Friday, March 16, 2007

GOB's and Putting Percentages

I think before I talk about my loop today I should define something for everyone.

“Good Old Boy.” Definition: A “Yee-haw” individual. A southern gent with a high level of business acumen and prowess. They are usually employed as salesmen because of their incredibly personable approach to people as well as their consistent inability to understand the meaning of the word “no.” They have names like “Billy” “Rex” “Bobby” or “Duke.” They are open with their feelings and often share their life stories with total strangers. They are also known to spout out a seemingly random assortment of words with the same rhythm and intonation as if they were really saying, “Yee-haw.”

Now I’m not saying every “Good Old Boy” is exactly like this, but every single “GOB” I’ve run into fits this description. They are just incredibly warm and quirky individuals that keep my job interesting.

Today the tee sheet was pretty empty, and I was just glad to finally get out and work. I would be caddying for four individuals on carts and they were all most certainly good old boys.

When we got to the first green, I was pleasantly surprised to find that some of my green-reading skills had returned. Well, I suppose I can’t take all the credit, because the Superintendent hasn’t changed the hole locations for 3 days now and I think I’ve seen enough putts by now to be an expert. I almost feel like I’m cheating half the time.

“Where does this one break?”

“Two balls left to right.”

“But you haven’t even looked at the green.”

“I know.”

“Great read.”

“I know.”

But it felt great to hear “great read” again. Those words never get old.

Anyway, while the group was walking to the second tee the Caddie Master came out on a cart to deliver some beers to the group. Before he started driving back in towards the clubhouse he pulled up next to me while I was getting into position to forecaddie on the second hole.

“I used to caddie for these guys all the time. They’re great.”

“Yeah, it seems that way.”

“Has Mr. Looks-at-you-funny made a putt yet?”

“No, he just lipped out on the last hole. And he looked at me funny. Why?”

“You’ll see. I can’t remember what he says when he finally makes a big putt, but you won’t forget it. It’s hilarious.”

And then he drove off. What? What does this guy say that’s so funny? Well, now I REALLY had to make sure my green-reading was on point because I just had to see what the Caddie Master was talking about.

Just as an aside, I call the member “Mr. Looks-at-you-funny” because when he addresses you he isn’t really looking at you. He’s looking either THROUGH you or off at the mating squirrels.

So as the round progressed, there were a lot of close calls. Mr. Looks-at-you-funny hadn’t dropped one yet, but everyone else sure was. Two of the players were scratch golfers, one of them being an Assistant Pro from Indianapolis who likes the Colts, fishing and small dogs. The other was a former college baseball player with an injured rotator-cuff and a long list of marital problems. As I said before, these were GOB’s. By the 5th hole, I knew everything about them. But regardless of how Fluffy’s eating habits depressed the Assistant or how much the old college player missed his playing days, they were both making putts. And if I can read putts for scratch golfers and make them happy, I can read putts for anyone. At least for today.

About halfway through the round I had a bit of a revelation. In thinking about it, I have found that on average a golfer will only putt the ball on the line he has chosen 1 out of 5 times. Putts are pulled, pushed, toed, heeled, whatever, and that’s even before we talk about speed. So a golfer hitting the ball on the correct line with the speed I am envisioning in my wildest dreams (if you work out the math, assuming 36 putts a round and perfect speed) happens only 7 times a round. That means the other 29 putts are somewhat “missed,” and the golfer potentially thinks less of me 80.56% of the time. But if you also factor in that all of my reads aren’t necessarily “correct” (which of course we KNOW never happens), the number of putts made goes down even more, and the percentage of “displeasure” with my services goes up. And that’s just one golfer. If you factor in FOUR golfers, the results are somewhat discouraging: Using my basic “1 out of 5” hypothesis, you have a 1 in 625 chance that I have the correct read, ALL FOUR players hit the ball on the correct line, and all four balls have the optimal speed. That’s a 0.16% success rate. In looking at the numbers, green reading seems like not only an art, but a mathematical impossibility.

No wonder high-risk gambling in the casinos seems like a “sure thing” to caddies.

But surprisingly, I had a very good day with these guys on the greens. And even when I was a little off, they were very lenient with me because I had walked them through my thought process before they stepped up to the ball.

“What do you see here Tom?”

“This putt will be pretty quick. And if memory serves correctly, this slope here actually pushes the ball right. So I’m thinking a foot out on the left.”

“Really?”

At this point, I’m at the other side of the hole looking at it. Pause.

“Well, you know what? From down here it almost looks straight. I don’t see anything at all. Go left center.”

And sure enough, the ball went dead straight at the hole. At the last second, it turned 2 balls right and just grazed the edge of the cup.

“Well look at that.”

“Sorry. That was a good putt. It ended up being a little subtle there at the end.”

“No, don’t worry about it. You were right about that slope wanting to push the ball right. It was a good read.”

This is the kind of environment I like to have on the greens. I try to work as quickly as possible to get to everyone and read every putt if necessary, but I really enjoy a good learning environment too. I usually ask the players after a missed putt if they pulled it, pushed it, or felt like they hit it perfectly. Anything to get a hint at what it would feel like if I was stroking the putt and I was watching the ball roll toward the hole. Because let’s face it, you get a much better sense of what the greens are going to do if YOU are the one stroking the putts.

