GOLF, by Horace Hutchinson 1900
The Penn Publishing Company, Philadelphia
(British Amateur Champion. 1886, 1887)
Introduction, pages 21-23
In taking up golf, the Englishman has gone in for handicap competitions to an extent which is an abhorrence to the old school. Very likely they are right, but on the other side it must be said that, as a rule, Englishmen bet less on matches than the Scottish golfers seem to have done. The old school talks a deal about the " pot-hunting " which goes on on English links; but though there is a degree of truth in it, it must be borne in mind that the pot is generally of very moderate value. Scarcely ever will the value of it pay the hotel bill and traveling expenses of him who is engaged in its chasse. People do not really go to competition meetings nearly so much for the sake of the prizes as because they know that they will meet a number of their friends, and get a lot of pleasant matches. The objectionable spirit of " pot-hunting " enters into the business very little.
If the prizes were principally scratch-prizes they would be of interest to a very select few, comparatively speaking. At St. Andrews, until a very few years ago, there were no handicap prizes at all, nor was there any sweepstakes associated with the medal. Probably it may be true to say that there was no handicap prize in Scotland. Now their name is legion. The medal given to the St. Andrews Club by King William IV used to be the highest honor (excepting the Open Championship) that an amateur golfer could win, as representing success in the best field. Now the Amateur Championship has taken its place by instituting a competition open to a much wider field. But the position taken up by the old school is not quite defensible. They truly say that the game used to be entirely a game of match-play; that handicap prizes were practically unknown. This is quite true; but it does not follow, as they appear to assume, that the game must necessarily remain such as they played it. We say this, though of our personal preference we are with them in their love of the match and dislike of the handicap; but for all that, if men like playing for prizes under handicap we can see nothing wicked in their doing so.
Handicapping, Chapter VII, pages 125-156
A handicap is pretty sure to be a good one (1) if everybody concerned is pleased ; or (2) if everybody concerned is dissatisfied. This, however, seldom happens, so that the inference is that few handicaps are good ones. As a rule, the dissatisfied are in a large majority—a majority swollen by those who are not genuinely displeased, but who think that any show of satisfaction might be taken to imply that they consider themselves over-favorably handicapped, and so damage their future chances. It will, therefore, appear that the handicapper's life is unlikely to be a happy one, and that his remuneration more often takes the shape of kicks, metaphorically speaking, than of half-pence.
The fact is that it is not the handicapper's fault. Of all games that the idleness of man has invented, none defies calculation so persistently as golf.
There are two ways in which it seems reasonable to approach the task of handicapping a number of men for a score competition. The one is to assume a certain score to be the score which a scratch-player is likely to return if he plays his best game, and taking this as the unit, to handicap the others so that each, if he also plays his best game, will be likely to return a net score of the same figure. " Another way " is to handicap so that each man, when he starts, will have an equal chance of winning. Both these plans seem reasonable, yet neither of them is practical, and mutually they are inconsistent. The reason of this—and the reason that golf handicaps must always, so far as human foresight can see, remain imperfect—is that a good golfer plays his best game so very much more frequently than a bad player does. The result of which is that if you handicap on the former method your scratch-player will win far oftener than your long-handicapped men ; whereas, if you handicap on the latter method your limit players will sometimes win with scores which are, humanly speaking, impossible for the scratch-player to touch, and you find yourself in the position of a handicapper for a hundred yards' race, seeing one of the long-start men do the hundred in nine seconds. According to our present system there is usually no third method possible; therefore, the handi-capper is reduced to do his best out of a compromise between these two—and, like most compromises, it is a futile thing.
