Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Golf Bets

According to one of the many appendices to the Rules of Golf, "There is no objection to informal gambling or wagering among individual golfers when it is incidental to the game."  The rules go on to state that it's impossible to define exactly what "informal gambling" might be, but their best guess is that it would look something like this:
  • The betting players generally know each other
  • Participation in the gambling or wagering is optional and is limited to the players
  • The source of the money is put up only by the players
  • The amount of money involved is not considered to be excessive

A few years ago when I started playing a lot of golf, I started betting a lot too.  But our bets were never cash.  They were small bets.  And I lost nearly all of them.

They usually started out because someone was running out of something they needed--tees, golf balls, maybe they lost their divot tool.  I lost bets for all three of those.  Once, we were playing golf in the early winter and complaining about how cold our hands were.  Now, when it gets cold out, my buddy likes to put on his fleece winter golf gloves and remind me where they came from. 

Of course, sometimes we bet on who would buy lunch after the round.  (One time I actually won a food bet and got a whole plate of free cheeseburger sliders at Applebee's!)  But mostly, I lost those bets too.  Luckily, we went to Subway a lot.

On a trip to Florida to see some Spring Training baseball games, I went on a losing streak and had to pay up three days in a row: a new golf towel from the pro shop,  a beer and hot dog at a Cardinals game, a dozen golf balls.

But my best day on the course for winning a cash bet came earlier this year.  I went to the course by myself and got paired up with a couple from Texas, in town for a family reunion.  I introduced myself on the first tee and they asked me to play first.  So, I lined up my drive and hit the middle of the fairway.  It wasn't until I was putting my driver back in my bag after the shot that the husband asked me if I wanted to "play for a little something today." He proposed everyone put up 5 bucks, winner takes all. I told him I was in.

We'd certainly broken the first suggestion of golf wagering (the players generally know one another) because we were clearly strangers.  But he'd also broken an unwritten rule, at least in my book.  You have to agree on a bet before the round begins.  Why wait until after I hit my opening drive to propose a bet?  Because he was a much better driver than I am.  But what he didn't know was I'd been watching him on the practice green and he couldn't putt to save his life.

I don't mean to sound like it was a dirty bet.  It was a great round.  They were pleasant people.  They told me they didn't like living in Texas. They didn't like their college-age daughter's new boyfriend they'd met the night before.  They were excited about the next day's family reunion.  And they were both good players.

It was a close round till I somehow birdied both 16 and 17, the only time I've ever birdied those holes consecutively on my home course.  I ended up winning by three strokes.  I wished them farewell in the parking lot and looked at the ten bucks in my hand.  I knew exactly where I was headed:  to buy lunch on someone else's dollar for a change.

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