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Somewhat inspired by a thread of recent vintage, I want to know your best personal stories of gamesmanship on the golf course.

For me, this one goes back to the first club championship I ever participated in. On the second day of our two-round event I was in a group with Bill. This guy was one of the Kittyhawk Men's Association's OGs, but the ravages of age had him playing with me and the rest of C Flight by that point.

Little did I know (because I purposely don't pay attention to the score) I was in contention standing on the 18th green of the Eagle course that Sunday. I bent down to mark my ball and accidently dropped a tee on the green next to the ball.  Immediately Bill starts trying to convince the other two players that I was trying to get some sort of unfair advantage. Obviously it was nonsense, but he figured this was my first competition, so why not try. After a minute or so, one of the other guys says "Shut up Bill and let him putt." 

I make a decent lag, two-putt for bogey and ended up tied for the flight championship. Which believe it or not remained a tie after the guy I was tied with was already in the bag when we got to the clubhouse. Should have demanded more than half the prize.

 

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I might be too unaware to realize someone has tried gaming me.  In hundreds of tournament rounds, I do not recall any instance of blatant gamesmanship.  There were a few jerks, but I suspect they were jerks 24 hours a day and did not do anything special to throw me off my game.

There are some good players who will play at not knowing the Rules.  They ask, "What do I do now?", when I suspect they know fairly well what their options are under the Rules.  They just want to see what their fellow competitors will allow them to do.  If they don't get the answer they want, they then proceed properly under the applicable Rule.

Of course, when playing with my "group", there are all kinds of stuff.  Grow thick skin or find another group. 😉 

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24 minutes ago, bkuehn1952 said:

I might be too unaware to realize someone has tried gaming me.  In hundreds of tournament rounds, I do not recall any instance of blatant gamesmanship.  There were a few jerks, but I suspect they were jerks 24 hours a day and did not do anything special to throw me off my game.

That's a good thing, but I'll have to admit, I'm disappointed here.

Really thought I'd get some entertaining tales.

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When I started in the golf business, my first job was a course in West Michigan that still had some guys hanging around that were old time golf hustlers. I could write a book. I used to play with one all the time and he never(in all that time) "saw" one good shot I ever hit. He also never wanted anyone to talk to his ball (get left, get up etc.).He would always say "my ball isn't gonna listen to you anyway so don't talk to it". There are other little things he taught me during that time that I still use today and are effective. One thing that always amazed me about those guys was that they could shoot whatever score they needed to in order to take some cash from whoever they were playing. If I shot a 75, they would shoot 73-74. If someone else shot 83, they would shoot 82. 

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I've seen a few, more often when I'm caddying for someone. I'll list what I can from memory:

  • On the first hole, a shorter par four with trees right (the safe play is left, but if you go right you can have a pitch shot for your approach), a competitor says "Boy, look at those trees on the right. Did they take some out in the past few years?" in an obvious attempt to get everyone thinking about the trees on the right.
  • One girl would routinely wait and delay and never take the honor even if it was hers, and would say "go ahead if you're ready." This is borderline not "gamesmanship" and outright cheating, though.
  • Someone said to another (I was in the group but it wasn't my player) "Man, you could be pretty good if you could only putt." The person was a perfectly good putter, but you could see it affected them.
  • Standing a bit too close to someone is common. Just out of the really near field, and not exactly staying super still.
  • The age old stuff - "do you breathe in or out…" stuff doesn't get used too often, but you'll still hear it occasionally.
  • The really old stuff - conceding a bunch of early putts and not doing it late - often hurts the gamer more than the gamee.
  • I've seen people suggest "you should hit a provisional" when they know darn well the ball is fine. It throws the person off sometimes. One guy told me he loved to do that on holes where you couldn't see the landing area very well.
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17 minutes ago, iacas said:

Standing a bit too close to someone is common. Just out of the really near field, and not exactly staying super still.

My typical golf partner in league got chastised by another golfer for standing really close to him when he wanted to putt. He said something like, "So, this is the type of games you like to play". My partner was just being absent minded. He could be that way from time to time. 

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My first year in a league, back in 2008, I went into the final round with a lead. The reason I had the lead, even though I was a new golfer, was my handicap improved throughout the season because it was the first season I golfed more than once. But I scored a lot of points. It was mostly work guys in the league.

They paired the top four in my group. These guys were talkers too. They tried to get in my head on the first hole. I striped it down the center. Every time they talked I would hit a good shot just to see the look on their face. When they hit a bad shot, I said nothing. In fact, I didn’t talk much at all.

Coming into the penultimate hole, I had at least a two shot lead, maybe more because they weren’t playing well. It was a downhill par 3 with lots of trouble around but not very long. They went with their go to, “Geez, lots of trouble on this hole.” I walked up and hit a 9 iron to about 15 feet away. I didn’t even pay attention to their shots. I looked at the trees and birds and the lovely foliage. I might have made a comment about the foliage. Birdied the hole.

The last hole it was very quiet. It was my best round of the season. I still have the trophy.

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Never have, and never will pull any of this stuff on anyone I play against If I can't win, or lose, with my clubs, I have no business playing. I have had some guys say things to me, and it really helps motivate me, but I really think very poorly of guys that try that garbage. I'm much more into sportsmanship than gamesmanship. I really think it has no place in the game.

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Ha. I’ve got several good stories about one of my friends. Whenever my brother and I play with him, he talks a lot of junk to me about how my bro is better than me, which is false. We joined up with him on the 6th hole the other day, and he said, “Hope your brother isn’t beating you too bad.” He loves to try to get into my head.

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All of the above and more.  I probably see/hear more in casual, albeit money games than in tournaments though.