That we are stating no prejudiced view, a reference to those selling lotteries which we have before mentioned with reprobation, will suffice to show. Therein, though it is one of the principles which a handicap is supposed to recognize that all should start with equal chances, we find that one man's chance sells for four or five pounds, while another's is not deemed worth so many shillings. Still, it is not the handicapper who is to blame ; for he is asked to perform impossibilities. He can but make the best he may out of a bad job, and ask St. Andrew's favor not to stultify his efforts too completely. Moreover, there is a general feeling that the handicapper is everybody's enemy. Far from seeking to help him, there are many men who seem to take a delight in trying to mystify him—to think that they have done a clever thing if they conceal their real game from him. Many shabby tricks are resorted to for this end ; and it is these evil practices which make us so averse to the " selling lotteries " which offer a substantial temptation to those whose principles are at all "loose in the glue."
The maxim for the handicapper, then, is to do his best to avoid the mistakes which will follow the uncompromising adoption of either of the methods which seem so full of sweet reasonableness. He must exercise his judgment. He must not be too closely bound up in red tape, nor follow too blindly the records of previous performances. He must take these records at their proper value—not so much " penalizing for a win " as for the degree of skill of which that win was evidence. His business is to start all players on an equality, with the modification which is requisite, in order that the scratch-players should not be handicapped out of all possible chance—and a very difficult business it is.
Much, too, might be written on the mutual relations of players and spectators. The player has a right to expect the same consideration from the spectator as from the opponent in such matters as silence and immobility. On the other hand, the immobility and silence which are exacted as a due from the opponent are rather conceded by courtesy on the part of the spectator ; so that the player, if occasion for complaint should arise, ought to couch his complaint in the terms of one who is asking a courtesy. But, in point of fact, there should be no need for complaint ; and, indeed, the complaining is as distressing and disturbing to finely-strung nerves as is the offense which has occasioned it.
The consideration of side issues suggested by our first point—the loose way in which the first few holes of a round are commonly played—has led us into digression. We will return to this point in order to say to those who are about to commence a match in this the normal method, " Don't "—Apply yourself with intensity to the business of the game from the very start. It is the easiest plan in the end, for it may spare you severer struggles later on. Golf your hardest from start to finish.
The next point in the story of the typical golf match is the ding-dong battle in the middle of the round. A very great secret of success in golf is to remember that your adversary does not beat you nearly so much as you beat yourself— by which we mean that very many more matches are decided by the mistakes of the loser than by any abnormal feat on the part of the victor. The great thing to do in match play, as in medal play, is to go on playing as well as you can. Do not think too much about the game of your opponent. Play your own game as well as you can and trust to your opponent's mistakes for your victory. The man who makes the fewest mistakes is the man who wins most golf matches. It is not by heroic means that their issue is decided
—it is by " tops," and " sclaffs," and misses, which are usually the result of striving after heroic feats
—the result of " pressing." It is a good plan to try to get out of your head the fact of your opponent's existence. Say to yourself, not that you have come out to beat such and such a man, but that you have come out to try to play the game as well as you can, to make every stroke as perfectly as possible, to avoid making a mistake. That is the way to win matches—the way which the most successful match players have pursued. Of course, it is not to be said that this theory is not liable to abuse, as are all theories of human conception. If the adversary has played two or three more it would be folly to attempt a long carry over a bad bunker up to the hole ; although, if the player was two strokes behind, it might be the better wisdom to attempt the perilous feat. All theories must be accepted in a rational spirit, but the tendency is certainly not to realize the truth that is contained in the theory we have stated, but to try, by heroic pressing, to do something which shall make the opponent lie down and cry for mercy. That is not the best method of golf. To wear him out by the non vi sed scepe cadendo plan is the thing. Always lay your long putts dead. Make him think that you will unfailingly hole in two from any part of the putting-green, and he will find it very hard to play up against this paralyzing conviction. The moral effect of character is much underrated at golf. We find it in our own experience, though we may never have definitely stated it ourselves; but probably we are all aware of the depressing effect of playing against one who has the character of "never knowing when he is beaten," who, we are sure, will play up to the very end. On the other hand, how encouraging it is to feel that our opponent is a man whom a small contretemps can put off, who is apt to " crack " at the crucial point, who cannot bear the weight of two holes down. Then, again, we play with much more confidence against an opponent whom we have often beaten, but are depressed by the knowledge that we are playing against one who has been in the habit of getting the best of us. But all this moral effect is greatly annulled if we can keep our attention fixed upon our own play without
being too greatly concerned about out-playing our opponent.
