In discussion: Which is better? Medal or Stableford?

Golf Equipment

Which is better? Two of our team weigh in

Tom Irwin (TI, one handicap): Medal golf is categorically the best form of the game. It is the only method of scoring that accurately penalises poor play.

Joe Whitley (JW, seven handicap): I completely disagree. Stableford is a much fairer, enjoyable and accommodating format. Why is penalising poor play so important? Isn’t the game supposed to be fun?

TI: There is plenty of social golf played when no scoring is required or utilised. In terms of judging who has performed better, then medal play is a peerless format. You say fairer, but what is fair about a double bogey being penalised the same as a quadruple or worse?

JW: Maybe so, but that doesn’t make it the best form of the game. Far from it. Who wants to grind for four hours knowing one wayward shot could spoil everything?
Medal golf is categorically the best form of the game. It is the only method of scoring that accurately penalises poor play. TI: A medal card is a true reflection of the quality of your golf, calculated risk, damage limitation when things are going badly are all part of the subtlety of the game that make it great. Stableford golf is similar, although not as extreme, to 20/20 cricket – it is a dumbed down and therefore inferior version of the same sport.

JW: I agree in the sense that it encourages attacking and exciting golf. It is anything but dumbed down, though. You must time your run perfectly and play safe where required, too. Just because there’s a safety net doesn’t make it inferior. If anything it improves the standard of play. It’s also much less stressful and I find I have a better time with my partners as a result.

TI: But the safety net does make it inferior. Removing the chance of a big number, you are removing the tension that all good sport is based on. Furthermore, there is nothing more tension filled than the two putt bogey in medal, and that is all but removed in Stableford, because the second putt is free. Sport is thrilling not just for the upside of birdies or sixes, it is equally thrilling and life affirming for the threat of impending disaster. What you see as a grind, I see as the very essence of our and indeed all sport. I am not saying there is no place for Stableford, much as there is a place for 20/20 cricket, but for me medal golf, league football, test match cricket are the purest and therefore best version of their respective games.

JW: Purity is overrated. Ask the majority of club golfers and I’d wager they enjoy playing Stableford more. The only ones that won’t are those who have plenty of spare time on their hands (like yourself) to practise frequently and be in a position to do well in a medal. Most of us don’t have the time to invest in becoming better and prefer to spend our time on the course having a laugh and knowing we won’t have to walk back to the tee if we lose a ball. I think this boils down to how seriously you take the game. If you’re delusional and still feel you’ve got a chance of making it, medal is for you. If you’re in the real world, it isn’t.

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