(posted from Paris)

strategy golfThe problem with golf is that it’s all power and finesse, and much less strategic than most sports. Everyone plays in parallel, so the competitiveness is subtle and subdued. But with a little tweaking, golf could rival football (all varieties thereof) as a strategic game, and become much more exciting as a result. Herewith, my ‘open source’ proposal for Strategy Golf. The rules for the game are as follows:

  1. The golf courses would be identical to existing courses, but with the addition of a second green on each hole adjacent to the tee-off area.
  2. The game is played with a single golf ball shared by all players. Each player shoots from where the ball lies after the previous player’s shot.
  3. The game would pit two people against each other, or a foursome playing in two teams of two. The teams could be either fixed for the entire game, or rotate each hole to allow each member of the foursome to compete individually. Players are designated A, B (and in foursome games) C and D. If teams rotate, player A is teamed with player B on holes 1,4,7 etc., with player C on holes 2, 5, 8 etc., and with player D on holes 3, 6, 9 etc. On odd-numbered holes, the team including player A has the choice to tee-off or defend (see rule 3), and on even-number holes the team that does not include player A has this choice. Players alternate taking shots for their team, so that the player on any team that takes the next shot for his/her team is always the one who has not more recently taken a shot (this is important when teams rotate).
  4. The player or team that tees off on each hole is called the ‘offence’, and the other team is designated the ‘defence’ (yes, I know Americans spell these words with an ‘s’ instead of a ‘c’). The offence takes a single tee-off shot (on par 5 holes, the offence takes the first two, consecutive, shots). If the ball has not reached the green, the offence now becomes the defence and vice versa. The opposing now takes one shot backwards aiming for the green adjacent to the tee-off area. The teams continue to alternate as offence until one of the two teams/players hits their target green. Each player on this offence team scores one point for doing so.
  5. At this point the offence has one putt to hole out. If they do so each player on this team scores a second point and play on this hole ends. If they do not do so, the defence has one putt. If the defence sinks the putt, neither team gets a point and play on this hole ends. Offence and defence continue to alternate, with the offence vying to score a second point on the hole and the defence vying to prevent them from doing so.
  6. If during the first part of play (before a green has been hit) a ball ends up outside the fairway, in the rough, in a sand trap or in the water, the opposing team/player then gets two consecutive shots.
  7. If during the second part of play (putting) the defence knocks the ball off the green, the offence scores a point, as if they had sunk the putt. If during this part of play the offence knocks the ball off the green, their point for hitting the green is nullified and the opposing team can resume using woods and irons in the attempt to hit the other green, as if no green had yet been hit.
  8. If the ball has not been sunk after ten consecutive putts, the defensive team is deemed to have succeeded, no additional points are scored for the hole, and play on the hole ends.
  9. The game consists of a pre-agreed upon number of holes, and the player or team with the most points at the end of that number of holes wins.

The strategy opportunities, both in fairway and greens play, are quite sophisticated. During fairway play each team or player will attempt to position the ball in such a way as to make it more difficult for the opposing team or player to reach the green in a single shot (e.g. lay it up on the North edge of the fairway on the dogleg-left hole illustrated above), without going out-of-bounds or hitting a hazard.

During greens play, both teams may try to keep the ball away from the cup, without allowing it to leave the green, to prevent the other team from holing out in a single shot. They would both try to leave the ball close enough to the cup to get the other team or player to try to make the putt, but with less than 50% chance of succeeding. However, due to the 10-putt limit, the offence will be motivated to take more chances to move the ball closer to the hole as the number of putts taken increases.

I think this addition of strategy and adversarial play would make the game much more challenging, interesting and competitive. It could allow an entertaining game to be played in a much smaller area than existing golf courses (an entire game could even be played on a single configurable ‘hole”), opening the game up to more people and making it more economical and more of a direct spectator sport.

