Team golf isn't just for the pros -- you should try it, too
By T.J. Auclair
The Zurich Classic of New Orleans over the weekend featured a fun format we only see once a year on the PGA Tour -- two-man teams with two rounds of alternate shot and two rounds of best ball.
It's similar to the Ryder Cup, but not exactly the same... The Zurich Classic is still a stroke-play event, so the players are putting everything out and they're not head-to-head match ups like the Ryder Cup.
Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy emerged as the champions and, clearly, made for a spectacular "team."
Team golf can be a lot of fun for you, too.
For, most of us, we're familiar with "scramble" formats, or modified scramble formats in which everyone hits a drive and then plays from the best position for the next shot and so on until the hole is finished.
This is particularly nice for beginners, as it eliminates the frustration that can come from playing from less than ideal spots.
"When we bring groups of students down to Port St. Lucie for a golf school, we play a scramble," 2013 PGA National Teacher of the Year Lou Guzzi told us. "There would be one instructor with three students for four rounds. It gave me the ability, as an instructor, to have everyone together to discuss on every shot what we were doing and how we were going about it.
"We were all reading the greens from the same spot, but competing against the other teams," Guzzi said. "The scramble format was perfect for that. Everyone would hit, they'd see where the golf pro hit and talk about what they were going to do for their shot. Sometimes around the green, I would put first so they could see the break. Other times they would putt first and then I'd discuss what I was going to do. The biggest take for me was that the students couldn't believe how much more break I was playing than what they would have done. There was a tremendous amount of learning from being on the greens as a group."
Maybe you're a better player and want to employ a team-event match with your weekend foursome.
If that's the case, your teammate shouldn't matter too much in the best-ball format seeing as you'll both be playing your own shots for the entire hole.
But there can be a lot of pressure, so get the apologies out of the way on the first tee. There's no point in apologizing for lousy shots during the match. Forget it and move on. It's going to happen to everyone.
The pressure in the group, however, is when it's one guy pulling all the weight in a best ball.
"You do feel an added pressure versus playing for yourself," Guzzi said, "or, better yet, a responsibility to your playing partner. It depends what kind of pressure you put on that, but it could make you focus more. If your partner is playing well and you're struggling, you feel bad that you're not holding up your end of the deal. A good partner will support you and encourage you to play the best you can without making you feel they're disappointed. A good partner will never let you feel that way."
So, yeah, be a good partner, folks.
And if you feel pressure in best ball, it's only going to be worse in alternate shot.
"That's the real true test of two people gelling and supporting each other," Guzzi said. "Now you're responsible for where you put your partner's next spot. You can put them in a bad spot and feel bad. That's the ultimate pressure in performing for your partner. You can be bad in better ball and your partner is on fire and can kind of hide you, but not in alternate shot."
That's also why a complementary partner is so important in alternate shot. You want a partner whose strengths are your weaknesses and vice versa. There's also strategy involved in who will hit off odd or even-numbered tee shots, based on how best those particular holes set up for each player.
If you're looking for a fun, team-format on the course, Guzzi recommends a best ball. He also encourages you to seek out a player for a partner who is a higher-caliber player than you are, because it'll provide a great learning experience.
"A lot of beginners are intimidated to play with better players," Guzzi said. "I have found over the years that the lower handicap players don't mind helping the beginner learn. If you have the opportunity to play with a better player, don't think they don't want to play with you; they actually do and enjoy helping you."