Member-Guest formats cause one to ponder

Every year around this time, I sit down and start a column about the infamous “member-guest tournament” that each local club hosts over the summer months.

Then I talk myself out of it for a number of reasons.

For starters, I don’t want the clubs to think I’m singling any of them out in a negative way.

Also, the number of participants is relatively low, so the topic can come off as “exclusive” or “selective.”

But at the end of the day, the events are probably the major golf event of each respective club. They’re a showcase, not only for the golf course, but for the professionalism and creativity of the staff and golfing committees.

Participants and guests start talking about the tournaments in the spring. And as the tournaments get only weeks away, that “talk” has a tendency to morph into a “trash talk” that only heightens the excitement.

Unfortunately, if the talk lasts for more than all of about 180 seconds, the talk inevitably ends up around the same topic: Which scoring method is best?

Presently, there are two main scoring options to choose from. And while I’ll stress again that all of the events are wonderful and showcase each respective club in a positive way, I simply wanted to take a moment and share my opinion on which format is best.

Here are the two options:

1. Head to head matches awarding points. Pretty simple format — each two man team plays a nine-hole better ball (one best ball of two) head-to-head match against another team. Each hole is worth one “point.”

The winner of the most holes gets an extra point. For example; Team A wins six holes. Team B wins three. Final score from that match would be: Team A 7. Team B 3. Points accumulate per nine-hole match and the team at the end of the event with the most points wins.

2. Some form of cumulative stroke play. The scoring here can get more creative, but the gist of it is also simple. Each team plays the designated nine-hole format, keeps their own score, which then accumulates over the entire tournament. For example, using par as the standard, Team A shoots six under par on the first nine and 2 under par on the second nine. Their team score for the first 18 holes would be 8 under par. The team with the lowest cumulative score at the end of the event wins.

So the question becomes, which format is better? With all regard to the clubs and committees who choose to use option one, I believe option two is the better choice.

Here’s why:

The teams that play the best should win. Sounds simple, I know, but certainly not always the case. Think about it in option one. Two teams playing head to head could both play terrifically and split points 5-5. Two other teams could both play horribly, with one team winning the match 6-4. Guess what, the team that played horribly and won six points is now ahead of the two teams that played great and tied 5-5.

There are other reasons as well. The potential scoring range is much wider, creating the opportunity for a big last-minute comeback. The pairings don’t play as big of a role towards the end of the rounds, and thus, the final outcome. And it allows groups of different skill levels to play together if the committees decide that’s something they would like to do.

At the end of the day however, I still feel like I’m kind of picking on something that doesn’t deserved to be picked on, so I’ll end with this. Regardless of the scoring methods our local courses choose to use in this year’s round of Member-Guest tournaments, I know I speak for everyone lucky enough to get to participate when I say how much I’m looking forward to playing.

The competition is always exciting. The creativity of the committees and professionals is always impressive. And the professionalism of each course’s staff is always a thing of beauty.

So to all the participants across our area’s courses and country clubs; good luck, have fun, and may the best team(s) win.

And who knows, maybe one day we’ll have a “Greatest Member-Guest team of the Valley.”

Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance for The Karzmer Insurance Agency and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at

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