This concept probably needs some refining, but I’m convinced there’s a momentous idea here. Whether you’re a golfer or not, please let me know what you think of this and how it could be further refined. I’ll leave the idea under my Creative Commons license — I don’t want to make any money off this, but neither do I want anyone else trying to lock up this idea by patenting it. Let’s keep it ‘open source’ and see whether we can co-develop the most significant innovation in recreation in a generation.

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  1. Dick says:

    Dave, my old mate, you’ve got too much time on your hands!

  2. O RLY YA RLY says:

    I don’t think it’s the lack of strategy that makes golf so boring. It’s the lack of action, the lack of visible struggle. The lack of athletic skill required. The lack of unexpectedness.

  3. O RLY YA RLY says:

    Plus, I hate stop-and-go games. Like American Football. By the time something starts to happen, it’s all stopped again and the boring bit begins. The action never lasts more than 30 seconds.

  4. Philip says:

    That Canadian Ritalin must be good stuff, eh? Sounds more complicated than square dancing, trust me Dave this one ain’t gonna fly perhaps disc golfers would like it…

  5. Mary says:

    Thanks for your writing! I’ve added a link to your page on my site, referring people also specifically to the great article by the breastfeeding Mom.You are an inspiration to me as a new blogger (dare I say maybe even a writer?)Thanks again,Mary

  6. Clarence says:

    I DO play golf and I personally think it is challenging enough. Ever been struck by a golf ball? That will make your day exciting enough. Yes! It’s boring at times but that’s only because you aren’t part of the right foursome. One must pick their playing buddies with a critical eye. I’ve been out with a few guys that make the time between shots more fun than making the shots. We need more less serious players out there. It’s very hard to hit a good shot when you are laughing all the time and when you do manage to hit it…more reason for laughter.Golfers have got to learn to lighten up.What’s this stuff with demanding total silence when stroking a shot. That’s ridiculous. Jingle your change, sneeze, have a coughing spell during my back swing, I’ll still hit my usual bad shot. No big deal for me. There’s no excuse when you play the game as badly as I do and most of my friends also. Might as well laugh about it and have a good time.

  7. Evan says:

    Ha! When I saw the graphic, I was really expecting you to discuss the overuse of water, and the use of pesticides and other polluting chemicals, in the upkeep of golf courses, and instead you were just coming up with a new game to play on them.It sounds like a fun thing to try, but I suspect that the appeal of golf to most of its players and fans is its tremendous traditionality, and so variations on the game would have little staying power. (Then again, miniature golf is popular.)Regardless, I would dearly love to resurrect P.G. Wodehouse for a day and see what his characters would have to say about the idea. :)

  8. Indigo Ocean says:

    You are blogging from Paris? There must be something else to do in PARIS. LOL. You are truly dedicated, which may be better for us than it is for you.

  9. Rob Paterson says:

    Ok Dave – the English undergrad equivalent of this game is “Backgammon Croquet” . In this varient each hoop is played separately with two teams of two. The objective is to get your two balls around the entire course first. The game is highly sadistic requiring ruthless defensive play where you knock the opposing balls into oblivion. Betting large sums of money per hoop plus doubling – doubling the bet as the situationj shifts to your advantage ( hence the Backgammon link) also intensifies the thrill

  10. Dave Pollard says:

    To all: thanks for your comments — maybe the world isn’t ready for this, although I understand California has some nudist golf courses, so by comparison this isn’t that outlandish. One of the advantages of working for a global company with strong technical infrastructure is the ability to blog from anywhere. I confess I suffered insomnia in Paris and this idea came to me at 5am in the delirium of sleep deprivation, so I drafted it in the hotel room and posted it during coffee break in the meeting. And Evan, you’re right, I know the environmental damage of golf courses and shouldn’t be encouraging any more development of property for this sport. But on the other hand, if land is going to be used for this sport, let’s make it a real sport. I’m even thinking about how to introduce body contact into it — how about allowing blocking of shots (until you’re on the green) and tackling the shooter if he/she doesn’t get the shot off fast — we could even make this an aerobic sport. Hmm, maybe I’m still suffering sleep deprivation…

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