Some are very much oppressed when they find themselves outdriven, and this is really more true of long drivers than of short drivers; for the latter are more accustomed to it. It is distasteful to find another constantly outdriving us, but it makes but little difference, if only we can bring ourselves to believe it. The difference between the respective lengths of men's drives is very slight, after all. Very seldom does one gain of another a full stroke in any one hole by length of driving; but how often is a stroke lost and gained on the putting-green? The true means of hardening our hearts "against the depressing influence of being outdriven is to put ourselves into the way of longer drivers than ourselves, and to play many matches with them. So, by familiarity, we shall grow to have a certain contempt for what is, in reality, a slight advantage that these Jehus gain ; and the sensation will not be so paralyzing as if it came to us but rarely. And this, again, is but part of a bigger principle —that if we want to improve we must play with better players than ourselves. It is better that our imitation of the methods of superior players should be as little conscious as possible; in that way it is more perfect, and the result becomes more truly a part of our personal property in golf. Certainly it is not well to try by strenuous effort of muscle to drive up to a naturally longer driver. If by the improvement in our style, greater length comes to us, as it were, naturally, by all means let us accept the good gift with gratitude ; but it is no use trying to persuade the ball by the methods of the sledge-hammer.
We have spoken of the humors of some golfers, as to the place in which they wish you to stand, etc., while they are playing, and have said that these are sometimes strained to whimsical lengths. They then become a nuisance, though it is your duty to respect them; and you will bear with them with the greater patience if you can remember that they are by far a bigger nuisance to the player who is vexed with these fancies than they can be to any of those who have to put up with them. The same consideration may lead you to reflect on the undesirability of cultivating like fancies in yourself. Bear your misfortunes as long as you can, even if some one in your vicinity talks or moves while you are playing. The more you can bring yourself to treat these noxious circumstances as if you were unconscious of them, so much the more will you acquire a real unconsciousness of them. This will add to your own happiness as a golfer as well as to the happiness of all who play with you, in spite of the fact that it will also win for you many more matches than if you allowed a hyper-sensitiveness about your surroundings to grow until it fully possessed you.
Neither is it conducive to the comfort of yourself or others to get into the way of continual complaint about your luck. There never was a golfer yet who was not sometimes tempted to think himself the exclusive subject of Providence's chastisement. That this should be so universal an idea shows that, in reality, Fortune makes no such individual preferences. All men's luck in the long run is probably very much the same. The winning of golf matches depends much upon temperament—on a power of keeping the temper —and that is a power which grows with use, and will be found of very great efficacy throughout the ding-dong battle, and above all in the climax, the crucial point in the match. At this point it becomes more imperative than ever to bear in mind the maxim that you are required to do nothing heroic, that you have only to go on playing steadily without mistakes, and that you may confidently count on a mistake, sooner or later, to decide the issue of the match. Strive, then, to defer your own mistake; let your opponent's mistake come first, and the whole business is done; you have conquered at the crucial point, the match is yours.
But, of course, the history of every golf match is not precisely in this wise—though this is the most typical story. Sometimes it happens that you will get a hole or two to the good early in the contest, and then it especially behooves you to try to keep steady. There arises, under these pleasant circumstances, a temptation to go carelessly, with the golden ease of a man who has a balance at the bank. But this you must strenuously fight against. Remember the well-worn saws that the match is never lost till it is won, and the rest of them. Remember this wise saying no less when you are two or three down, and never relinquish hope. Some golfers have won a great reputation for their staying powers, for the faculty of stiching (sic) to a task which another would give up as hopeless. It is wonderful what matches these strong souls now and again pull out of the fire.
