Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Guest Post: A Golf Hypothetical

Today's guest post comes to us from Jamie, a friend of The Couchwarmers. It was sent to me Sunday night, so by the time you read this, he will have already either failed miserably or partially succeeded in his attempt to become the most famous golfer ever in the history of the sport. He also poses an interesting hypothetical at the end, which I know will stir up some lively debate in the comments. Jamie, it's all yours:

Tomorrow at 7AM at the Golf Club of New England I will tee off for my first competitive round of golf since my father dragged me to our local country club to enter a junior event when I was eight years old. Growing up, my parents were avid golfers, but I tended to concentrate on the more “popular” sports (e.g., soccer, basketball, and baseball). My golf exposure was limited to the random times I would play with my Dad, where I would close my eyes, swing as hard as I could, and hope I would make decent contact.

It wasn’t until my late college years that I began to take the game seriously. I practiced almost every day, and even played in tryout rounds as our Division I school had open tryouts. After rounds of 76, 75, 75, 74, and 74 (including a first day 92 that was thrown out), I missed the cut by 6 strokes. I considered myself a pretty good golfer, but knew that I wasn’t in the same league as some of my competitors.

The format tomorrow is pretty simple. Show up, play 18 holes, and hope to make the top 13. If I do that, I get to play a 36-hole qualifier in July for the New Hampshire Amateur Matchplay Championships. The top 64 from that day enter match play, where the winner will be invited to the Regional Amateurs. From there it’s on to Nationals, where the winner gets to play in the Masters, U.S. Open, and a number of other events. Yes, there will be the minor inconvenience of trying to beat the best amateurs in the world along the way. Nevertheless, you have to start somewhere.

There are seven qualifying sites this year in New Hampshire. My site happens to be the most difficult by far. The only Arnold Palmer designed course in New England, playing 7500 yards from the back tees (long even for the PGA tour), and greens that are fast. Very fast.

A guy I play with on a weekly basis just caddied for Ray Bourque’s charity tournament at the course and he suggested that I practice putting “on glass” to get used to how fast the greens will be. Combine length, a tough layout, insanely fast greens, and being the first one on the tee, and tomorrow should be interesting. For those who are interested, I will ask Sam to post my score sometime in the next day or two if you care if I made the cut.

Now, I didn’t want my first guest post to be just a biography of my golf endeavors. Therefore, it's time to incite some debate. A few months ago, in a rather dull biology lab at NYU, I got into an argument with some classmates and our TA about what the hardest sport to play is. I, of course, immediately chose golf. Another friend argued for basketball, another for ice hockey, and my TA suggested tennis. While there was no clear winner in the debate, I posed a hypothetical to them that they really couldn't answer properly. Since The Couchwarmers are full of interesting hypotheticals, here's another one for all you loyal readers.

What is the most difficult thing to do?
  • Make a free throw in basketball 
  • Hit a hockey puck into the net from the blue line 
  • Return a lob serve in tennis 
  • Hit a wedge on to a green from 50 yards in golf 
These four represent what I consider to be the most basic skills a player of the respective sport should be able to do. My hypothetical to my friends was that if you took an average, healthy 25 year old person who has never played any type of sport in their life and asked them to complete all four of the above, which would they have the most difficulty completing?

I open the comments section to discussion. Hitting a wedge on to a green from 50 yards is not easy, and, I think, represents that golf is the most difficult sport to play. Let’s just hope I can find the green tomorrow from 50 yards.


  1. To open the debate, I'm gonna say that your hockey basic skill needs to be made more specific. Simply hitting a puck into the net isn't the essential hockey skill. Doing it on skates while facing a goalie is. Even without defenders, having the average person score a goal (could be from anywhere -- blue line, between the circles, on a breakaway) while on skates and facing even an average goalie is harder than hitting a green from 50 yards away.

    Also, here's proof that golf really isn't that hard. See? Anyone can do it. I SWEAR TO GAAA.

  2. How can you compare making a free throw to hitting the green from 50 yards out? Sure they're "basic" skills of the sport but that's a ridiculous comparison. I'd say the equivalent of a free throw is hitting the fairway with a driver. Thoughts?

  3. To Sam, you are upping the ante. Standing on skates with a stick at the blueline hitting a puck into the net is a basic skill, similar to passing a puck accurately. Of course, scoring a goal against a goalie while skating is more difficult and would require an equally difficult golf shot. To Daniel, I fail to see the difference of hitting a ball in the fairway or hitting a ball on a green. You're just playing semantics.

  4. I think that golf is the least natural act of the four, but I disagree with the nature of the question. a better metric should be "how much training would it take for the person to accomplish this skill consistently". As someone who literally just started taking golf lessons within the past few months, I can tell you that golf has the steepest learning curve up front, but basic competency doesn't take too long. if you set benchmarks of competency (i.e. free throw percentage >70%, getting the puck in the goal 85% of the time, etc.), then the new golfer might be competent faster than some of the others.

    The actual winner here is probably something like "hitting a fastball". That said, I think that being good at golf is one of the underrated hardest things to do. Definitely not an easy task at all.

  5. If you take someone who has never played golf nor basketball and gave them 10 FTs then 10 chances to hit the green from 50, they might bank in 1 or 2 of 10 FTs, and they might MAKE CONTACT with 1 or 2 golf shots.

    The question makes more sense if posed about someone who is competent in both sports.

    Like Seth says, golf has the steepest learning curve and takes the most time to perfect.

  6. I think i have to agree with kubin [go do your job] that the question is flawed. The comparison has to be between things that are equally difficult in their respective sports. these scenarios have been developed for someone who is competently athletic in the respective sports.

    -Hitting a wedge onto the green over water from 50 yards
    -Scoring on a penalty shot against a goalie of equal skill in hockey.
    -Serve an Ace against someone of equal skill
    -Hit 6/10 free throws

    I have conferred with a source that will remain nameless and we feel these skills represent a certain proficiency in each sport while not requiring excellence.

  7. The other problem with the hypothetical - even the updated one above me - is that there is a reason people excel at different sports: we're better at different things. Personally, the subtlety and finesse required for golf makes it a sport I will probably never be good at - I prefer the balls-to-the-wall racing sports or rodeo kayaking, where being good helps but isn't everything.

    Someone with the skills necessary to make a free throw might not be able to do anything with a tennis racquet. 'Difficulty' is completely subjective, and hockey is the most fun to watch, so I vote for that.