But even after everyone else had made at least two or three big putts, Mr. Looks-at-you-funny still hadn’t dropped a big one. We were about ready to tee off on 14. Mr. Looks-at-you-funny and his partner were two down and looking to press.

“Well, looks like it’s about that time, gents.”

“You just looking at me funny? Or do you wanna press us, boy?”

“Hee hee! Oh yeah. Consider yourself pressed.”

Now I was pulling for Mr. Looks-at-you-funny, but his opponents were on fire today. One was a scratch golfer and the other was a “12 handicap” that played to a 6. Now, if anybody else came to this course as a sand-bagger, they would’ve been given snide remarks and banned from the course by the end of the round. But because this guy was a friend and a GOB, all was forgiven and the foursome just joked about it.

“You know what I’m going to do 12-handicapper? I’m going to call your home course and see what’s what.”

“What are you talking about? I’m a 12 here.”

“Yeah right. And the three net-birdies you’ve had so far on the back-nine were just luck, right?”

“Yeah. Hehe!”

“Boy, you’re somethin’ else! Hehe!”

So Mr. Looks-at-you-funny needed to drop a big putt soon to capitalize on the press.

On this particular hole, his opponents didn’t manage their shots very well and under the match’s two-man-best-ball format had only a shot at 5 from 15-feet. But they drained it. Now Mr. Looks-at-you-funny needed to make his putt for a 5-net-4.

“Tom, what do you see here? About a cup?”

“Actually, I’m seeing more like 2-feet out on the right.”

“Really?”

I hated to offer a read that was THAT much more than his initial instinct, but I really did see almost 2-feet. I knew from past experiences that the ball dove right to left at the end, and 99% of the players attempting this putt never left the ball high enough to give it a chance.

There’s the putt. And bingo.

Right in the hole. Perfect speed. I was so excited that I wanted to start shouting, but at that moment I remembered what the Caddie Master had said on the 2nd hole. Mr. Looks-at-you-funny might say something memorable.

“Snap, crackle, cracker-jack-box-pop-fizz-oh-what-a-relief-it-is! Woooweeee!”

He pumped his fist and instantly sought me out for a congratulatory fist-mash.

“Great putt Mr. Looks-at-you-funny!”

“Great read caddie-who-can’t-read-a-putt!”

Oh, it was great. And it happened on 17 too.

“My boy Jack jumped over the candlestick! Yee-haw!”

And just as their putts dropped on 18, it started to rain, and we were finished.

5 comments:

English Dave said...

Evening

Good to hear from you again and another great post, Tom.

That group you had sounded really fun to be around - laid back, enjoying themselves and producing some decent golf to boot. Maybe there's a connection in there somewhere? Although I'm a southern English gent, and I hardly ever say "Yee-haw" ... but I WOULD like "Duke" as a nickname. That would be cool. I used to love the Dukes of Hazzard, especially Daisy in those little denim shorts. I was too young to know much about what was going on when it was on the first time, but I could do her a favour or two over a plate of biscuits now. Boy. She was nice.

It's good to hear that your green reading skills are returning slowly - I told you they would. Playing or looking at the same greens/pin positions all the time is no guarantee of knowing exactly what's going on - I have been playing at my course for 8 years now and I still have to get down and look at pretty much every putt I stand over. I can knock the odd 4 footer in one-handed without paying it any attention, though. Opponents always really like that.

And I agree with you whole-heartedly about the odds of reading and making putts perfectly. When you think about the odds aginst doing anything in this grand old game properly, in getting a club face as small as it is to hit a tiny spot on a small ball crisp and sweet when the club is travelling as fast as it is ... it brings me out in a sweat just to think about it. Don't think about it, that's the key, just twat it.

Do you think my long comments are putting other people off commenting? Or do you think that maybe a lot of people just haven't realised that you have started posting again regularly? I hope it's not my fault. I wouldn't like to think people disliked me that much.

I notice you haven't implemented my suggestion of putting the 3 girls kissing in as your new logo. That's your call, old pal, I was just saying, is all. I was only thinking that if you did that and people were searching for "golf lesbo shag orgy" then your site would be one of the first ones to come up. I know I search for that often (ahem ...) Last time I did it, I got a picture of Davis Love III. How did that happen? I'll never be able to see him again without calling him that in my head. Dirty pervert, Davis.

I'll sign off now. Royal North Devon tomorrow. 15 days to go ...

Stay cool and KYN. All the best

David

Jam Boy said...

Please don't worry about the length of your posts. I think it was you who once told me the exact same thing. The fact that you feel the urge to rant for awhile on this site makes my efforts feel worthwhile. I live for hearing other people's reactions to my stories as well as sharing their own. This is a great game and there are an infinite number of things to say about it. So keep it up. I think it's just that a lot of people haven't realized I'm back in action. I can't blame them -- I posted so infrequently last year -- I'm just happy to hear back from anyone who used to visit.

