded 2-foot lip out is either for birdie or par on one of the first three holes. Still, at that time you’re still optimistic. Maybe you  started par-bogey and then hit it tight on the third hole — let’s say it’s a par 3. Walking up to the ball you’re thinking,

“No problem. Tap this in and get back to even and I’m golden. I’ve got the rest of the round ahead of me.”

You probably take for granted that you are going to make it. Maybe don’t give it a full read, I mean, it’s just a tap in right? You are not going to miss this. You might even say, “Guys do you mind if I just tap this one in to get out of your way?” As soon as the ball leaves the putter face you know something is wrong. It starts too far right. You want to reach out and stop it but you know you can’t. You sheepishly look at your playing partners who give you the “Hey that’s golf” look. In the end, it’s just one shot. Yeah right. What are the odds of you making par on the next hole? The smart money is not on yes.

 3) The disastrous second — going for a par 5 in two

This shot has been frustrating golfers for years. The par 5 is the hole golfers of all skills and abilities have visions of making birdie on. It’s usually the first hole you birdie when you take up golf, and it’s the hole that stabilizes your round as you get better, either by getting you back into your round, or just ending a ride on the bogey train. Golfers of all abilities step up to the tee on par 5’s expecting good things. And that feeling only gets stronger and stronger after you knock one down the fairway and begin your walk to the ball with visions of making a 4, or god willing, a 3. But then something happens, the group on the green seems to be taking way too long.

Why are they lining up that putt from a foot? Why doesn’t he just pick it up? How many guys are still in this hole?

It seems like they’ve been on that green for 10 minutes now. Putting the ball and marking, putting and marking — they look like they’re passing a hockey puck around up there. FINALLY, the green clears and it’s go time. Except you rush it a bit don’t you? Your adrenaline was flowing, and the pressure of hitting a good shot built up when your group was forced to wait. There were trees on the right but no big deal, only a snap hook could…Oh boy, that swing felt a little quick.

4) The stubbed chip

I like to think of the stubbed chip as a subtle killer, because you never really expect it to happen, at least not once you’ve gotten to be a better player. Let’s say you miss the green on an approach, so you walk up to the ball still expecting to have at least a semi-makeable putt for par. Worst case scenario, you’re walking off with bogey and that’s no big deal, because people make bogeys all the time, even on easier holes — they’re certainly not round killers. That changes with the stubbed chip.

It’s an instantaneous feeling too — you feel the blade dig a bit too much and you know you’re in trouble. Even worse is if you’re chipping over a bunker and you stub it enough to leave it in the sand. Suddenly, your positive thinking about making par is suddenly a desperate grind to avoid making double bogey. And you tend to usually make that double bogey, don’t you? The second chip after the stubbed one is always good but not great. How can it be great? In your head you’re just hoping not to stub it again. So you knock it to 4.5 feet and then miss the putt. Golf is a stupid game.

5) The bladed bunker shot

The bladed bunker shot is worse then its cousin, the leave-it-in-the-bunker shot. If you leave it in the bunker you are usually no worse off except for the fact that you are in fact, one shot worse off. And usually your next lie is on an upslope, plus your frustration with your first bunker shot actually helps you with your next one. I can’t even count how many times I’ve left it in the bunker and then put my next shot to tap in range. When you are mad you tend to follow through better and finish your swing, which is exactly what you need to do to escape the sand. The bladed bunker shot is far worse though, because you usually end up in a terrible spot. Usually you’re waaaaay over the green in some serious cabbage — you generally aren’t going to get up and down.

The bladed bunker shot is almost an instant double bogey. That’s probably why guys leave shots in bunker more then they blade them out, because they are scared of this shot. Heck just knowing it can happen is scary. If you are in a bunker with OB on the other side of the green, you half consider swallowing that cyanide pill you keep in your pocket from your day job of being a spy. Oops, sorry that is my fantasy day job. But you get the idea.

6) The botched escape shot

This shot is always preceded by the following thought process:

“Hmmm, that opening in the trees looks mighty narrow. Probably should just punch out. But wait, it’s a Saturday round with my buddies, why would I punch out? Imagine if I hit that shot? We can talk about it after the round over beers, the great escape shot I hit on No. 8. Plus my lie isn’t too bad, so I bet i can do it. I’m sure I can do it. And who cares this round means nothing. I’m totally going for this.”

