The evils of gambling (part 1)

25 11 2011

I can hardly imagine playing golf without a wager of some kind being involved. It’d be like playing darts or pool without a beer close at hand or not chirping at the batter if you’re playing as an infielder in baseball (or, if you’re of British stock, silly mid-off in cricket) or not booing those darn Europeans for diving in hockey or soccer. It’s just part of the game, right?

Not that the guys I play with at Glacier Greens are exactly high rollers. We’ve all heard of Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan playing for $10,000 a hole or whatever it is, but we’re happy to play for quarters. I guarantee you that MJ and Eldrick don’t get more enjoyment from their winnings than we do from seeing one of our buddies reluctantly handing over the $4.50 maximum as we’re swapping our exaggerations and flat out lies in the clubhouse after the round. We vary the game – foursomes, sixes, skins, even Wolf or Bingo Bango Bongo on occasion – but there always has to be a winner and an unlucky (and much-derided) loser.

Six of us met up at the course today for a late morning coffee, in the hope that the frost would clear and we could hit the little white ball around instead of tackling our respective honey do lists. Luck was with us, and at a little after 11.00 we were all on the first tee, having decided that we would play as two threesomes and add our collective net scores together to decide which group would pay which group a nominal $2 each. This is obviously a game that can only be played when you completely trust everyone involved, but as my five playing partners were Ringer, the Chief, Budmeister, Smokin’ Joe and the Great Robinski there was no fear of chicanery. My group (Bud, the Chief and I) were a little concerned about Ringer being in charge of the Black Hats’ scorecard (only because John is a lot better at hitting golf shots than he is adding up scores), but we knew that Joe and Robin would keep things straight.

The good guys got off to a promising start, with a fair sprinkling of pars and even a couple of birdies thrown in for good measure, but things started to go awry on the back nine as double bogey followed double bogey. A not-so-grand net total of 224 was the result, 11 over par, and obviously unlikely to be good enough for a win. There are various techniques that can be used for handing over money at the end of the round: I’ve seen coins literally thrown at the winner’s feet in disgust, for example. Bud’s personal favourite is to gather together all the small change he can muster and then push the pile of nickels, dimes and pennies across the table with great ceremony. On this occasion, we decided to take the moral high road and each put a bright, shiny toonie into the centre of the table in the hope that there wouldn’t be too much crowing from the victors. This technique has worked in the past, although there are no sure-fire guarantees of handing over money AND saving face at the same time. You just have to show some class and hope the exchange of money goes over without incident.

Sure enough, when the scorecards were exchanged the bad guys had a total of 220 – not great, but enough for a four shot win. The toonies were duly pocketed, and Bud, Adrian and I  were offering a few feeble excuses for our collective pitifulness (if there’s no such word, I’m claiming copyright), when Robin mentioned that he and John had accidentally played each other’s balls on the fifth hole. “What?” I roared, in my official capacity as Level Three Rules Official (or Level 10 Know-It-All according to my so-called friends). “Hold on a minute! Put those toonies back! Did you guys take penalty strokes? If not, your entire team is DQ’d for entering an incorrect score.” The look on Robin’s face told me that no such penalty strokes had been added. The look on the faces of Bud and Adrian told me that I’d just forfeited all our moral high ground for a lousy two bucks. The grin on Joe’s face as John pushed his $2 back across the table towards me told me that this was not the last that I’d be hearing about my lack of class. Bah! My dad – who couldn’t tell a mashie niblick from a potato masher – told me years ago that gambling was a mug’s game, but if you lose the rule was to ‘pay up and look big’. Sorry, Dad – I messed that one up once again!

All da best!

Dave B.