Road Hole Shorts

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Archive for April 16, 2010

The Art of the Bogey Boogie

By: Mary Armstrong, Golf Architect

Published in the 16 April 2010 Las Cruces Sun News

Sounds like a dance doesn’t it? Well, that’s because many older player’s movements on the course can sometimes appear dance-like. As they play each hole, there is a rhythm to their movement – efficiently and some might say gracefully – around the course. The bogey boogie has its origins in the etiquette of the game.

When I was a teenager, I played golf with my Dad and a couple of his buddies on Saturday and Sunday mornings at the local Municipal Course. We would usually get off around 8:30 or 9 am. Peak tee time – right? Actually there were NO tee times and no starter! What’s more, I don’t remember ever having a problem deciding what group was next on the tee. Even then, most people preferred a relatively early tee time on the weekends and the busy period was from 7:30 until about 10.

In those days, on a weekday afternoon, I could easily play 18 holes with three other people in just over 3 hours. The weekend rounds would go to maybe three and a half hours. I’ve often wondered why rounds today are regularly over 4 and sometimes 5 hours. I want to blame TV. Television has done so much to make golf more popular, but unfortunately, it hasn’t all been to the benefit of the game. We rarely get to see golf being played without a caddie on television. On the greens, the players all spend time surveying their next shots or seemingly just “hangin'”, while the caddie is busy removing the flagstick, cleaning the player’s ball, raking a bunker, and evaluating the 

situation. Most of the time we focus on what the player is doing. In fact, the televising network rarely shows us how the caddies work together to keep the play moving and efficiently leave the hole when all the players in their group have holed-out. Before the 60’s, most new players came up through the caddy ranks. Before caddies learned to hold the club, they learned the proper way to tend, remove and replace the flagstick. In fact, they were taught about the rules, etiquette, being safe, taking care of the course and working as a caddy team BEFORE they were able to play golf.

The problem is that there are too few good role models for behavior on the golf course – and I’m not talking about not swearing and throwing clubs. You should know what to do and where to be at all times to help your group move efficiently around the course. About now, some of you bogey players might be saying, “but it’s all I can do just to find my ball and hit it somewhere near my target.”

I’ve seen all kinds of crazy things on the course. People running between shots; players leaving the green after they hole out to hit their drives BEFORE their playing partners hole out; players skipping holes; and even people giving up and walking back to the clubhouse. It really isn’t that difficult to keep pace on the golf course. There are only a few things to remember and they can be taken care of immediately AFTER you hit each shot.

Let’s look at how a typical foursome should approach a hole. Maybe they are two couples. Let’s call them Bob, Carol, Ted and Alice (perhaps you’ve heard of them). Bob is a scratch golfer. He’s won the Club championship the last three years in a row. His wife Carol is also a good player. She regularly gets up and down from around the greens. Ted is an 18 handicapper – a typical bogey golfer. He’ll take a snowman on one hole and follow that with a birdie. Ted’s wife is Alice. Alice is a beginner. She rarely hits the ball out of the fairway, but if she can advance it 150 yards, that’s a good shot. All four players are walking and using handcarts. To keep the column a reasonable length I’ll ignore riding carts. With a little imagination you can take these pointers and apply them if you are a rider.

Our “typical” golf hole is a par 4 with a bunker at the right front of the green. The flagstick is left center. As our intrepid group approaches the green, each player should be “sizing” up the overall contours of the area. Often this will make reading the green much quicker and easier. Also, before arriving at the green note where the next tee is. If your ball is on the green, bring your clubs to a position where they are close to the green edge, near a line from the flagstick to your next tee.