Let me put this pretty simply for you — yes that opening is narrow, and yes your ball is going to hit that tree and ricochet to an even worse spot where you will then make the smart decision you should have made to just punch out. Way to go man, you just turned probable bogey with a chance at par to an almost certain double with a chance for worse. The phrase “take your medicine” exists for a reason, and it’s not just so you literally take your medicine (which by the way you should also probably do). Next time just hit it back onto the fairway, OK Phil?

7) The uncommitted tee shot

You know the feeling, it’s a 360-yard par 4 and you could easily hit either 3 wood or driver. Which one do you go with?

You haven’t been hitting your driver straight today, eh big guy? Maybe it’s time to pull out the 3 wood and just pipe one down the fairway? You’ll still have a pitching wedge or 9 iron into the green. But you like hitting driver, of course, and if you hit driver you leave yourself a wedge in. Birdie time baby. No one plays this game to make pars. Pars are boring, plus you’re 2-over, so a birdie here gets you back close to par. Maybe you’ll shoot a great round. Reach for that driver, yup, we’re going with driver. Pull it out and take a couple of practice swings, just knock one down the fairway and stick it close. There isn’t even a lot of trouble on this hole so it’s all good. OK nice and easy backswing, wait a minute you don’t want to swing too hard here it’s still a short hole, just want to cozy it down there. Wait, should I be using 3 wood? Crap, I’m starting my downswing now, just steer it and …..arggggghhhh. You don’t finish your swing and your tee shot just hit someone doing garden work across the street. Aren’t 360-yard par 4’s supposed to be easy? Nice six my friend.

8) The hosel “fade”

Yes we know the shot I’m talking about. There are many words for it that cannot be repeated here, lest they be caught like a virus. It’s the most dreaded shot in golf. The one that imparts not just score damage, but psychological damage as well. I’m reminded of the match play tournament where Hunter Mahan hit a real beauty onto a peripheral fairway, looked somewhat sheepish, and then went over to that fairway and stuck a wedge close and walked off with par.

You know what though, you are not Hunter Mahan (unless you are literally Hunter Mahan and are reading this. If you are, hey, what’s up Hunter? Nice win at that tournament by the way, big fan and you know, thanks for taking the time to read this far). But where was I? Ah yes, you are probably not Hunter Mahan. So what are you going to do after the hosel fade? You are going to address the next shot so far out and close to the toe that you are either going to miss the ball completely, or hit a flat out terrible shot. You probably aren’t going to follow through either because you are so anxious to see if you hosel-rocketed it again. Basically, this shot is a disaster that torpedoes your round and stays in your head longer then the image of Henrik Stenson stripping down to his boxers to play a shot out of the water (wait, why exactly is that still in my head?). This shot requires not just an actual mulligan, but a mental one aswell. This shot requires the full out Ben-Affleck-in-Paycheck memory erasing treatment, which is also required for anyone who’s seen the movie “Paycheck”.

So, I’m not saying it’s OK to use mulligans. That’s for another story. But if you’ve hit any of the eight shots above, i just want to tell you, I understand. We all understand.

Click here for discussion in the “Golf Talk” forum. 

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Jeff Singer was born and still resides in Montreal, Canada. Though it is a passion for him today, he wasn't a golfer until fairly recently in life. In his younger years Jeff played collegiate basketball and football and grew up hoping to play the latter professionally. Upon joining the workforce, Jeff picked up golf and currently plays at a private course in the Montreal area while working in marketing. He has been a member of GolfWRX since 2008

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. mike

    Jan 15, 2013 at 2:37 am

    awesome read. i was rolling the whole way. the hunter mahan thing killed me.
    golfwrx has a great writer on there hands. Jeff, you have a great talent and sense of humor. great job.

  2. mike skinner

    Dec 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    This is great!! We have all been in these spots once or a thousand times. We should just take the John Daly approach, when things go wrong just drink them away

  3. Dan

    Dec 12, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Fantastic. Are 8 mulligans too many?

