How to solve the problem of what to do in a threeball
In this edition of Fourball I’m joined by Steve Carroll, Dan Murphy and Alex Perry to discuss golf’s awkward number…
What’s your favourite format to play in a three?
Steve: Club golfers sometimes aren’t the most adventurous. I once suggested a bogey format in my group only to be looked at like I’d insulted their nearest and dearest. Which means it’s the same as it’s been for the last 10 years: front, back, overall, and pins.
Dan: Stableford. If you want to spice it up then break it down into front, back and match. But really I’ll only be thinking about grinding out something in the low-to-mid 30s. However, I am all for a fun format when playing as part of a team – give me something quirky involving all to count on some holes but not others.
Alex: I’m always up for spicing things up so will happily throw out the chance to play a skins match, or Bingo-Bango-Bongo, or that snakes and camels game – only to inevitably be told we’re just playing Stableford.
My verdict: Stableford’s great but isn’t much good for ‘fun’, then again the snake/camel thing is horrific.
I’d always go with Split Sixes. I can’t stand too much going on as that’s already happening in my head so I always like to push this on others. I then spend the next four hours failing to explain how it works and spluttering out scores that are never divisible by three but it generally throws up the best player on the day while patronising the worst in a nice way.
What are the pros and cons of playing in a three?
Alex: I like it. Plenty of chat to go around and it never really feels like a slog like it can in a fourball. Until they reject my Bingo Bango Bongo suggestion, of course.
Dan: More pros than cons for me. There is a pleasing choice of who to chat to. On the basis that at any given time one member of a group is engaging with their golfing demons, that means the other two can give them a bit of space and have their own conversation without the overall mood being dragged down. It’s your turn often enough, and equally there is the chance to recalibrate the tee options in your pocket and clean your wedge without holding up play.
Steve: Who was it who said three is a crowd? Nonsense. There’s only upside to this and I’m usually part of a trio nearly every time I’m play a round. There’s plenty to chat about, there aren’t usually too many awkward silences and it’s not a marathon either. What’s not to like?
My verdict: Much like the real world I always feel like I’m the one not in the conversation while the other two are becoming best friends. I’m also too suspicious. Three is too much of a middle ground and, unless one member of the triumvirate is an out-and-out wrong ‘un this is a terrible number for me.
What’s your favourite number of people to play with?
Dan: Playing in a two is obviously best because you move more nimbly and it is your turn more often. The downside being that you are entirely dependent on one person to respond to your needs, be that piping down for five minutes when you’re at a low ebb or providing thoughtful and fresh Brexit analysis.
Four is too many people, especially when we are all doing our putting, so I will go with the compromise option of three. Which says a lot about me as a human, I’m sure.
Alex: It really depends on the situation. There’s nothing worse than playing in a fourball in the hooling rain, getting soaked watching the other three take an age over their putts. Put me a twoball with an old friend I haven’t seen for a while, please.
Steve: Let’s sign a tripartite pact and agree that three is always the magic number. Never more, never less.
My verdict: Four, always four. More chat, more to laugh at and more chance to offset all the housekeeping bits like flag tending, scoring, ball searching, getting yardages, making conversation. Two is far too risky, can be amazing but rarely is and three, as we’ve outlined, leads to general paranoia. Four’s great but just as long as nobody suggests having a ‘game within a game’ which is too much for my head to contend with.