Medal Play

Golf, especially championship golf, isn’t supposed to be any fun. It was never meant to be fair and never will make any sense.”

Founding editor of Golf Magazine Charles Price (1926 - 1994).


Yes, golf is a game, but it is actually many games – Saturday morning regular-foursome golf, individual match-play events, club vs. club competitions, a solo nine holes at dusk, wedding-party golf, charity scramble golf, family golf and the unforgiving pressure of medal-play tournaments -- all of which offer up a wide variety of challenges and experiences.

Two weeks ago I played in my club’s Senior Club Championship, which was two rounds of medal play and divided into four flights  – Sloan (scratch); Watson (net); Willits (net), and Busler (70 & over, net, moving up one set of tees). For the last 30 years or so, my performances in our solo medal-play events can best be described as “could have been better.” This year was no different. As usual, I finished in the middle of the pack (Willits flight). That is why once again I told myself that I will never play in one again. However, by the time it took me to finish my first post-round drink, I found myself thinking, “What else am I going to do on those Saturday and Sunday mornings? Next year could by MY year.”

Solo medal play is challenging, but no damn fun. You can’t say, “Give me a double,” when you actually had a triple. As Scottish amateur Freddie Tait (1870 – 1900), who won the British Amateur in 1896 and 1898, said, “A golf course exists primarily for match play, which is a sport, as distinguished from stroke play, which more resembles rifle shooting than a sport in that it lacks the joy of personal contact with an opponent.”

I know I shouldn’t go into any future medal-play event with fear and trembling, anticipating one of those REALLY BIG NUMBERS that allows me to think “vodka” instead of “par,” so I am collecting thoughts, reminders and tips that I believe will help me deal with the medal-play pressure:

“Never aim a tee shot toward trouble, hoping your natural fade or draw will bring it back into play.” -- 15-time Major winner Tiger Woods (b. 1975).

“The best advice I can give to any golfer about playing fairway shots is: Don’t be greedy.” -- Gary Player (born 1935), who won nine Majors.

There are a lot of ways to play good golf, but they all have one thing in common: a steady head.” -- Jack Nicklaus (b. 1940), who has 18 Majors wins.

“It is bad for the player to reflect upon the past, or anticipate the future when playing in a hand-to-hand encounter (match play), but it is infinitely worse to give rein to these feelings when participating in score play (medal). In truth, one may go so far as to say that the giving way to such an inclination is likely to be absolutely fatal.” – Seven-time Major winner Harold H. Hilton (1869 – 1942), from his book, Modern Golf (1913).

“And we ought to see also that in a medal round, to hole a long putt for a 6 is just as good as if it were for a 3. It is every shot that counts.” -- Bobby Jones (1902 to 1971), who won The Grand Slam 1930.

“Every individual stroke in medal play has to be thought out on its own merits, and the pros and cons of the situation and its possibilities must be weighed in your mind. Under these circumstances I have but one piece of advice to offer: Play a steady game.” – Englishman John Henry Taylor (1871 to 1963), who won the British Open five times -- 1894, 1895, 1900, 1909 & 1913.

Play Away!

Allan Stark


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