  4. Mike

    Dec 12, 2012 at 7:23 am

    Nice job!! I was laughing the whole way threw at some of the refrences :] especially the one about phil haha loved the dreded hozel rocket.

  5. Dave

    Dec 11, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Great article!

    However, I must say… no mulligan is going to save a round from the dreaded hosel fade. You’ll just do the same thing twice in a row… after which you’re better off just quitting golf for a few months.

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Gear Dive: Legendary club builder Larry Bobka speaks on Tiger’s old Titleist irons

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Legendary club builder Larry Bobka joins us in the first episode of our new podcast called “Gear Dive,” hosted by Johnny Wunder, GolfWRX’s Director of Original Content. Gear Dive is a deep look into the world of golf equipment, and Wunder will be interviewing the craftsman, the reps and the players behind the tools that make up the bags of the best golfers in the world.

Bobka, our first guest, is a former Tour rep and club builder involved in some of the most important clubs of the past 25 years. From his days at Wilson Golf working with legends such as Payne Stewart, Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer, he transitioned into the Golden Age of Titleist/Acushnet building clubs for Tiger Woods, Davis Love, David Duval and Brad Faxon. He currently runs Argolf where he builds and fits handmade putters for Tour players and amateurs alike. He’s one of the Godfather’s of modern golf equipment.

Skip to 45:30 for the discussion about Tiger’s Titleist irons.

Check out our podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

What do you think of the new podcast? Leave your feedback in the comments below!

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Gary Player joins our 19th Hole podcast, talks past and future of golf

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Hall-of-Famer and career Grand Slam winner Gary Player joins host Michael Williams for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf tournament and Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Missouri. Player talks about the past and future of the game, including his take on everything from reigning in the golf ball and golf courses, to advocating for more testing for performance enhancing drugs on the Tour. Steve Friedlander of Big Cedar Lodge also appears.

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Let’s Retire Old Man Par: A Modest Proposal

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In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical essay entitled “A modest proposal,” in which he suggested that the Irish eat their own children. As might be expected, the piece drew a great deal of discussion and controversy. He was of course not serious, but simply attempting to make a point. As you will read this piece contains “A Modest Proposal” as well, but it is not intended to be satirical. I am for the record dead serious.

The golf industry is wringing its hands, trying to find a way to bring new players into the game, while at the same time keeping those that are in the game from leaving. They have initiated any number of programs designed for this purpose. How successful have they been? I would venture that they have barely moved the needle.

Barriers to the game

What we do know is that today there are three major barriers that confront the industry. They are first, the time required to play the game; second the costs associated with playing the game; and third the difficulty of the game.

There are among those adults that start the game, three distinct different groups:

  1. Those who would like to start playing golf but for any number of reasons decided not to take up the game.
  2. Those who once played more frequently but have reduced the number of rounds that they play.
  3. Those who started to play the game but then after a short period decided to leave it.

Those who leave the game

Those in the golf industry, the hand-wringers, have developed any number of programs to bring new players to the game. I would ask the question, “What is the point, when almost an equal number of players that start playing the game each year, decide to give it up within a span of a few months.

Does it make any sense to continue to put water into a bucket when there is a hole in the bottom? Of course not, but that is effectively what is being done. The first question to be ask, why do these new players quit the playing after a short time? In my opinion, the number No. 1 reason is the method of scoring being used.

Were an exit poll to be conducted asking these people why they quit playing, I seriously doubt they would answer truthfully. Who would want to admit that they were discouraged by their inability to succeed at any endeavor? The two answers that would be given the most often would be 1) that golf is too expensive to play; or 2) that they simply didn’t have time.  In this case both answers serve to preserve the individual’s dignity. And who could blame them?

The concept of par

Why did these individuals find the game difficult? The short answer is that while golf is a hard game to learn, there  is a more compelling reason.  I would venture, that the underlying reason they quit the game is that it ceased to be fun because of how they viewed their performance. And for one central reason… the concept of par. The idea that an amateur golfer, especially a beginner, should measure their level of success against an imaginary set of numbers that represents what an expert player would score on each hole is on the surface ridiculous.