And as far as the logo goes, I'm still just trying to find something that sticks. Trying to envision a logo that captures the true meaning of this site has been a little more difficult than I originally thought. I think it's because I'm still trying to sum-up this whole experience so far for myself. Perhaps some more crack-smoking will release my muse. Or maybe it's just a patience thing. Nah. It's gotta be the rocks.

English Dave said...

So I played Royal North Devon on Saturday in an open tournament. It was an unusual format in that the first 6 holes were better ball (we were playing with partners, obviously - I'm not too schizophrenic), the middle six were greensomes (both drive, then take the best drive and play alternate shots from there) and the last 6 holes were foursomes.

Now Royal North Devon is a glorious old links course on the north cost, as one might expect, and completely flat and exposed to the elements. No trees or nothing. Just sand dunes, lunar landscape fairways. lightning quick greens and cavernous gaping pot bunkers. And the wind blew on Saturday. A lot. Straight in off the sea and chuffing freezing. We started fine, after having had to rush a plentiful breakfast which we ordered over an hour before our tee time but which took over 45 mintues to turn up. I hacked my way up the first fairway (a par 5) but got on the green in regulation (albeit miles away from the hole) and then canned the putt from about 40-50 feet. It was one of those putts on which the line just presents itself to you as soon as you look at it and you just have to get the pace right. So birdie the first ... beauty. Here we go. Made par on the second without ever getting within shouting distance of the fairway (god bless getting down in two from 60 yards right of the green) and parred the next two, even getting up and down from a bunker in which I disappeared up to my neck). Then came a 136 yard par 3 back into the wind. No worries, I thought, take a 7 iron and hit a hard punch, keep it low, let the wind stop it on the green. Piece of cake. So I prepared to chip onto the green from about 40 yards left, pitched it on the green and watched the wind blow it back towards me off the green and back down the slope towards me. I chipped it back onto the green, making sure to get it on properly this time and it went 20 feet past. I missed that putt. Made double bogey 5. My friend Steve made a birdie 2. I called him a gay.

The sixth tee has one of the finest views in golf. I was so busy looking at the 360 degree panorama that I forgot to hit my tee shot properly. I wandered down the fairway and found it stiing right in the middle so I consulted my course planner, worked it out to be 170 yards with the wind blowing straight behind. 9 iron, no worries. "It looks a long way for a 9 iron" I thought to myself, but you know, wind behind and firm links turf, if I bounce it short it should run up to the green. I hit it absolutley perfectly and was shouting encouragement at it all the way. It came down miles short of the green. Upon looking at the course planner again, I saw that I had taken the yardage off the wrong bunker and had been closer to 210 yards from the green. Dumbass. So we make bogey there as well.

On the 7th, we started the greensomes. I hit a perfect drive, my buddy Keef put it 20 feet from the hole, I put it 15 feet past the hole (oh the greens were so much quicker than the puddings I am used to playing on - links greens are great, but immensely quick and slopey), we dropped another shot there. I missed a 3 footer for par on 8 after hitting the green. I put our 2nd on the par 5 9th to about 50 yards short of the gree and Keef managed to put me in a bunker 20 yards short of the dancefloor. The ball was on the downslope and I couldn't get my feet in the bunker to play it. I hacked it 20 yards over the back of the green. We made 7 there. The wheels were starting to fall off. Then we turned back into the wind. It started to get really tough. Keef was driving the ball straight as a die but much shorter than I am used to and I was starting to spray it all over the countryside off the tee. Me hitting long irons and fairway woods into holes is not a recipe for success and we dropped at least one shot on every hole on the back nine, finishing with a nett, I say NETT 47. 11 over nett on the back 9. That's not cool. Fortunately, the competition was scored as a stableford and we ended up with a princely 26 points. Steve (the gay) and Shagger McNasty, our playing partners beat us by two points. We finished 66th. Out of 70. We weren't last! Bonus.

It was a superb day though and it's a fantastic course. Completely different from 99% of all other courses most people play. The greens are frighteningly quick and full of breaks - I reckon we, as a 4 ball, missed at least 8 putts from about 3 or 4 feet and in.

It worries me greatly that I won't be able to deal with conditions on our upcoming trip, given my degenerating performance, but I'm hoping that the format of alternate shots had a lot to do with my lack of rhythm and poor shotmaking into the gale on the back 9.

Anyway, I better go. Thanks for reading this far. Most of it is nonsensical rambling and, like all things Spanish, it is dangerous and it will knock down trees and kill people.

KYN

David

English Dave said...

Yeah!!!

Arse Flag Returns! That'll learn you, Davis Love III. You dirty bugger.

Jam Boy said...

Sounds like you had a great time, Dave. Greensomes? Never heard it referred to like that before. Over here something like that is called a "Modified Pinehurst," where both players drive the ball, switch and hit each-others' second shots and then choose from there, alternating into the hole. But Greensomes sounds much more manly, and that's probably why Europeans always kick the crap out of us in the Ryder Cup during the alternate shot format.

But don't worry too much about your game. Sometimes it can be really hard to get into a rhythm when either you or your playing partner puts a shot in an interesting situation. Often.

Sounds like you were playing on a gorgeous golf course. And I can't wait to hear how the trip ends up going. Take care Dave.