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Making an ace in Korea is a whole new experience

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There are fewer things more memorable to a golfer than his/her first hole-in-one (other than maybe playing at August National). I am sad to say that I have yet to experience my first ace despite struggling with this great game for 33 years.

However, I did recently get lucky in acing a hole during a round of virtual screen golf. This got me thinking perhaps I should get me some insurance in case I ever do get the ball to drop for a one on a real scorecard.

After 33 years without an ace, I’ll take anything.

Golf Insurance, You Say?

Here in Korea, we celebrate the holy grail of golf score a bit differently than most folks. It involves many steps and can get quite costly for the lucky (?) golfer. Hence, Korean insurance companies have begun offering diverse hole-in-one insurance policies to ensure that our wallets don’t take a critical hit.

Below is what I have learned over the years about the hole-in-one culture here in Korea. In many ways, I find it both fascinating and truly memorable.

Search engine for ‘Golf Insurance’ returns with hundreds of offers for coverage

Ace In The Hole

When an actual hole-in-one is confirmed, all involved parties inevitably get pumped. This is probably no different in most golfing countries, but the next steps surely are not. The accompanying caddie declares the deed to be official and lays a towel in front of the cup. The lucky golfer then kneels and bows to the ball three times to thank it for the good fortune he/she is to receive for the next three years. The accompanying members who witness the ace are also said to be lucky for one year.

The golf course is alerted of the event, and a certificate to commemorate the deed is presented to the golfer at the end of the round. The caddie is usually tipped a healthy sum, and the foursome usually ends up celebrating with a nice dinner, drinks, and general merriment. Pretty standard up to this point, but here is where it gets interesting.

More than a nod to the Golf Gods for good luck!

To further commemorate the wondrous gift from the golf gods, the members of the foursome are expected to pitch in and gift the golfer with a trophy, often adorned with real gold worth between $1,000~$3,000. In turn, the three are treated to a round of golf accompanied by a small gift such as golf balls stamped with the event.

If the golfer happens to be a member of the particular golf club and is feeling particularly generous, they may also opt to plant a tree or a prize bush near the hole to commemorate the achievement for all to see.

Reminder of the feat with the names of all in the foursome placed near the hole.

A trophy is gifted by the foursome members to the lucky golfer, who then treats them to a round of golf with a gift.

Hole-In-One Golf Insurance

From the above, you can guess that the costs associated with a hole-in-one can be quite steep. I have heard numerous golfers jokingly say they are afraid of making an Ace! With such financial responsibilities looming overhead, I have also wondered if an Ace is indeed worthwhile. But luckily, there is help.

The Hole-in-One insurance is exactly as it sounds, aimed at alleviating the financial burden to the joyous golfer who hit the golf jackpot. For few dollars a month, you can be insured against the fortunate(?) event for up to $2000~5000 dollars.

Since I have yet to be so lucky, I had sought a friend who had recently made his first Ace last month. According to him, he had been paying about $20 monthly for the past three years before collecting just under $5000 last month after holing out from 151 meters (165 yards).

I have since found out there are many types of golf-related insurances. The most typical amount is $30/month for $3000 coverage or $50/month for $5000 coverage. The friend above says his car insurance had an add-on golf insurance of an additional $25/month, which he signed up for since it also insured against theft.

Many Korean courses have insurance vending machines for those who feel lucky on the spot.

Over the past couple of years, various insurance vending machines have been popping up on golf courses next to par-3 tee boxes. According to the sign, golfers can insure their foursome for $12 (10,000 KRW) before tee shot. The vending machine is equipped with a video camera pointing at the hole, and the payout is between $2000~$2500 depending on the company offering the insurance. The insurance, of course, is only valid for that specific hole on the day. So if a golfer is feeling particularly lucky standing on the tee, all they need to do is drop 10,000 KRW into the machine, and voila. They’re all covered for any celebrations that may ensue.

There are more types of insurance than what I mentioned above, including apps that sell one-time insurance for aces to albatrosses. But the basic premises are the same: “Good things are expensive, so be prepared” is their motto.

