April 1, 2009

18 Holes Can Tell You Everything About Someone

Many years ago, Johnny Revolta, a PGA Tour pro (and major winner) active in the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's quipped "golf doesn't build character, it reveals it."

That's a statement so true, it seems obvious. Golf is a game of honor where the player is his or her own referee, and how a given player conducts themself on the course can truly identify what sort of person that player is.

Knowing that, when I came across a 2002 article in USA Today about CEO's and golf, I was once again struck by how accurate Revolta was:

Chad Struer has played golf with almost 20 Fortune 500 CEOs. One in three cheats, he says. Struer finds that rather peculiar, because those same CEOs hire him and his Salinas, Calif., company, USA Diligence, to investigate the honesty of start-up companies so the CEOs can decide whether to invest. One CEO, whom Struer calls "good-hearted," so habitually shaves strokes that he consistently scores in the mid-80s when it is obvious he would never break 100.
Interesting. And perhaps the game of golf could have identified some of the scoundrels responsible for our current economic crisis? Maybe more than we think. It's food for thought, anyway.


  1. I contend 95% of all golfers inadvertently cheat because they are ignorant of the U.S.G.A. rules of golf pertaining to handicap maintenance and score posting. In the majority of cases, the golf club maintaining the scoring record is culpable because of the same lack of knowledge of handicap rules as outlined by the U.S.G.A. Unfortunately, many golfers feel having the wrong handicap is okay and will give you scores of reason why they are "unacquainted" with the rules. If people would be 100% honest when answering, I could offer a quiz with 6-7 questions to prove my point.

  2. "....golf doesn't build character, it reveals it."

    Great saying. Reminds of the U.S.G.A. when they lengthen par 4's to 510 yards, par 3's to 250 and leave the rough at 6" with the greens running at a 14 on the stimpmeter and then say, "We are not trying to embarrass the world's best golfers, we are trying identify them..."

  3. "If people would be 100% honest when answering, I could offer a quiz with 6-7 questions to prove my point."

    I'd be happy to take you up on that challenge.

    I play honest golf, but I have made mistakes before from a lack of knowledge of the Rules. It's not the Rules that I don't understand, though, it's the Decisions on the Rules of Golf that I am not completely familiar with.

    As for my handicap, I enter my scores, and in the midst of a swing change, my handicap has zoomed upwards to an embarrassing (to me) 16. Thing is, those changes are starting to set in, and I am may 2/3rds of the way towards being reliably consistent with it. That has made me look like a sandbagger because of the lag in the handicap system.

  4. Charles, cheating is too harsh a word for not possessing full knowledge of the USGA handicap system. I went 25 plus years at my club until I became the Handicap chairman and realized everything I had NOT previously known. But, for all of those years, my ignorance caused me to have an inaccurate USGA index and therefore affected the competitive nature of any match structured with handicaps.

    Here's 5 sample questions I use at my club.

    1. Your handicap is 16. At your course, Eagle Ridge, you have just finished hole #7 at five over par (32 strokes) and lightning strikes. The course is then closed for the day. What score do you post?

    2. Same scenario, but you have completed 13 holes at 7 over par. (57 strokes) when the lightning strikes. What score do you post?

    3. You have some trouble on 13, the par 3. You are in the trap in four with a crappy lie and a close pin. Your partner is already in with a bogie and your opponents concede and tell you to pick up ball, it is good. What do put as a score for #13?

    4. You have a 9 foot birdie putt on #18 (looks like a fabulous hole, by the way). Your opponents are in the water, in the sand and now in their pocket. They concede your birdie. What do you put on the card?

    5. You close out a match play opponent on 17 and he insists on going in. You were 5 over at that point. What score goes in the computer that day?

  5. 1. I would calculate my expected scores using par plus handicap strokes for #8 and #9 and then post the resulting nine-hole score. That would mean par for 8 (the 17 handicap hole) and 6 for #9 (the #1 handicap hole, a par 5 plus the one stroke.) And I would double-check with the head pro, John Yancey before I put them into the computer to be sure.

    2. I would par plus any handicap strokes to which I am entitled for the holes that were not completed. 14 is a 5 Par handicapped at 8, so a score of 6. 15 is a 3 par and I still get a stroke, so a 4. 16 is a 4 par that's 12 handicap, so a 5. Home (17) is 5 par, 10 handicap, so a 6. 18 is a 4 par, 6 handicap so a 5.


    And again, I would double check my math with John. And curse the thunderstorm...they are welcome at night or when I am at work!!!

    3. Let's see, I am laying four, it's the 16 handicap hole, so I think I would get a stroke. I am thinking that due to the conditions I would get a 7, which is the max ESC for that hole.

    4. I would putt out for an honest score. Getting a real Tweet on 18 is something well earned and a concession of a nine-footer is not a real birdie in my book. The rule, I believe is to

    5. 5 for the hole, 77 for the round and drinks are on me.

  6. Ooops, scratch the incomplete sentence at the end of answer four.

  7. Great job! I can only tell you, the overwhelming majority of golfers, (even club golfers) are unaware of most rules regarding score posting.

    Most golfers rarely use the 'most likely score' aspect of #3 and #4 and many are even still ignorant the proper ESC provisions. On #3, prior to the addition of any handicap strokes, if it were me in that bunker, I would expect to get the ball out and onto the green and then two-putt. The average tour pro makes about 50% of 6 foot putts and gets up and in from the bunker about 50% of the time. That would be 7 strokes for me, since I do not get a stroke there, but, if I did, technically the scorecard would read 8/7, with 8 being the number used to tell people what I shot and 7 being the number I used to calculate the score I put in the computer. On #18, again you are right. If your opponent allows you to attempt the putt, use the score you actually made. On a normal 9-foot putt, you would 'most likely' two-putt, so a par is a reasonable score. If you have a sidehill, downhill 'mutha' where you may slide it past 10-12 feet, it is your prerogative to take that into consideration and put a bogie on the card.

    Overall, the drinks are ME!! Thanks, Charles...


Have something to say? We'd love to hear it.