The enormous highs and crushing lows of marking a scorecard

The Scoop

You probably wouldn't think that marking a scorecard could stir such emotions. Think again. In this week's Notebook Mark Townsend gets ground down (again) by his playing partners

You would like to think that this shouldn’t be too onerous a task. One job that, at the very most, might total writing down six numbers every 10 minutes or so.

Then, at the conclusion, adding up and agreeing what those numbers come to.

However, while the beauty of the game and club golf life is to spread your wings and play with as many new people as possible, this only increases the chances of having your head wrecked by your playing partner’s inability to follow, and document, what is going on in front of their very eyes.

While I consider myself particularly laid-back in many walks of life with a decent enough grasp of what’s actually important, I simultaneously get very niggled by someone who will, for example, write across THREE whole columns the gross, nett and points outcome for each hole.

Which also suggests that I’m not as laid-back as I maybe like to kid myself.

First things first

If I am in familiar company I will make a beeline for the person I trust most with my card. Maybe it’s the circles I move in but I would very comfortably discount 80 per cent of my golfing friends as being trusted markers.

In a three there is every chance of getting the card into the right hands, in a four you need to act quickly and, due to the fact that you’re not teeing off for another 45 minutes, try and be casual about it.

world handicap system

‘Was that a blob, Mike?’

A good start, if a small sticker hasn’t already done the job, is to write your playing partner’s name down in full. This will help you when you have forgotten halfway down the 1st fairway what they’re actually called. Earlier this year I played 15 holes as ‘Mike’ before, after a blob, feeling confident enough to repeat what my actual name is.

At least try and seem interested

If you’re marking just one player’s card then strike a simple diagonal line through the holes where they get shots on the Stroke Index column. This will help for when you seep into lengthy periods of self-obsession and will work as an open display that you are interested in their efforts.

If you are marking more than one player then give yourself a break and just do the maths as and when. Otherwise you will lose yourself in some form of hieroglyphics trying to demonstrate where Dave, Mike and Bob all get their shots.

Don’t feel the need for a halfway update

This is a new thing which I’m quite enjoying this year. If things are going well then I will have a word with my playing partner, in a very awkward manner, not to go through the pantomime of announcing the scores at halfway.

I do this so I can continue in my Zen-like state and glide serenely to the 18th green oblivious that I am on for 39 points – while running the numbers through my head like the national debt at any break in conversation.

My logic being that if the scores are said out loud then we have to recalibrate ourselves and start the mental odyssey from scratch.

If I reach the turn in single figures then I tend to be a bit less weird.

Scorecard holder

Scorecard holder

Each to their own and all that but I’m quite suspicious of people who have too much pocket furniture. At some elite clubs you will be bombarded with all sorts of information that you don’t really need – pin positions, course planners that never get past the 2nd hole and a welcome letter from the Head of Greens – so there might be some benefit to owning a plastic scorecard holder, with flaps for your pencil and pitchmark repairer.

But, generally speaking, your scorecard and a pencil should get the job done.

Leave the leather-bound holders to the big boys and girls who get paid to play.

There will be exceptions

Don’t, like me, always be suspicious of someone who offers to mark the card for the group. The chances are that he or she is particularly efficient, maybe works with spreadsheets, likes responsibility, and is most likely an all-round good egg.

And not, as you can’t stop telling yourself, that they are keen to cook the books.

How to actually do it

Let’s say today is a Stableford. In the Marker’s Score make things easy on yourself and squeeze in the gross score and resultant points. For example, 4/2.

You will then be blitzed by too many columns – don’t feel the need to fill them. Nobody cares what the nett score is, this is why you write the handicap down at the top.

And the column marked ‘Points’? Ignore that too. It just makes things look too odd.

Just follow the same tried-and-tested route that you trod with the Marker column. And don’t feel the need to circle any birdies, you’re not on tour and nobody really cares.

If it’s a Medal then just jot down the number of shots that everyone has hit and, if someone has had a shocker, be sure to awkwardly get that figure spoken aloud so we’re all singing from the same song sheet.

Scorecard

Here comes the apocalypse

This might be just me but, if I don’t get the scores down at the denouement of each hole, then I become slightly agitated that the world is going to tumble in.

If I were to go two holes without an entry, be it because of a mislaid pencil, then my behaviour is likely to become very erratic. The same reaction is likely to be triggered when the par on a certain hole is unclear and we are all left hanging until the end, by which time our brain has been so fried at the possibility of a four pointer that we went to pieces in the immediate aftermath.

Mistakes will be made

All of which, at the completion of our efforts, mistakes will be made as most of the above is beyond all of us.

A neat suggestion that friend gave me is to begin the slog by reading out the hole scores in multiples of three (for a Medal) so things never get too complicated and even the youth of today, with their short-term attention span, might stay with you.

So this…

‘5-6-4.’
‘Yep.’
‘4-4-7.’
‘Yep.’
‘3-5-5.’
‘Yep.’

For a Stableford take things a little steadier and do it on a hole-by-hole process.

And when the mistakes do crop up you will have the pleasure of being able to initial any error which should make you feel like a proper grown-up.

If you were born in the last century you might have experienced such a thrill when making a mess of paying in a cheque.

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