Temptation

As with many insurance cases, I have heard that the golfer insurance is also fraught with fraudulent claims from golfers faking an ace. Tempted by the insurance money, there have been cases where golfers coerce the caddie to back up their claims of a hole-in-one and share in the money.

However, these cases rarely ever succeed. The caddie and golfer, along with the foursome are required to testify to the ace and can face punitive legal measures if false information. In addition, the golfer first also provide to the insurance company all they had spent towards the celebration of the event. Only when all is proven is the insurance money reimbursed to the golfer, so there is little concern of fraud nowadays.

Golf club and companies offers a diverse range of prizes, including art and steaks. Bravo!

But what about those of us with no golf insurance? Most golf clubs offer a variety of prizes to the lucky individual, ranging from golf equipment and massage chairs to local delicacies and apparel. I have heard that many companies offer their products as a prize to promote their brand. This way, both the golfer and the company benefits.

How do you celebrate a hole-in-one in your corner of the world? What special event have you done after your ace? Let me know in the comments section!

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James is a golf gear-nut living and writing about all things golf in Korea. A fan of Tiger, Fred, and Seve, he is forever seeking the holy grail of golf clubs that will lower his score. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada and has been in Korea to witness the explosive growth of golf since 1996. Despite playing golf for over 30 years and being a perpetual 10-handicapper, James steadfastly claims to be the embodiment of the Average Joe Korean golfer. He can be reached at [email protected], and often introduces cool new Asia-based golf gear on YouTube and Instagram.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Alex

    Jul 28, 2021 at 5:40 pm

    Nice article, it’s good to know how other parts of the world play golf. Keep up the good work.

  2. Don Jaly

    Jul 26, 2021 at 4:14 pm

    Wow, that’s extremely interesting. Thanks for the informative and intriguing article James. Keep up the good work!

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19th Hole

Euro pro shares priceless Tiger Woods story involving a Portaloo at Oakmont

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When you’ve just won the US Amateur, playing alongside defending champion Geoff Ogilvy and Tiger Woods at Oakmont will have been an exciting but daunting prospect.

Nerves would have been jangling as Richie Ramsay teed it up alongside the 2006 WGC Match Play champion and the then 10-time major winner, so imagine unintentionally winding up Tiger, at the time the undisputed King of golf.

Interviewed by DP World Tour’s Life On Tour podcast, the four-time European Tour winner recalled the time he accidentally shook up the number one legend of the modern game, in 2007.

The Scot explains:

“I was playing with Ogilvy and Tiger at Oakmont. Playing with Tiger, I’d never even seen the guy in real life before,” he said.

“It was pretty daunting. There’s a walk through to the 11th tee and it’s a 200-yard walk through trees.”

“I’m lagging behind. I’ve made double bogey,” he continued. “My caddie has gone ahead of me and I’m swinging the putter, and I thought ‘this is not a good idea because I’ve got the putter in my hand and I feel like I just want to throw it away’.”

The tale goes on. “There’s a Portaloo halfway down the walkway and there’s nobody there, and I just rattled this Portaloo with the putter and keep walking.”

“As I walk up to the tee, I look up. I can see Squirrel, who’s Geoff Ogilvy’s caddie, Geoff Ogilvy, Steve Williams, my caddie and no Tiger Woods.”

“I’m like ‘oh f***’. So he comes up and just looks up and I’m at the back trying to hide behind my caddie, because I’ve absolutely rattled this Portaloo and he’s been inside.”

“He must have got the shock of his life.”

Tiger eventually finished level with Jim Furyk in second place at 6-over, one shot behind eventual winner Angel Cabrera.

Clearly that year, Oakmont was brutal in more than one way!

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Serena Williams reveals the advice from Tiger that inspired her to play the US Open before retiring

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Serena Williams and Tiger Woods have been the dominant force in their respective sports since breaking onto the scene in the mid to late ’90s.

Williams, now 40, has amassed 23 tennis grand slam titles (the most of any male or female player in the Open era), while Woods, 46,  with his 82 PGA Tour titles and 15 slams, has always been head and shoulders above the rest.