Another danger which is apt to beset the path of the man who is a hole or two up is a nervousness arising from the idea that the match is already within his grasp. His over-quick imagination conjures for him a vision of victory which makes his pulses beat unduly fast and interferes with, the "douce" serenity of his spirit and of his game. He gets frightened by his own success. Perhaps in match-play this feeling is less common, than the pleasing confidence which success more often engenders; but nearly every one is aware of a similar sensation in score play. Over and over again has a man gone out in a fine score, and the sheer prospect of victory has unmanned him and made him spoil himself on the way home. The more we can engage our attention with the stroke which is before us at the moment the less we shall be affected by the prospect or the retrospect. It is thus that the man of slow imagination has the advantage. His vision is not clouded by ghosts of his bunkered past or second-sighted fancies of a future unlikely to be realized. " It's dogged as does it," is the phrase quoted out of the mouth of an illiterate man by one of our great thinkers. He used it of the quality which wins English battles, and makes the Anglo-Saxon what he is; but it applies excellently to the spirit in which golf matches are won—a dogged persistence in doing the duty which lies nearest to us, the stroke immediately in hand. In score play this is especially true. "The medal player," says Sir Walter Simpson, " must be no Lot's wife."
So far as actual play goes, we are inclined to think that the portion of the game which most generally affects the result of matches is the approach stroke. It is exceedingly important not to miss drives, and to lay putts dead; but the importance of these is obvious, whereas a prime fact about the approach stroke often escapes notice—namely, that it is almost always short. No matter whether it be played with wood or iron, with full or half-swing, the greatly preponderating tendency of the golfer is not to be up with it. We firmly believe that any player who could harden his heart always to be up to the hole would put on a good third to his game; and, in the case of inferior players, might put on from a half to a stroke a hole. There is no maxim like it—" the hole will not come to you."
You see all your calculations, as you address yourself to play the approach shot, are based on the supposition that you are going to hit the ball clean. Now, nothing can very well occur to make you hit it cleaner than clean, and so send it farther than you have calculated, whereas all sorts of misadventures by which you may hit it not cleanly are only too familiar. The result is that nine approach shots out of ten are short.
With training, in the sense of dieting, the golfer happily need not greatly concern himself. " The only difference that I see," said a famous professional player, " between Mr. A. and Mr. B." (naming two first-class amateurs) " and the professionals is that they get mair to eat and mair to drink." The general intention was obviously complimentary, but whether the speaker meant to suggest that the greater opportunities of the amateur were helps or hindrances was less clear. Of course it is possible to adopt a scheme of diet which will promote so great a difference of opinion between the inner man and the outward eye that the ball appears a very hazy object, but the cure for this parlous state is to be sought rather in manuals which treat of medicine than of golf. On the whole, one plays best when one is well, but not too well—not too keen—with that horrid imaginative faculty not too brightly sensitive. Certain it is that an empty stomach—that vacuum universally abhorred by Nature—is an especially bad basis on which to play a severe match. Feed the inner man well and wisely, but do not abuse.
The question of the amount of practice which is beneficial is one to which it is most difficult to give at all a distinct answer. We are speaking now of the case of a man who has reached his standard in golf, not of the learner and the improving player. These latter can hardly practise too much. Above all it is useful for them to get a good long continuous term of practice ; otherwise they are rather apt to forget, in the gaps, what little they may have learned and so be obliged to start again, each time, almost from the beginning. But even to the learner there comes a time at which he feels that he has grown " stale "—that the action of hitting the ball is abhorrent to him, and one which he would like to pay another to do for him. The course of the learner of golf bears some resemblance to the inflowing tide, he seems at times to be in a regular wave of progress, and advances swimmingly; then for a while .he will fall back into a backwash and seem to retrograde; but it is only to come on again, with better progress than ever, in the next successful wave, so that by slow but sure degrees the tide flows on. The beginner will often be tempted to throw up the game in sheer disgust when he finds himself in these backwaters, but he must keep up his spirits by the knowledge that others have passed before him through precisely similar experience on their way to the high-water mark. Then, as the learner proceeds, he will find frequent cause for exasperation that on Monday, say, he will be driving very finely, but putting and approaching like an imbecile—Tuesday will find him topping his tee shots and " foozling" the globe through the green, but putting as if the hole could not be missed—on "Wednesday he will, as likely as not, be both driving and putting execrably but approaching with the skill of a professional. How he will sigh, then, for the great day, which seems as if it never would come, on which he shall be found at his best in all departments. But that is the day for which all his practice is forming him, and which nothing but length of practice will ever bring to pass.