A just-loud-enough-to-be-heard comment to a playing partner that the opponent standing over a 4 foot putt “hasn’t missed a putt like that in 3 weeks” is always fun...  

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Two that I've seen that others haven't mentioned yet:

  • Having someone line up a putt, and as they're getting ready to putt it, giving the putt to them (this is dumb, but I've seen it).
  • Someone I played with once asked me if I was stopping my backswing early. Just because your backswing is way too long doesn't mean I'm stopping mine early. It wasn't really gamesmanship, but I could see someone trying something like that.
21 hours ago, iacas said:

I've seen people suggest "you should hit a provisional" when they know darn well the ball is fine. It throws the person off sometimes. One guy told me he loved to do that on holes where you couldn't see the landing area very well.

Maybe this is just me, but that wouldn't bother me at all. I'd happily take the free swing. I'm probably too used to hitting provisionals though...

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38 minutes ago, DeadMan said:

Having someone line up a putt, and as they're getting ready to putt it, giving the putt to them (this is dumb, but I've seen it).

I do this to a close friend sometimes. I wait until he starts the backswing. Usually once a season.

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Not so much gamesmanship as much as in plain fun, but while in undergrad as a pledge, one of my buddies obediently forcefully said “scrotum!” in one of the other brother’s backswing. The guy absurdly chunked it, hitting the ground a good 4-6”behind the ball and everyone else just laughed for several minutes. To this day when playing with some of my old fraternity brothers, at least one guy will start off the day with that on the first couple of holes.

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I'm not one for gamesmanship... but when I see it play out on someone, I can't help but smile in appreciation.  

Unfortunately, it's worked on me a time or two.  

One of my favorites happened a few years ago.  I was playing an early season round with some friends.  We arrived at the turn and I was playing pretty well and was thumping them pretty soundly.  As we stood on the 10th tee waiting for the fairway to clear, one of the guys who had played there with me a handful of times knew I had a bad habit of trying to cut the corner of the dogleg... and on more than one occasion, I'd blown it way right into the trees.  He saw an opportunity and took it.

All day, I'd been hitting a nice little fade off the tee.  There's probably 120 yards from the corner of the dogleg to the out of bounds on the other side of the hole.  Just so much room it's ridiculous.  My plan was to start it at the bunker up the outside of the dogleg and let it peel back in to the fairway.  Executed properly, I'd be left with 150 yards or so to the center of the green.  

As I put my tee in the ground on the right side of the tee box... my buddy pointed out the hawk sitting at the peak of the tree on the inside of the dogleg.  "Hey... careful now!  Looks like it may have some babies in the nest up there!"

Up to that point, I hadn't even looked in the direction of that side of the hole.  I laughed, knowing what he was going for... and then proceeded to just about knock the hawk out of its nest!  My ball disappeared in to the hazard and I could do nothing but smile and laugh as I went to the cart to pull a new ball out of my bag to finish the hole with.

Another time, I was visiting a friend in Arizona.  He took me out to Quintero to play.  I was in a different world.  I'd never played desert golf before, so... playing at Quintero for my first round out there was a treat.  The second hole is a par 5 with a tee set back a bit.  As we walked back and turned around, there was a massive cactus just off the front, right side of the tee box.  It was littered with balls embedded in it.  As I teed it up and took my practice swing, my friend pointed out that cactus and asked if I thought it was in play.  

"Nah... I hit a fade so if I hit that cactus, I made a really bad swing."

There is now a TaylorMade TP5x with an orange, stenciled turtle embedded dead center of that cactus about 24" from the top.

Oh well.  What can ya do?

CY

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@Fairway_CY's story brought back a fun (for me) moment.  Our Michigan club has an annual "Ryder Cup" type event with Indiana every September (cancelled in 2020).  Both clubs are senior groups. A few years ago our alternate shot match came to the par-5 10th hole.  My partner and I were closer to the green after a good drive by my partner.  At that point one needs to make a decision, hit over a cross hazard penalty area (swampy pond) and have around an 80 yard 3rd shot or hit to layup area to the left and have about a 100-120 yard approach.  Our opposition was in a serious discussion about what to do.  Hitting over the penalty area was certainly an option but it did require a solidly struck fairway wood.  I pulled out my 3-wood and made a few practice swings while the other team continued to discuss their strategy.  Eventually they opted to have a go at clearing the hazard but their player did not hit his shot solidly enough to clear the trouble.  

I had no intention of playing over the hazard, regardless of what they did.  Once they hit it into the penalty area I put the 3-wood away and hit a hybrid to the layup area, leaving my partner with a 110 yards approach.  We easily won the hole with a simple 2-putt par.

My practice with the 3-wood may or may not have influenced their decision.  I like to think they noticed and that it tipped the decision toward the riskier option they had available.

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I guess I used a little gamemanship in our club wide match play tournament a few weeks ago. I was up against my opponent who got 6 strokes from me. We ended up even after 18, so moved on to the first tee again. He was saying how he hoped we would last to the second hole where he would get a stroke. I looked at him, and said, "No you won't, you used up all your strokes in the first 18 holes, you don't get another 6 strokes."  He said "Really?"  You could see the look of panic across his face. The guys we were playing with were laughing their asses off. He finally caught on that I was just tooling with him, but he was so rattled he took a bogey to my par on that first playoff hole, and lost the match.

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On 12/4/2020 at 9:39 AM, DeadMan said:

Maybe this is just me, but that wouldn't bother me at all. I'd happily take the free swing. I'm probably too used to hitting provisionals though...

+1. I'm more than happy to take a free practice swing!

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