You might imagine a beginning player scoring an eight on a par-four hole after hitting six good shots and then two putting for an eight. In the context of their ability, they should be ecstatic — but of course they are not (because as their playing partner reminds them) they were four-over par on that hole. The time has come for Old Man Par to retire. And retire permanently. He is killing the game.

Perceived failure

In another scenario, the beginning player scores sixty for nine holes, which is an excellent score given the short amount of time they might have spent playing the game. And yet their nine-hole score was 24-over par. How would that make you feel? Would you be encouraged or discouraged? You might imagine yourself back in school and regardless of the amount of work that you put into a given class you always receive an “F.” At some point, would you give up?

Why should every golfer be judged by the same standard when there is such inequality in their ability? The equivalent would be placing a high school freshman in a graduate-level college course, expecting that they could perform at the same level as the other graduate students. The disparity in knowledge, based on age and experience, is precisely the reason why there are different grades in school. The same disparity exists among golfers. In this case, the difference being the ability to perform on the golf course as opposed to the classroom.

What about the second group of players that now plays less than they did in the past? Could it be that they are no longer having fun playing the game?And then there is the third group, those that consider playing the game but abandon it for another sport. Could it be that they are intimidated by the scoring system, knowing that as a beginner par is an absolute impossibility?

Old man par 

The legendary Bobby Jones was the first to coin, perhaps with the help of his friend O.B. Keillor, the phrase “Old Man Par.” Jones was, of course, the greatest amateur to have ever played the game. He won the Grand Slam in 1930, retiring then at the age of 28.

The time has come to retire “Old Man Par” and devise a new system for measuring a golfer’s progress in the game. I know that those in the USGA. would reject the concept immediately for fear of, and here is a $10 word used primarily by attorneys, “bifurcate” the game. What that word essentially means in this context in having more than one standard. The USGA is responsible for preserving the nature of the game, but at the same time it should be equally concerned with preserving the future of the game.

Personal par

What I would suggest is a system based on the principle of what might be termed “personal par.” This was essentially the system that was used to groom a young Tiger Woods. As a young child, he was not capable of reaching the longer holes in regulation, making par a virtual impossibility. Consequently, his coach wisely devised a system in which par was adjusted upward based on his ability at a given point in time. This served to keep the young child feeling good about his performance and subsequent progress.

This is the type of system that needs to be devised for the health of the game. The system would begin at a nine-hole level using a par of thirty-six as a basis. The actual numbers are not as important as the basic concept. There would be within the nine-hole and the eighteen-hole groups five different levels as follows with assigned par for each hole and eighteen holes roughly equal with the player’s ability.

As players improved, they would graduate from one level to another based on their total score. The handicap system would work in similar fashion as it does now with a single modification. The strokes give from one player to another would depend on the level in which they fall and the par assigned to that level.

The personal par handicap system would not be as exacting as it is presently used, but it would be sufficient to allow players to be reasonable competitive without any significant sacrifice. There would then be two scoring systems then, allowing players to choose which one they wanted to use. Or a recommendation might be given that until they reach a given scoring threshold that they use the personal par scoring system.

There would, of course, be the usual concern with something new being injected into the system, but the proposed change would be no greater than when the system of equitable scoring was introduced or when courses were first assigned a course rating number.

A few years ago, when life-long teacher and educator Dr. Gary Wiren was inducted into the Golf Teacher’s Hall of Fame, he wanted to pass along a single piece of advice to those teachers in the room. “Gentleman,” he started and then paused for emphasis. “We must find a way to make the game more fun for our students.”

I’m in full agreement with Dr. Wiren. The question is, “What is the best way to accomplish that goal?” I believe that that the first step in that direction is to change the scoring system so that golfers experience more satisfaction and accomplishment. That is what makes learning fun.

And so, I would have you consider “The Modest Proposal” that I have put forward. And rather than attempting to find reasons why a revised scoring system couldn’t never work, for the benefit of the game, look for the same number of reason why it could work. The time has come for Old Man Par, as we know him, to retire. He has served us well, but he has become an anarchism. He is as obsolete as the horse and buggy. Let’s hand him his gold watch and let him enjoy his golden years in peace.

And at the same time, let’s welcome the “new kid on the block” who will pave the way for the next generation of golfers pioneering a scoring system that promises to make the game more “fun.”

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