But the question of practice becomes more difficult when we look at it from the point of view of the man whose game is crystallized, or who, if he be improving at all, does so by degrees so tiny as to be almost imperceptible. It seems as though " practice makes perfect " should be an answer to the problem; but it is to be received with caution. For it is within the experience of all of us, probably, to have been surprised to find, after a long rest, that the game seems easier than when we left it off; we play a round or two with a careless success which surprises us. Then, if we are very young, we soon experience the almost greater and certainly less pleasing surprise of finding that the cunning of our unpracticed hand was a delusive thing, and that after these two or three first rounds it deserts us. Then begins the old treadmill again, until we grow, by slow degrees, to reestablish ourselves on our old, more or less satisfactory relations with the game.
But, to pursue the course of this golfer, who has long been without practice and has at length worked himself back to his old status—for awhile this fair degree of skill will be with him, but gradually he will feel that sensation of loss of keenness and paralyzing staleness, which we hinted at before, creeping over him, and again he relapses. The pleasantest thing to do, in this state of things, is to take a holiday for a while and then come back with renewed ardor. This is the pleasantest course, but it is not the best, for soon the regained ardor will wear off and you will be as bad as ever; but if, on the other hand, you persevere through this trying course of " stale " and indifferent golf, you will find, after a weary while, that your skill and zest in the game are coming back to you (how, you know not), and it is this recovered skill and vigor which will be useful, for they will stay with you and not desert you. It is like a second wind which we gain, not by stopping and resting, but by going on while we are quite pumped out, until the blessed lightening of the lungs conies to reward our perseverance. It is in this condition only that the golfer can be said to be in full practice. As Willie Park lately said to the present writer, " you need to be playing golf pretty steadily for six months before you can depend on your game." It is perfectly true, though certainly it sounds very heroic counsel, for it is given to but few to be able to give up six months to golf. It is not meant, however, that the golfer should play every day, by any means, of this period. Five days a fortnight is, perhaps, the ideal amount of practice for one who can thus devote a portion of consecutive weeks to golf. Three days a week is not too much. Four in a week is rather much for a long continuance—two days is rather too little.
These, then, are the main facts which seem generally to be acknowledged to be true about practice in golf. A little of it, after a rest, is rather a dangerous thing—your first two or three rounds will probably be better than a good many of the succeeding ones. After you have passed out of the trough of this wave you will come out on to the crest of a wave of good play, which will keep you going for a week or two—then you will relapse into a trough again; you may give up the battle, take a week's rest, and come up again smiling; but if you can afford the time, it is best in the long run to keep on struggling in this back eddy, because when you have emerged from it you will be in halcyon waters, with but brief disturbances, indefinitely.
But especially observe, if you are able to give months, consecutively, to the game, it is not well to play all day and every day; three full days of golf a week is enough, four is perhaps an error on the side of the too much—always supposing (a large supposition) that you prefer quality to quantity in your golf.
The sort of practice which is good, but generally disregarded because it is dull, is the practice which consists in going out alone with the club with which you are weakest and fighting with it, single-handed, until you have gained the mastery over it. You are unlikely to have any trouble in finding a club with which you are weak, and it is very improbable but that a few dozen shots with it, and with exclusive attention to ways and means of dealing with it, will greatly strengthen you.
