with Robert Bicknell
"Dem's da rules..."
Last weekend, The Bluffs held the Thu Duc Garden Homes tournament and everybody went all out to make it a huge success. The golf course has never been in better shape, or played harder. Kudos to GM Ben Styles and Superintendent, Ali MacFayden and their staffs.
When the US$1.5 Million Ho Tram Open Asian Tour event rolls in this December, it will play even harder.
The greens were rolling at 12.5, which is just about what you would find at the US Open; the fairways were kept almost as wide as normal because of the wind which can blow your ball into horrible places in the sandy dunes if you're not careful. But the fairways were fast (meaning good roll) because it is a "Links" style course and, as such, a good portion of the game is played on the ground. Keeping your shots low and rolling them out is the name of the game.
Unfortunately, as stated in the opening sentence, the rules official was required to make a few decisions during the event as many local players didn't know what to do in some situations. The advice given during the opening dinner of "play two balls" and let the officials decide afterwards went largely ignored, as do most speeches at these events.
The worst rule (for me) was that the pros had to walk because, on the Tour, that's what they do. We also had to play the back tees. Unfortunately, someone seemed to forget that the pros in Viet Nam generally are the teaching, selling clubs or managing courses variety and not the "Tour pro" variety. Thus, we suffered a bit, me more than the others because I'm almost 60 years old and have bad legs (more on this later).
They also invited a few Asian Tour players, who have no problem walking because they're young and, that's what they do on Tour. They were fine…naturally.
I did joke with Ben that the Senior Tour players in the US use buggies from time to time, but even if given one, I wouldn't have accepted because it would be unfair to the other pros. The rules apply to everyone equally, or they are worthless. Needless to say, I had two days of pain.
C'est la vie, it was my decision to participate, knowing we had to walk.
But truth be known, I'd walk barefoot over broken glass to play at The Bluffs. Yes, it is that good a course.
A few surprising situation arose where players (pros) who SHOULD know the rules, didn't, such as one who lost two drives into the dunes, casually dropped a ball where he thought it went in, played that, then sauntered onto the green claiming to be "on in six". The Rules official was called out, player taken back to the tee and he eventually posted an 11. Strangely enough, the same pro also played a wrong ball on the very next hole. Yes, he was having a bad day.
Many days after the event, I started getting the usual phone calls from players asking for rules advice. You know, the usual, complaints of players not exchanging scorecards, not getting their scores verified by the marker and having both signatures, etc.
This happens after every event and probably will continue until the end of time.
Very simple rule of thumb on this - bring it to the scoring officials at the time it happens. They can verify the situation and DQ the players at that time. But if you wait too long, tough cookies, the result stands and all the whining in the world won't change it.
One other problem was that the rounds on both days took seven hours. This was caused by the usual situation in Viet Nam of too many players of different skill levels, topped off by super fast greens, wind and 40oC temps. It was a real test out there.
As for me, I have decided to face facts and stop deluding myself. I'm almost 60-years old, I'm in pain 24/7, cannot compete against the kids and I need surgery on both feet.
It's time to hang it up.
I'll continue to teach, write and consult, but as for playing…I don't see it happening. Fifty years is a good run.
I have no regrets. — VNS