The Good Old Boys

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was writing a local column reporting the results of the weekly tournament I play in and that I’d post a link to the column when I could. For those who are interested, this link will take you to the Bandera County Courier (one of our local papers) and the column  for one of the tournaments.

The Good Old Boys is the name of the group I play with on Mondays. I said a few words about it in a post back in August. We’ve come up with a modified stableford system that works pretty well for a group of players of widely varying abilities. The post in August says a few words about it, but I’ll describe it in more detail here in case someone wants to try it out with their own group.

Players earn 1 point for a bogey, 2 for a par, 3 for a birdie, and 4 for an eagle. (You’d get 5 for a double eagle, but I don’t think that’s ever happened.) Double bogeys or worse are worth 0 points and there are no negative point scores, so you can pick up at double to keep things moving along. A quick way to compute points per round is to subtract a player’s score from a round of all doubles (108 in the case of a par 72 course). For example, a round of bogey golf (90) earns 18 points.

In addition to prizes for points earned in a round, we also have closest to the pin prizes on the par 3s. The entry fee for each tournament is $6.00, of which $1.00 goes into the closest to the pin pot and $5.00 goes into the points pot. The pay out per point depends on how many players are there on any given Monday and how many aggregate points are made. The pay out for closest to the pin depends on the number of players and the number of par 3s with prizes. When there are enough players, we’ll put prizes on all four par 3s. With fewer players we’ll limit it to two of the par 3s.

Each player is playing against his own target number of points to earn. This score is based on prior performance, similar to a handicap. If a player makes more points than their target, they earn a pro-rata share of the points pot and their target for the next round increases by half of the number of points by which they exceeded the target. To use the bogey golfer example, that player would have a target score of 18 points for the round. If he shoots 88, he makes 20 points (two points above his target), is paid for two points, and next time his target will be increased to 19 points.

If a player fails to make his target number of points or exactly equals his target, his target is reduced for next time. So if that bogey golfer shot 90 or higher, he gets no pay out that week and his target for next time is reduced to 17 points. New players play 3 times to establish their target score. After the third time, they become eligible to take home part of the points pot. They are immediately eligible for the closest to the pin prizes.

The system has several advantages. First, players play against themselves, so everyone has a shot at making points and taking home part of the pot. Better players have a slight advantage on the par 3s, but everyone has a decent chance at winning a closest to the pin prize. Second, there is no profitable way to sandbag. You pay for each round, so playing poorly and driving your target point total down costs more in the long run that you’ll win when you play well and make points. Third, improvement is rewarded. If a player gradually improves that improvement results in pay outs along the way. And if a player has been in a slump and suddenly breaks out, they get a nice little reward. Nobody gets rich, but nobody loses much either. It’s my impression that it’s a break even proposition in the long run.

The biggest complaint I hear is that better players are less likely to make a lot of points than are middle of the road players. It’s probably true that a 92 shooter is more likely to shoot 82 and make 10 points at once than a 75 shooter is to shoot 65 and make 10 points, but I’m not sure that the greater consistency of the 75 shooter wouldn’t pay off better in the long run. It’s an empirical question, but I’ve never tried to run the numbers and figure out whether some levels of playing ability are more likely to pay than are others. If I get sufficiently energetic and curious, I’ll check it out and report back.

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