Don’t Go Match Play Brain Dead

Kim Anders
Director of Instruction
John Jacobs Golf Schools and Academies Estrella del Mar Golf and Beach Resort
Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico, AZ

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I played in a fun, but serious, event the past two days for people living and visiting our area here in Mazatlan. It is a semi-Ryder Cup format between the Americans and Canadians with different match play games every 9-holes (Best ball, scramble, alternate shot, and individual stroke play matches).

I understand that Match Play is different from Stroke Play, but it is still golf, not, “I’m consumed with my opponent and have forgotten what golf is about”. Unfortunately, judging from some of the stories I heard the past two days, this is exactly what people do.  

In an effort to speed up this event, circles 5 feet across were marked on every green. Ball inside the circle the putt is a ‘gimme’. One guy was so caught up in beating his opponent he four putted from 12 feet. He was trying so hard to make the putts he ran the ball clear through a 5 foot circle and had to putt again – 3 times.  

Another player with a single digit handicap was so nervous with a short chip shot he stuck the club in the ground behind the ball…TWICE – the ball never moved!  And then there is my favorite….A guy’s drive on a par 5 hooks into some 4 inch rough a few inches from a lake. Shoes and socks come off, shorts get rolled up to where they are little more than a thong, and he climbs down into the lake. He surveys his lie from that angle, which is now almost waist high, and asks his partner to hand him his 3-wood. WHAT?? His partner laughs and asks him what the heck he is doing. “Well, the guy I’m playing is 50 yards ahead of me, I have to make up for the bad tee shot!” He makes a big swing, the 3 wood goes under the ball, almost. The ball just catches the top of his club, which sends it right into the middle of his forehead…player falls completely into the lake, while the other 3 in the group are rolling on the fairway hoping they don’t wet their pants!

So, where is this going? Match play is how the game was originally played, whether one on one or two against two, alternating shots between the two players, but still match play is where 1 point is the reward for winning the hole regardless of the number of shots actually taken.  

I love match play, it’s a great game. But when you play match play you still have to play the golf course. You will win some holes and you will lose some holes, but play the golf course. You cannot get caught up in what your opponent is doing – stick to your game!

What your opponent does should have little to do with how you are going to play your next shot. Don’t try shots you know you have little chance of succeeding with just because the opposition is ahead of you or closer to the hole. Use your head – this is still golf.

Try playing some match play and you’ll learn a lot about course management and having discipline on the golf course. And, I believe you will be a much better player from it!

Kim Anders is a PGA Professional residing in Mazatlan, Sinaloa Mexico. You can reach Kim via email at