We played our annual company golf tournament. Here's what we learned
A golf tournament among Golf Digest staff might sound like a hotbed of savvy, sophisticated golfers, and in some respects it was. Our annual Seitz Cup—named after former Golf Digest Editor-in-Chief Nick Seitz—featured more single-digit and plus-handicaps than ever. But it also featured a collection of analytical types who tend to overthink every aspect of golf, not to mention those whose games have been casualties of work and family. Throw them together in a spirited, somewhat competitive format on a spectacular fall day, and a broad spectrum of takeaways about golf emerge.
Why don’t we play more scrambles?
Look, I like playing my own ball as much as the next person, but when it comes to company outings, a two-person scramble is the way to go. We adopted the format to improve pace of play—an important factor given that best-ball corporate outings might rival U.S. Open qualifying as golf’s longest day. There's also the obvious benefit of not exposing differences in playing ability. If you have some new golfers or people who haven't been playing much, best ball can be daunting. Scramble? Anybody can make some putts, hit a few good shots and leave feeling like they contributed to the team. But there are also more nuanced benefits to going scramble. If you’re playing best ball, you’re in your own world. Meanwhile, there’s no camaraderie like scramble camaraderie. As my partner and I were choosing whose drive to use at one point, the other team’s caddie was watching. After we hit, he said, “Every outing should be this format. The way it makes you talk to each other about your shots, strategize, it’s really cool.” He’s right, it’s cool because you're completely in it together. You’ve got enough going on at a company event, the last thing you need is to be spiraling down the drain of self-loathing as you try to scrape your own ball around the course. Yes, you’re going to hit some bad shots in a scramble. But it doesn’t really matter. Any remorse is quickly gone because you can just pick it up, which pulls you back into the moment. There’s a freedom that comes with a scramble that puts everyone a little more at ease, takes the heat off a bit and instantly improves the mood of the entire outing. —Keely Levins
You won't play better if you take it too seriously. In fact you'll probably play worse
We’re all guilty of stressing about our games. But how you respond when you’re not playing your best says a lot about your maturity as a golfer. I was hyped up before our matches. Heck, I even spent time to make odds on every match-up in the company outing (I am the resident gambling guy, after all). That meant, though, that when my partner and I went 2 down through the first two holes, I got in my head. “This shouldn’t be happening,” I thought. “We were supposed to be the favorites here.” I got over that after a few drinks, but still, I would’ve played better if I loosened up a little when we got out to that early deficit. Tour players often cite playing their best golf when they stop stressing about the outcome. In the rare times I compete, I can see that they’re right. —Stephen Hennessey
Going to school on putts? Overrated
It seems pretty simple: If a two-person scramble allows two cracks at every shot, the player who putts second has a distinct advantage of studying a partner’s line. But in my unofficial accounting from scramble outings, I’ve actually noticed the opposite: Whenever there’s a big putt, it’s usually the person who goes first who makes it. Why? I believe it’s because for all the potential benefits of seeing how a putt tracks, it comes at the expense of instinct. Even if you pick up on a break you otherwise would have missed, I’d argue you’re also reducing the putting stroke to a series of rigid mechanical movements. For good putters, there’s a feel involved when standing over a ball that matters most of all. When you’re watching someone else, that tends to disappear. —SW
For one day, it’s OK to be a little ruthless with colleagues
Chances are you like most people in your company, otherwise, well, you probably wouldn’t be working there, would you? But when it comes to a company golf tournament, friendliness can sometimes clash with competitiveness and the results have the potential to be awkward. Is that putt that’s just outside the leather good because you’re playing against your boss? Or is it not good because you’re playing with your boss and her lips seem to be sealed? Was that longer than three minutes looking for the ball? In the interest of corporate morale, you don’t want to get too petty or chippy, but golf is golf. The rules are the rules and especially when you work at a golf magazine, sometimes following the rules can be uncomfortable. For one day, however, we say it’s OK to let the competitive side shine. Be fair and reasonable but don’t be afraid to want to win, knowing most any hard feelings can probably be washed away with a few drinks at the bar afterward. —Ryan Herrington
Golf is still the ultimate icebreaker