Can the difficulty in any way be relieved ? We believe that it would be greatly overcome by a more general adoption of the plan of competition in classes—all who are in receipt of twelve strokes, say or under, to be in the first-class ; all from twelve to twenty-four in the second-class; and all upwards, if they are deemed worthy of competing for a prize at all, in the third-class. We are convinced that this would make competitions far more satisfactory, and would smooth much of the difficulty from the rugged path of the handicapper.
In the meetings of handicap committees held under the present system it commonly happens that the names- of one or two men turn up whose play is known to none of the members of .the committee. In this event it is wise to leave the handicap of these unknown ones standing over until one or other of the members of the committee, who shall accept the task as his special business shall have made such inquiries as shall enable the handicapper to mete out something like justice. The bete noir of the golf handicapper is the improving player. It is so very hard to be as cruel to a man of this class as justice to the other players demands. Very often the improving player is almost a boy—always, almost, he is a beginner, for few improve so fast after their first few years at golf as to give the handicapper any real trouble in overtaking them. It seems peculiarly hard to blight the young idea just when it is beginning to shoot and before it has made itself obnoxious by winning prizes. But if justice is to be shown to the other players this must be done, and, in so doing, no less than justice is shown to the player "who is penalized. After all, there should be no sentiment about it. Golf, as a wise man once observed, is not charity.
He who made this epigram was a true sportsman, for it was apropos of a suggestion for raising his own handicap that he said it. He declared that he did not want any more points, that he thought he had enough, and that if he could not win at these points he did not care to win at all. This is a noble spirit. The handicapper's position would be a far more pleasant one if it were more common. Some chivalrous souls have it as their greatest ambition to come down to scratch, and hail with delight, as public recognition of their improvement, the reduction of their odds. But, like noble men in other walks of life, they are in a small minority.
Golfers in these days belong to many clubs, and it is very much the practice for handicappers to give strangers the points which the latter have on their home greens. Their handicap at home is, of course, a valuable guide, but it should be taken with certain reservations. Custom has established a sort of ideal scratch man—a mere invention for convenience sake, like the equatorial line—whose presumed best score on each green is accepted as the unit on which the handicaps are based. Sometimes exceptional players are put " behind scratch"—i.e., have to give points to the ideal scratch man. There is, therefore, a wise endeavor to establish a uniform unit—the score of the ideal scratch man represents, roughly, about the same quality of play everywhere. But when the odds from this ideal scratch score have to be reckoned, it becomes necessary to take into consideration the nature of the course on which the stranger has been accustomed to play. For illustration's sake we will suppose a St. Andrews player to come to Sandwich, and to tell the Sandwich handicappers that his odds at St. Andrews are eighteen. To have such long odds as these it is fair to presume that he is either a short driver or a very uncertain one. In either case a handicap of eighteen will be of greater value to him at St. Andrews than it will be at Sandwich. At St. Andrews there are no long carries from the tee, and there are but few places where a topped shot gets badly punished. The characteristics of Sandwich are just the reverse. A short driver is heavily penalized by his inability to carry bunkers which almost always confront a Sandwich tee; and a topped ball at very many of the holes (notably at the Maider) entails penalties which are quite indefinitely large. So, if eighteen is a just handicap at St. Andrews for our visitor to Sandwich, he will require more points on the southern green. And this principle must always be present to the mind of the handicapper who is fixing the odds for a stranger. At North Berwick a clever iron player and good putter will require very few odds, though his driving may be so indifferent that he would need quite a large handicap on longer greens. Again, a man who has learned all his golf on an inland course will be very much handicapped, to his disadvantage, by the change to a sandy links—and vice versa. All these considerations should enter into the complicated business of the handicapper, and each should be given its due weight.