Bob is on the green some 15 feet from the flagstick and Carol lobbed her 40-yard shot 25 feet past the flagstick to the back of the green. The next tee is to the left, but not back as far as the current green. Bob and Carol bring their pushcarts around to about the middle of the green on the left as Ted and Alice go to their balls. Ted’s ball is in the greenside bunker on the right. Alice’s is to the right, just on the collar. Alice is out – that is, furthest away from the flagstick. This is referred to as the “order of play”. This determination isn’t just a courtesy to the player that has hit a better shot and is closer to the hole, it is the basis for efficient movement through the golf hole and especially around the greens. It allows each player to know when it will be his/her turn to play so they can be prepared. So Alice is out and she has about a 50 footer from across the green. Bob is closest to the flagstick, so he asks Alice if she prefers the flagstick in or out. It is absolutely CRITICAL that the closest player (who would be last to play in order of play) be the person in charge of the flagstick until it is removed from the hole. Alice wants the flagstick left in the hole, so Bob moves away from Alice’s line and position’s himself to resume charge of the flagstick without being a distraction to Alice. Alice hits a good putt that just lips out of the hole and stops a foot just beyond. Alice has the option of holing out, which she should do unless she will need to stand in another player’s line. Bob sees that Alice wants to hole out, so Bob removes the flagstick temporarily, so Alice can finish. After Alice removes her ball from the hole, Bob replaces the flag for Ted’s shot and again moves away. Since Alice is the first to finish the hole, she is now the Boogie Leader and takes charge of replacing the flagstick and handling anything that might detract from the group’s pace of play. As Ted is removing his club from his bag, the cart becomes unstable and turns over into the bunker. No penalty, but Ted is flustered. He knows this will hold up the group and he was already concerned about getting out of the bunker. Should Alice rush over and help him because he is her husband? NO. Alice should go over and help Ted because she is the Boogie Leader. Usually this would amount to merely to replacing the flagstick when everyone has holed out. In short order, the clubs are restored to their rightful place and Ted is thankful that his first attempt has put the ball in the middle of the green about 20 feet from the hole. Here is where it gets a little complicated. Ted is still away and Carol is ready to play. Alice should rake the bunker as Ted positions his cart for a quick exit to the next tee. Bob, being the current last to play, should take over Alice’s job and remove the flagstick. Carol should go ahead and play out of turn. Meanwhile, Ted is being careful not pass through Carol’s vision along her line of play and Alice pauses with her raking when Carol is ready to stroke her putt. Everyone proceeds in turn and holes out. Alice returns the flagstick to the hole, taking care not to disrupt the hole edges.

Perhaps this sounds complicated, but if you practice it on the course, soon you will be zipping around and instead of being pushed by your following group, you’ll be pushing the group ahead of you and enjoying your round far more. Remember to work as a team with the player that has holed out last being in reserve to take over in situations where “order of play” doesn’t give you the quickest way to finish the hole. I’ve put together the following top ten checklist of things to improve your pace of play.

1. BE READY TO BOOGIE – Know whose turn it is and what the order of play will be at all times.

2. BOOGIE ON CUE – When its your turn, that means you should be ready to begin your pre-shot routine, which should result in your shot being hit in less than fifteen seconds. It doesn’t mean you should start thinking about the shot or getting your yardage. That should be done while you are approaching your ball or waiting for the other players to hit.

3. BOOGIE LEADER – If your ball is closest to the hole, it is your responsibility to handle whatever might come up that will detract from pace of play.

4. BOOGIE HONORS – When going to the next tee, the person that has the honor must be there and ready to play unless they ask someone to take their place. Frequently, too much time is taken on the tee just waiting for someone to take the “bull by the horns”. You should NEVER take time BEFORE your shot (no matter where on the course) to do something unrelated to playing your next shot. If you need to go into your bag for sun block or chapstick or a quick hit on the bottle it should wait until you have hit your shot.

5. WHEN NOT TO BOOGIE – When a ball cannot be found, unless there is considerable distance to your ball, you should not assist in searching. Each player should first hit their ball and then go search for the lost ball. By the time the last player arrives to look, the allotted search time should be nearly expired.

6. BOOGIE TALK – Golf is a social game – it always has been, but try to keep the long conversations until the 19th hole (after the round) or when you are waiting for the group in front of you.

7. BOOGIE TO YOUR OWN MUSIC – Play from the set of tees that is within your ability. Playing from the further back set that your friend plays from may seem to save a little time at the tee, but over 18 holes it will amount to more time and far more strokes for you.

8. TOO MUCH BOGEY BOOGIE – Unless you are playing in a tournament, when you reach your equitable stroke control (ESC) adjusted score for a given hole, pick up and become the “Boogie Leader” for that hole. If you don’t know what ESC is then you don’t have a handicap and you should pick up when your score reaches 10 for a given hole. If you need to pick up on more than 1/3 of the holes, you may want to spend more time practicing at the range and short game area before venturing out on the course again.

9. KEEP YOUR BOOGIE PARTNER CLOSE TO YOU – Get into the habit of placing your bag or pull cart opposite your ball as close as you feel comfortable. If you are righthanded, this would be to the right of your ball. Saving steps in golf is saving time. Leaving your clubs opposite your ball is the place that will do that. If you leave your clubs five paces behind your ball each time, that’s ten paces that you have to make to play your shot and move on. And that’s only if you don’t have to change clubs. You should be able to play your shot, take two or at most three steps, put your club away and move on your way.

10. NOT EVERYONE CAN BOOGIE WELL – If all else fails and the group ahead of you is more than a hole in front or if you feel uncomfortable with the pressure from the group behind you – let them through. This too is a lost art. You don’t simply stand and wait as the group plays through! The classic play on a par 3 hole is to motion the group through from a position where you can then quickly hit your second shots. As the group going through you reaches their first shots, your group should be putting on the green with one or two people holed out. You allow the group going through to play the hole out. As they go to the next tee, you finish putting and then follow them out as they finish teeing. The idea isn’t so much to stop and wait, but to transition positions – another type of bogey boogie!