I’ve been at each of the 20-plus Seitz Cups that Golf Digest has held and even now I’m walking away with some useful information. This year’s event presented a new challenge in that my eventual group—including my partner—were all people I had never met before. Also, the group’s makeup kept changing over the 36 hours leading up to the event as three of the original four members of the foursome had to bail for various reasons. Given that the Seitz Cup is a competition, albeit a friendly one, the latter was a bit frustrating. Who was I playing with? Who were we playing against? After being asked if there was anyone I would prefer to play with I decided the best course of action was to simply say, “I’ll play with anyone you want to pair me with.” I found this liberating. Rather than worrying about who I was partnering with, I just waited to hear. Ultimately, I was paired with two people new to Golf Digest, and for that I was grateful. Although there is the initial awkwardness, the great thing is you have plenty to talk about. You’ve never heard anything about their personal life, how they feel about work, what their golf game is like; and they’ve never heard any of your go-to lines that you drop on the golf course. The conversation, then, was easy, plentiful and thoroughly enjoyable. Give me that kind of day on the course anytime. —E. Michael Johnson
Don’t let strategy override entertainment
Our team had a simple strategy, a strategy that most two-player scramble teams employ: The first player tries to find the fairway or fat part of the green, or goes for the lag putt, so the second can (hopefully) get the green light to bomb it off the tee, flag hunt and walk in 50 footers like Kevin Na. It’s a sound strategy for victory but one that also fails to account for the first player’s enjoyment. Even if they’re not the better player it’s not fair for them to always be the “safe” option; they want a chance to hit the hero shot and make some memories, too. Occasionally mix up the batting order or lean into a “the hell with safe—fire away” mindset, because no matter the format or event, fun should never take a backseat. —Joel Beall
(*extreme Herb Brooks voice*) Play your game
It’s cliché as hell, but when you are grouped with a couple of sticks, you really need to just stick to your game. At the annual Seitz Cup, I somehow got put in the same group as our magazine editor Max Adler (scratch), Dan Rapaport (scratch) and Curtis Loop (+3.6!). That’s an extremely intimidating group for a 8-going-on-12 handicapper like myself, especially when two of the guys hit it 70 yards past me (not an exaggeration). Over the first few holes I definitely let that get to my head, but once you realize there is literally no sense in trying to keep up, it’ll free you up and you might even end up playing one of your better rounds of the year, which was the case for me. Just ask Dan, who began counting up the amount of feet of putts I was holing after my third of around six or seven 25-footers on the day. —Christopher Powers
When it comes to order of play, the first rule is there are no rules
My partner Christina Parsells and I were frazzled by the intimidating idea of scramble strategy right off the bat. We were excessively deliberating who would hit each shot first, inventing the reasons for our decisions out of thin air. On our fourth hole of the day, a gear turned. A 40-foot lag putt loomed when Christina asked, “How do you feel about this one in your heart?” as I studied the line. “You know, I think the energy is there for me. I’m feeling good vibes,” I replied. There it was staring us right in the face: self-confidence and intuition might be the most important factors in this format. I made the most solid stroke of the day thus far, barely skirting the edge of the hole. For the rest of the day we let our self-belief guide us. When you know, you know—it’s an incredible feeling to stand over the ball and think, I got this one. Trust your gut whatever the shot, and you're more likely to be happy with the result. —Gabrielle Herzig
One person’s success should be everyone’s success
CP3-putt is dead. Long live CP3-putt.
We speak, of course, of the now-ironic nickname of my esteemed colleague, Chris Powers. Chris is the classic 7.5 handicap whose good shots look like a scratch. The man’s downfall, according to the scouting report, is his putting. I was licking my chops upon seeing the draw for the Seitz Cup; I had drawn our editorial director and total stick, Max Adler, as my partner. Our opponents were Powers and Curtis Loop, a +3.9 index. I knew Curtis would hit it great, but I thought Chris’ putting struggles would put Curtis’ flatstick under a ton of pressure.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not about Max and I, mind you—despite holing one putt outside four feet the entire day, we breezed to a seven-under 64 and never came remotely close to making a bogey. I wasn’t wrong about Curtis’ ball-striking, either. I was, however, dead-wrong about CP. He had the putting round of his life. There was the 28-footer for birdie 1. And a 17-foot dagger tying birdie on 3 after I hit an approach to two inches. He finished the round in perfectly fitting fashion, hooping a 42-footer for eagle. Chris made a total of 140 feet of putts on the day. The most uncharacteristic putting performance imaginable.
We lost, 6 and 5, and loved every second of it—not because we lost all three points or because we lost the side match, of course. But because my friend had a round that nobody in attendance could ever forget. It was a reminder to never play for enough money that you’re rooting against your buddy. What a shame it would’ve been if I wasn’t willing that last putt in the hole. Remember why you’re out there: to create memories with your playing partners. And, in the process, to bury old nicknames. —Dan Rapaport