The handicap committee is generally a small body, appointed either by the members or by the general committee of the club. It is advisable that it should not be too large a body, for, though in the multitude of counselors there may be much wisdom, it is certain that there will be much loss of time. Three or five are good numbers for the handicap committee. Certainly it should be an odd number, so that in case of a vote being taken there may be a majority. All the members ought to sign their name to the handicap list, when completed, before it is put up in the club room ; and it is scarcely necessary to say, after having once been signed and posted, it should on no account be altered. The members of the handicap committee, however few, should be so selected as to represent different branches of the golfing community. For, as a general thing, men play mostly with their equals, and can form a better opinion of the play of those whose performances are somewhat on a par with their own. A long-odds man will not know much about the short-handicap players, nor will a scratch-man often play with stroke-a-hole men. Therefore, as things stand at present—that is to say, while competitions in classes are the exception rather than the rule—it is advisable to put on your handicap committee one who shall represent the scratch-players, one who shall be able to speak to the comparative merits of those who receive twelve strokes, or thereabouts, and one for the people who are in the lowest grade of golf. Thus you will have the best chance of arriving at justice for the whole body of players.
So far we have spoken entirely of competitions by score. A modification, and an exceedingly ingenious one, has been lately introduced into the golfing world under the name of Colonel Bogey. Colonel Bogey, as his name implies, is a sort of ghost; and against him all the players who enter for the Bogey competition have to match themselves. The score of Colonel Bogey is fixed by the committee of the club, or by some person in authority naming the number of strokes which the ghostly Colonel is supposed to take to each hole. This score is fixed before the golfers go out to play; so that at each hole the player knows exactly what he has to do in order to halve with or win from his ghostly opponent. At the conclusion of the round, the cards are handed in, and the man who has beaten Colonel Bogey by most holes, or been defeated by him by fewest holes, is the winner of the competition. If two or more have tied, on this showing, the cards of the winners are compared against each other, and he who is one or more holes up, as against the other or others, is declared the absolute winner.
The merit of this plan is that it enables a large number of competitors to be brought together, and their performance to be tested by the result of a single round, while they are all the while playing match-play—i.e., by holes—and not score-play. There is no doubt that match-play is the original idea of the game of golf. Score play is but a device for bringing a number of players together so that their merits in a single round may be compared. So the invention of Colonel Bogey combines these two advantages.
In a match of this sort it is evident that the odds given to each man must be not only named in the gross, but that the holes at which he is to take these odds must also be stated. And this also is determined by a body having authority, such as the committee of the club. There is usually a printed card informing players at what holes three strokes in the round are to be taken, at what holes four strokes, and so on. Should a player receive more than eighteen strokes on the round, there will be some holes at which he will receive two strokes.
But in match-play a player will not receive as many strokes as he would receive if playing by score. The reason of this is that the inferior player, generally speaking, is more unsteady than the better player—he is more liable to take a very large number over one or more holes at which he comes to grief; he is less able to extricate himself from difficulties. It is probable that at one hole, at least, on the round, he will lose several strokes more than he will gain on any other hole from a stronger and more steady opponent. But this consideration becomes of far less weight in a whole match. The hole is lost, whether to Bogey or to a mundane opponent, and there is an end of it. He loses one hole, instead of a formidable number of strokes. Two-thirds or three-eighths of the just number of odds in score-play seems to be recognized as about the fair proportion in hole-play ; and generally speaking an odd fraction is determined in favor of the giver of odds. Colonel Bogey is an estimable person, and we fully expect to find this method of handicapping come more and more into general favor. It is certainly more pleasant to play a hole match, even against an opponent of supernatural accuracy, than to play that horrid score game, with the ever-present fear of an impossible lie and a double figure in the score as its result.
The score of Colonel Bogey, who is a scratch-player, is generally fixed on the assumption that the Colonel makes no mistakes, and that if he can reach the green with any iron club he will not fail to hole out in two more. It is a high, but not an absolutely heroic standard ; but it must always be remembered that the Colonel is affected by no eccentricities of wind or weather, and that he never gets a bad lie, loses his nerve or misses a short putt.