While Woods has vowed to continue his competitive golfing career, despite injuries now severely hampering him, Serena this week announced that she would be “evolving away from tennis”, with the US Open at Flushing Meadows to be her last tournament.

In her retirement announcement in an essay for Vogue, Williams revealed that she may not have played the US Open, that begins at the end of the month, if it were not for Tiger, who she leaned on for advice ahead of her retirement.

“This spring, I had the itch to get back on the court for the first time in seven months.” began Williams, “I was talking to Tiger Woods, who’s a friend, and I told him I needed his advice on my tennis career. I said, ‘I don’t know what to do: I think I’m over it, but maybe I’m not over it.’ He’s Tiger, and he was adamant that I be a beast the same way he is! 

He said, ‘Serena, what if you just gave it two weeks? You don’t have to commit to anything. You just go out on the court every day for two weeks and give it your all and see what happens.’ I said, ‘All right, I think I can do that.’ And I didn’t do it. But a month later, I gave it a try. It felt magical to pick up a racket again. And I was good. I was really good. I went back and forth about whether to play Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open after that. As I’ve said, this whole evolution thing has not been easy for me.”

Serena didn’t play for a year due to a hamstring injury before returning to the grass this summer.

Considering this Tweet from her back in 2019 when Tiger won the Masters, it’s no surprise that the 15-time major champ’s words have inspired her to empty the tank before calling it a day.

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19th Hole

‘To play an event like this is a dream for me’ – Patrick Reed on this week’s Asian Tour event

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One of the main reasons given by players moving from the PGA Tour to the LIV series was to allow more time between events, to be at home more often, and to have the freedom to choose which events to play throughout the season.

In the last week or so, we have seen 11 LIV golfers serve a lawsuit on the PGA Tour and subsequently receive an in-depth reply and denial of charges. Three of the 11 – Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford – have since seen their application for a Temporary Restraining Order denied by the courts, therefore being unable to play in the first (or following) FedEx play-off events, starting on Thursday.

2018 Masters champion, Patrick Reed, has had his many controversies over the years and after agreeing to sign for the LIV series, spoke of how it allowed him more free time.

“On top of it, just the quality of life for us as players now, having less events, being able to spend more time at home with the family,” was an admirable take by Reed.

“If you have kids, being able to spend time with your children, and not sitting there and having to play three, four weeks in a row, then have a week off, and during that week off you’re preparing, trying to get ready for the next week.”

Great, hard to argue with that notion.

Yet, here he is, just a couple of months later, playing the LIV-backed International Series Singapore before taking in a similar event in Korea, just a few days later, surely not giving much time to jet home and spend more time with Justine and the kids.

Having dropped to #46 in the world rankings, and with no OWGR points currently awarded to LIV events, Reed is in danger of slipping out of the top-50 and losing the considerable privileges that come with it – that is if the leading organizations do eventually allow all LIV players to compete.

With the backing of LIV Golf, but not an exclusive event, the Asian Tour events do carry OWGR points. However, as the official world ranking site shows, winning here will not make a tremendous deal of difference to the standings, the eventual champion receiving around 7.5 points compared with 69 points for the winner at St. Jude and nearly 15 at the DP World Tour event in Northern Ireland.

Reed doesn’t see that as an issue, saying that, “World ranking points always help, but at the end of the day, for me, coming over here, I’d heard great things about this place.

“And coming in, I knew I wanted to play a little bit after the last event we played in Bedminster, and it fit the schedule.

“For me, it’s more about travelling and playing golf and trying to grow the game around the world–and not just staying at home and playing at home. I have always loved traveling and playing, so to play an event like this is a dream for me.”

Once out in the mainstream, there was, of course, plenty of social media reaction.

Responding to a tweet by @BunkeredOnline, one user commented, “Wow….that seems strange, given his reasons for joining LIV. “He asserted that being on the road and away from his kids, the possibility that he wasn’t being a good dad, was beginning to affect his play.” Hopefully, sometime in Asia will help with those issues!”

Opinions come and go. What the majority are calling for is the honest answer to why the players are making the choices they are.

With the legal moves in process and still to come, this could get even nastier than it has already.

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