Home Columns First Tee to Last Call: How to Start Your Round

First Tee to Last Call: How to Start Your Round

by Conor Coughlin

Something magical is happening in South Dakota tomorrow.

Golf season has arrived! The courses will officially open and are ready for the rubber tires of golf carts, whizzing balls and chunks of grass flying through the air. They’re soaking wet and still riddled with snow, but they’ll be open. It’s like Christmas came early!

As a lifelong golfer, I realize some of the downsides for courses to open prematurely but let’s be honest, I’m not playing at Augusta National. The courses that are opening are not world-class golf courses by any means, but we get to play and for us, that’s huge. 

Over the course of our relationship, my fiancé and I have spent more time playing golf than virtually anything else. We love to play and we have a great group of friends who love to play. Every chance we get we are on the course. When you live in a climate like ours, you take every opportunity you get to be outside. 

We can play seriously, but we rarely do. Golf has become more about hanging out with friends, having some drinks and listening to music. We want to shoot well. Who doesn’t? Though it’s not the focus and a good performance is rarely the outcome. 

In the spirit of having a good time, despite poor performance, I thought I’d share the typical drink progression that occurs during a round of golf. 

Pre-Tee Off: Optimistic & Focused (Sort Of)

I typically start my day at the course with a screwdriver (vodka and orange juice) or a screwup (same but add a splash of Sprite). What this drink says, is “I want to have a cocktail, but it’s early so I’ll have a breakfast beverage so people don’t think I’m too much of a lush.” The addition of orange juice somehow makes it instantly acceptable that you’re drinking vodka at a time of day that most bars aren’t even open yet.

One drink certainly does not impact my golf game negatively and there’s a chance I still strike the ball well. My breakfast beverage usually occurs in the clubhouse or on the range, so I’ll typically reload before hitting the course. 

A Few Holes In, Confidence Fading

I’d say around the fifth or sixth hole I’ve had at least one bogey, if not several. My cocktail is either finished or all of the ice has melted and is unacceptable for further consumption. The sixth hole tends to be the magic number when you start to see the beverage cart making its rounds.

The fact that the initial beverage-cart-encounter occurs around the time my first cocktail is in need of replenishment also leads me to believe that my consumption rate is socially acceptable. Why else would the timing be so consistent for patrons? It’s early, so I’ll stay with the breakfast-themed cocktails. 

The Turn, Not Setting the Course Record Today 

I assume most everyone knows what the turn is. However, if you are unfamiliar, the turn occurs after the ninth hole and before the tenth hole – turning from the front nine holes to the back nine holes of the course.

I like to stop at the clubhouse to get a quick sandwich and some water. I’m being honest, I do eat food and drink water, not just alcoholic beverages while golfing. This is also about the time that I switch to lower octane and start drinking beer. The course will always have a very interesting pricing structure for beer. Essentially, if you’re going to buy one beer you might as well buy six. When you buy a six-pack, the course will likely set you up with a cooler bag full of ice. There are two people per cart, three beers each over nine holes, so it makes financial sense. 

Are We Done Yet? I just hope I Stay Under 90 Today

The back nine is always more fun but less competitive. The music gets louder, you get louder, you lose more balls, you drink more beer. Someone in the group always has a bottle of alcohol to have shots when someone makes a birdie. This late in the game, no one is making birdies anymore, but that bottle still finds its way out of the golf bag. The second beverage cart phenomenon also occurs on the back nine. 

You will see the beverage cart more than twice throughout your round but the second encounter is even more well-timed than the first of the round. The cart will magically appear around the 17th hole.

“Do I need another drink to get through one more hole?” The answer is “no,” but you’re out of beer at this point, so why not? I say this encounter is more well-timed because you typically aren’t going to finish your beer in the span of one hole, which brings you right back to the clubhouse to finish your drink and conclude your round.

You’re back at the clubhouse with all of your friends so why not have some food and another drink while reminiscing about the stellar round of golf you just played? I can’t blame the course, it’s a strong strategy and it works most of the time. 

Finished (Or Are We?)

I love the “after-round glow.” You’re tired but you’re having so much fun you don’t even care. I’ve had some of the best times laughing it up and reminiscing about the great shots, making fun of the awful ones, while sitting on a patio at the course. We can hang out for hours after playing, and we often do. When the summer days are out-numbered by the winter days by a significant amount, you take advantage of every second of summer that you get. The appreciation for good weather is one of the things I’ve strongly developed living here over the years.

“A bad day of golf is better than a good day of work,” they say. For us, a bad day of golf is better than a great day of winter. 

This week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational is in a place that doesn’t have to worry about winter weather  Bay Hill in Orlando, Florida. 

The course plays at 7,454 yards and is a par 72. The course is Bermuda grass from tee to green. Greens should be rolling fast here. The greens are larger than the tour average, but the approach shots can be tricky. Some “around-the-green scrambling” skills will be helpful this week. The weather is looking to be windy at points which could intensify the need to be handy with scrambling. The average driving distance of the winners at this event is lower than the tour average. Greens in regulation here are also below the tour average. 

I’m looking at players with strong ball-striking, consistent short games and good recent form. I have one honorable mention who is not in form but I’ll get to him. 

Arnold Palmer Invitational Picks

Matthew Fitzpatrick ($9,800) 

Fitzpatrick is No. 1 in my model and he is significantly higher than any other player in the $9,000-and-above range. He is not a long hitter off the tee, but he can be fairly accurate. And I don’t mind his lack of distance this week. He hits greens and he putts.

He is in the top 10 for all of the metrics I looked at. Fitzpatrick is trending in the right direction with a fifth and an 11th in his last two PGA events. He also has a good course history here with only one missed cut in the last five years. He has finished T9, second, T13 and T27 here. Safe to say he knows the course. If it gets windy he can handle that as well. The downside is that he is looking to be about 23 percent owned. 

Cameron Davis ($7,900)

I love Cameron Davis this week. Over the last 12 rounds he is leading the field in shots gained total and he is No. 1 in DraftKings (DK) points. He is in the top 20 in almost every shots gained metrics for the same period of time. As far as recent form goes, he is one of the best. $7,900 almost feels too low for the points he can score. 

Matthew NeSmith ($6,900)

Matthew NeSmith is trending. Three top 20’s in his last three starts. No. 1 in my model for shots gained approach and No. 2 in greens in regulation gained. He’s also in the top 10 for the key approach distances. I’m not completely alone in liking him this week. He is by far the chalkiest play from the $6,000-price range at around 13 percent. I’ll find another way to differentiate my lineup this week. I feel like he’s close and I don’t want to miss it when he hits. 

Rory McIlroy ($11,500)

People may be starting to notice that Rory McIlroy is my guy! I can’t quit him. He has been hit-and-miss lately and I can’t remember the last time he came close to closing out a tournament. All of that being said, he is one of the best players in the game and could dominate at any time. He has phenomenal course history here, winning it before and leaving with three other top-10 finishes.

Even when he’s not winning, he scores DK points, he makes cuts and he rarely finishes outside of the top 10. People are down on him because he’s not winning every time he tees it up. I’m going to keep using McIlroy every week.

Other Golfers I Like This Week

Viktor Hovland ($10,600)

Patrick Reed ($10,200)

Tyrrell Hatton ($10,000)

Sam Burns ($8,400)

Chris Kirk ($7,000)

Thanks for reading, and good luck this week!

I use Fantasynational.com for analytics and statistical modeling. If you’re looking for an edge check them out!

Conor Coughlin @aRandomGr3nade

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