It is usual, as we have implied, to make handicapping for hole-play a simple matter of arithmetical deduction from the odds given in score-play. This is a rough-and-ready method which might be better; for some men are conspicuously better score-players than match-players—others are. markedly the reverse. The man who gets eighteen points, say, in score-play by reason of his woeful unsteadiness will be better off with twelve in match-play; whereas a man who gets eighteen because he is such a poor driver, though a steady one, will be much worse off with twelve in match-play. The steady man scarcely has it in him to halve an occasional hole with the scratch-player ; whereas the unsteady man, in an occasional brilliant interval, can do a hole as well as anybody. A scratch-player would far rather give the unsteady one eighteen strokes and play by score; but to the steady potterer he would far rather give twelve strokes and play him a match by holes. But our general system of handicapping
—in mercy to the handicapper, whose duties are already quite sufficiently arduous and complicated
—takes no note of these fine differences. Nevertheless, in handicapping for private matches, the scratch-player—who seldom arrives at this pitch of excellence without a course of experience which has made him wary—may certainly with justice take a note of it, and arrange the plan of campaign conformably.
Perhaps, however, this is such a fine and difficult difference that the handicappers do wisely to ignore it. But there is a case to which the arithmetical method is very commonly applied and to which a certain modification should be made in its application. We refer to the case of foursome competitions. The common method here is to add together the points of each partner and give the combined pair the sum of these points divided by two. It is very simple and it sounds as if it ought to be very right; but in point of fact it is not so. The reason of its failure is that a combination of a strong player with a weak player will ordinarily defeat a combination of two medium players, though the sum of the individual handicaps of each pair respectively may be identical. Some of the very finest foursome rounds have been made by a strong player in combination with a weak but steady partner. So fully is this realized that some golfers, who are by no means strong when playing their own ball, are quite celebrated as partners in a foursome. The late Mr. John Blackwood was a well-known case in point, and Captain Molesworth, R. N., is another. The truth is, that if a man be a good approacher and putter, thirty or forty yards' deficiency in the drive becomes of very little moment when a long driver is playing the alternate strokes.
Therefore we would urge most strongly on handicap committees the advisability of taking this fact into their calculations when a foursome competition is forward, and suggest that a special handicap, which should take into account the strength of the combinations as well as of the individuals, would produce much better results.
A last word with regard to the man if old duties of the handicapper relates to competitions in which holes are given in lieu of strokes. Nonsense is of ten talked in this regard, as in others. Some contend that if A can give B three holes up and B can give C three holes up, it follows that A
can give C six holes up. The absurdity of this is evident if it be supposed, for illustration's sake, that A can give B nine holes up, and 13 can give C nine holes up. It is pretty clear that A would not have a very good chance of winning against C if he gave him eighteen holes up. It is a version of the old fallacy of Achilles and the tortoise. A more pertinent question is the relation between odds given by strokes and odds given by holes. Roughly speaking, between good players, a third—or six strokes—is equivalent to something a little over three holes up, with eighteen to play. But when we come to low grades of golf, holes up become relatively more valuable, because a third means more between' better players than between inferior ones.
Between good players there is seldom a difference of more than a stroke at any given hole; between bad players it is seldom that the difference is so little as one stroke—therefore, there is far less chance of the stroke given as odds being of "service. But the three holes up are solid facts, which must have weight in the result. This again, then, is a subtle point which the handi-capper should not neglect if he has to arrange for a competition in which holes are to be given.
Other fanciful modes of handicapping, such as playing with but one club against an opponent with a whole set—or permission to say “Bo !" three times on a round in order to put the adversary off his stroke—do not need discussion; but we would close this chapter by again reminding the golfer that the handicapper is a person who voluntarily and without remuneration accepts a deal of trouble, that it is the duty of every golfer to make the handicapper's task as little difficult and as little unpleasant as possible, and that it is in the very worst taste to grumble at the efforts of those who, however unsuccessfully, have presumably done their best.
When the handicapper has himself to be handicapped it is advisable that he should leave the committee-room and permit his colleagues to settle his handicap without his assistance.