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Started: 2015-06-20 15:37:54

Submitted: 2015-06-20 16:42:31

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator plays at his employer's annual golf scramble

Every June my employer has hosted a golf event for the Boulder office. This has apparently been going on for twenty years, though I obviously didn't become aware of it until joining the company. For years I thought the idea was silly (I was more interested in the annual ski trip) but last year I actually thought about participating (for the team-building and social aspects, not because I care about golf), and this year I finally signed up.

The format of the event is a "scramble", which means we're assigned into eighteen teams of four each with a theoretically equal distribution of talent on each team. (I was happy to be identified as the "D" player on my team, which means I had the least experience, since I'd never actually played real golf before in my life.) For each hole we'd all start at the tee and take a shot, then pick the best shot and play from there, until we reached the hole. This meant I could basically fail horribly every single shot without affecting my team's score. (The rules of the event obliged my team to choose three of each player's initial drives, so there were a couple of cases where the A player who led the team chose to play my reasonable drive, even though there was a drive further onto the fairway.)

Since I hadn't actually touched a golf club before, I met one of my assigned golf team members (the C player, which meant he had more experience than me and owned his own clubs) at a golf course in Longmont on Wednesday evening this week to practice at the driving range. We split two buckets of balls. I could consistently hit the ball with the numbered wedges (used for middle distances), though it often didn't go where I wanted it to -- one-third of the time it would sail straight through the air on a nice parabolic trajectory, one-third of the time it would roll along the ground on a nice line drive, and one-third of the time I'd miss the center of the ball and it'd roll a few yards and stop.

When we used up the two buckets of balls, we poked around the practice putting range until I noticed a blister forming on my right index finger and decided to call it a day. (At my C player's recommendation, I bought a golf glove, but these gloves are apparently intended to be used only on the off hand -- so I had one glove on my left hand and nothing on my right.) After two hours of practice I figured I knew just enough to be dangerous.

Driving range at the golf scramble
Driving range at the golf scramble

Friday, the day of the scramble, was the first day this year when the temperature reached 90°. I brought sunscreen and my LTE hat to protect me from the mid-day sun, and drove to the Broadlands Golf Course in Broomfield with enough time to rent clubs at the course and practice on the driving range before the 13:00 shotgun start. (This means that the teams were distributed at each of the 18 holes -- my team was 13A, so we were the first to start at hole 13, then we advanced to each hole in sequence before wrapping around to hole 1.)

Golf group photo
Golf group photo

I lost my very first ball in the rough a few meters from the first tee, but my next shot out of the sand trap (that the A player drove his ball into) was the best of anyone's shots, so we played from there. On every shot I didn't need to worry about bunting or losing my ball in the rough; I could take my best shot and hope for the best and expect it not to matter. (The edge of the course was planted with native grasses and left to grow on their own, so in many places the rough was very rough, and in the scramble format it was easier to write off a ball in the rough and move on, rather than searching at length for the ball.)

Teeing off
Teeing off

As the day wore on we made our way around the course. I occasionally got some good shots, including a lucky 12-foot putt. The B player on my team said I was the best D player he'd seen -- apparently most of them can barely make contact with the ball. But mostly I enjoyed myself outside (and even avoided getting sunburned).

Golf team photo
Golf team photo

My team ended up with a score of +7 over par for 18 holes, which put us somewhere in the tail end of the pack; the best team got -3 above par. (Remember that in golf lower scores are better. This much I know from playing the golf module on various video and computer games, most notably various incarnations of Super Monkey Ball.) I hung out at the clubhouse for dinner and the small awards ceremony, while watching the US Open on tv in the background at a very dry course on Puget Sound in Washington. (The course was so dry that the green had turned brown.) At my table the conversation turned to discuss whether golf was, in fact, a sport; the consensus was that it was not.

I enjoyed the diversion from work for the afternoon, and I do see some of the appeal of golf, though I'm content to focus my energy elsewhere, unless I decide I need some extra social boost from playing golf with my bosses. (This is unlikely to happen at my current employer, but I wouldn't rule it out for the future.)

Well, this was a family outing. Ya know, one of
those occasions where four people try to get
together for an evening, and it's considered a
success if no one has been murdered by the time
it's over.
- Bitscape