Fun formats for the spring

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As I was growing up, my friends and I were always outside playing games. Most revolved around sports but at times there were some very intense imagination games played. The one constant were the rules but the wildcard was how to play under those rules and that’s what amped up the fun level.

When it comes to the game of golf, players can apply the same logic and make that Saturday/Sunday morning round a touch different from the 18 hole, play your own ball format.

Craig Loughry, with Golf Canada, suggests trying something other than stroke play and see how that fits into your regular tee time. You might get more than just your foursome playing along.

“Any version of that where you’re partnering and just taking the best shot of yours or your partner’s that obviously helps in including more people in I guess what you might call a social competition. It can get serious but allowing the higher handicap players be part of a team, they will be more likely to say yes to that competition than on their own where they might feel a little intimidated.”

Match play is the simplest alteration to you just playing your own ball. You go one on one with another player using your handicaps to level the playing field. You can also use match play as a foursome to partner up with another player and use a best ball format to go hole by hole.

He says partnered events are starting to creep into courses around Canada more often these days as one-off events and he’d like to see it become more of an every-day play type of thing in our country.

“Countries like Scotland and Ireland, they play most of their golf partnered. They do play a lot of match play but they do a lot of partnered events,” he said.

A popular version over seas is the alternate shot format with both partners teeing off and from there you choose which ball to play and alternate shots until you hole out.

“You can imagine what that does for pace of play there. They play fairly quickly over there for a lot of reasons but one of them is because they are playing foursome type events and that’s just for normal, everyday play.”

There are plenty of versions of scrambles to choose from and it can be a full field of players taking part or Loughry says take one day and make a change to how you play your round. For some high handicap players, it might take away some of the pressure they might feel playing with lower handicap golfers.

“When you introduce the concept of a partner, you have someone to lean on. The neat thing about partnered events is it also works the other way,” he said. “So, if your partner hits a bad shot, they may leave you in a bad spot and you might feel a little more pressure but at least you’re able to have a better chance of being in a better spot on the golf course when you do have a partner.”

Loughry says the partner style of golf is not something you see in North America for the most part and he’s not sure why it doesn’t pop up on a more regular basis amongst foursomes out for their daily or weekly round.

“It’s still golf. Why not try something a little bit different?”

Another foursome competition called Wolf is another option. At the start, the teeing order is decided by flipping a tee and the order is rotated (on the first hole 1,2,3,4, on the second hole 2,3,4,1, on the fifth hole 1,2,3,4, again and so on).

The Wolf is always the last player teeing off each hole and then he selects a player to be his partner for that hole or he can go it alone against the other three. If the Wolf and partner win the hole, each gets two points. If the non-wolf partners win they get three points each. If the Wolf wins the hole playing alone he/she gets four points and if another player beats the lone Wolf then all players except the Wolf get a point.

Another version is having partners chosen by the two shots which are left of the fairway and the two which are right. Then you can play a best ball or alternate shot with the lowest score getting the point.

No matter how you slice it (pun intended), shaking up that regular round of golf can be fun, interesting and challenging.

Other than a golf ball and maybe some pocket change, what have you go to lose?