November 1, 2002
On Sunday, October 27, Shawnee Country Club held its annual Closing Day tournament. At the suggestion of Devon Peterson, the club’s new head golf professional, the format for this year’s event was a Shamble.
It turned out to be a great way to play a competitive round of golf that was both fair and fun. It may have also helped some golfers to understand which parts of their game they should concentrate on improving before the opening round next spring.
Peterson divided the 80 or so players into four flights, A, B, C, and D, and used the computer to set up foursomes with relatively equal total handicaps.
The A players, who are the best golfers, hit their tee shots from the back (blue) tees. The B- and C-level golfers drive on each hole from the regular men’s (white) tees. The D-level players, whose handicaps started somewhere above 21, use the forward (red) tees.
The team then selects the best drive of the bunch. As in a scramble, each member of the foursome then hits their second shots from that point. Unlike a scramble, however, each member keeps playing their own ball until the hole is finished.
Handicaps are reduced by 20 per cent, and scoring is based on the combined two best net scores per hole. Par for the tournament was 140, therefore, but in this format any team that actually shot par was far out of contention.
I played with Larry Little, Scott Hermansader, and George Shockley.
Little was our A player, and showed why almost immediately. He hit gorgeous towering drives that usually curved gently from right to left. The golf ball seemed to stay in the air forever, and was usually far down the fairway compared to the rest of us.
On a few occasions his approach shots would also travel far, past the greens and into trouble. I believe Little will be working on his distance control with his irons over the winter, and reduce his already low handicap even further.
Two drives in particular are well worth noting. On the seventh hole, set at 335 yards from the blue tees, Little’s drive stayed in the fairway, no more than 30 yards from the green.
I managed to chunk my second shot only 10 yards from that spot, but fortunately my teammates didn’t follow my example of how not to hit a partial wedge.
On the eleventh hole, a 425-yard par four from the white tees, I felt pretty good about my tee shot into the wind, landing in the middle of the fairway “only” 205 yards from the center of the green.
Little’s ball waved at mine on the ground as it flew by, finishing up in the light rough near the 150-yard pole.
Now, I’ve used a 6-iron to reach the 11th green on many occasions. Nonetheless, this was the first time I’d ever used a 6-iron for my second shot instead of my third, and perhaps only the second two-putt par I have ever experienced on that hole. Thank you, Larry.
As it turned out, all four of us contributed toward our team score; sometimes with drives, sometimes with approach shots, and most often with our putters.
We finished a respectable 23-under. However, the winning score was a surprising 109, or 31-under par.
Peterson noted that most golfers’ gross scores were well under their usual results; my 79 was typical. Since a good drive was almost guaranteed, each player’s chance for scoring was greatly enhanced, no matter what par was on a given hole.
Observant players may now see that their iron game needs work, while others will concentrate on their drivers and 3-woods.
The shamble was a fun way to finish the season. It provided the added advantage of passing along a useful golf lesson at the same time.
I plan to use the format again soon.