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Bribe the starter to begin on the visually-intimidating, forced-carry No. 10 and watch your great golfing buddy crumble.
Bribe the starter to begin on the visually-intimidating, forced-carry No. 10 and watch your great golfing buddy crumble. (GolfPublisher.com)

Winning golf bets as a hopeless high handicapper within your shaky reach

Chris BaldwinBy Chris Baldwin,

LA QUINTA, Calif. - Life's great pleasures can be too few and fleeting. Scoring the winning run in that Little League game. Collecting that first paycheck. Getting married. Remembering that bachelor party (while hoping your wife forgets). Having your first child. Winning a golf bet against that obnoxious, much superior player.

Okay, maybe that last one ranks slightly lower on the scale.

Slightly. Maybe.

For scant things in adulthood can match the pure fun of collecting money on the golf course. It doesn't matter if it's a mere $2 Nassau or a $1-per-hole, par-or-better-to-win carryover game. The point is you won the cash, took it right out of your opponent or friend's pocket.

Poker, for all its TV event/casino tournament play craze, can never compare. After all, poker's a game that depends on chance, on the luck of the draw in many ways. No matter what all those math whizzes playing it on-line try to convince you. A golf bet win on the other hand comes down to your skill.

Even if that drive bounced off the rocks, skipped across the pond, zinged a house and shot back onto the center of the fairway.

Hey, you still hit that shot. Now pay up sucker!

"There's nothing better than taking the cash," Fort Worth golfer Richard Martin said after doing just that on a Palm Springs area golf vacation. "Nothing better, my man."

The shame is that many high handicappers never get to experience that rush. There are dozens of reasons cited to explain why people take up golf, only to give it up: the cost to play, the time it takes to play, the sheer difficulty in learning the often maddening game ... yada, yada, yada.

No one brings up the fact that when you're first beginning or just plain bad, you don't get to win any golf bets.

It doesn't have to be that way, though. Not by a shanked shot. It's possible to hit your driver every which way, to pop fairway woods straight up in the air, to send your wedge shots flying over the green into another county and still walk away with your pockets stuffed with George Washingtons. (Hey, you stink, you don't want to get crazy and start playing for high stakes).

It turns out there's a perfect course for the horrific hacker to get his revenge. Probably, the last course you'd ever expect. It just happens to be arguably the hardest course in the United States, the one which noted hacker torturer/celebrity architect Pete Dye was told to make the most difficult course in the world. Yes, we're talking legendarily fearsome PGA West TPC Stadium Course.

Believe it or not, this 151-slope-rating monster in the Palm Springs valley is your great equalizer.

"Good golfers get freaked out by it," said Tim Hurja, a Palm Springs golf packaging company owner who's pretty much heard every Dye horror story in Coachella Valley.

Which is exactly the point. If you're a pathetic golfer already, why not choose a stage that makes those annoying sub-five-handicap golfers feel like they've had four double shot Starbucks expressoes and six cans of Red Bull? Dye's PGA West TPC Stadium turns those normally ultra-confident, wraparound-sunglass-wearing, smooth-swinging he-men into what California's governor would term "girlie men."

In other words, more like you.

"He always beats me on our home course," Illinois golfer Steve Chambers said, pointing at his buddy setting up on the tee. "But here I can tell he's a little more nervous, a little more tentative.

"I might be winning myself some money today."

That's the spirit. Attack those good golfers when they're experiencing self doubt. What do you have to doubt? You're sure you stink. Nothing Pete Dye can do to your game that hasn't been done before.

At PGA West TPC Stadium, a pitiful game is its own defense.

The rules

Don't just show up at PGA West TPC Stadium with your double-digit handicap expecting to destroy your great golfing buddies. This is a con game that takes a little preparation. Even the guy who sold the Brooklyn Bridge thought up a little story.

Following some simple rules will dramatically increase your chances for success. (Don't worry. None of them actually involve working on your game on the range. Practice, we're talking practice?! No, we're not talking practice.

Bribe the starter to begin on the back nine: It takes money to make money, right? Everyone from Donald Trump to that 3 a.m. infomercial scammer preaches as much. And what's it going to take to grease a starter, anyways? Most of these guys are retired golf nuts living on a fixed income, getting their kicks out of giving Mr. Smarty Pants grave instructions.

Throwing the guy a few range balls might do the trick. If worse comes to worse, just listen to one of his golfing fish tales.

It will be well worth the trouble. For the back nine at PGA West TPC Stadium is the much tougher, much more visually intimidating nine. You want your good golfer adversary to start out without any chance of catching his breath.

If you're lucky, he'll pop his first shot into the sizable water clear right off the 10th tee and the doubt will be on. More than likely, you'll splash your tee shot as well, but who cares. That's to be expected.

Advantage: stinky golfer.

Raise the stakes on No. 16: This 600-yard par 5 looks like just the kind of hole your superior golfing buddy should hold a huge advantage at on the scorecard. Its drawing is fairly straight, its 16 handicap rating suggests something almost mundane. Once again, that's on the scorecard.

In real life, it's a devil with more bite than Cujo. No. 16 plays along down in a valley with steep hills on its very bunched in sides. It curves left, has a green about as reachable as Jupiter.

Watch the golfer who routinely takes your money go for it and send a shot rocketing up over the hill and down below into the next fairway. All the while, you just punch a few conservative shots up the fairway and collect an easy bogey win.

Encourage redos on No. 17: This is the infamous par 3 island green, the one with the plaque commemorating Lee Trevino's hole in one during a Skins Game. Your playing foe is much more liable to hit one into the drink and be pumped up to try it again and again and again.

Let him fire away. Shrug off that local rule about three shots from the tee maximum that's geared to stop 17 rubbernecking. Meanwhile, you go to the drop area and collect your easy win.

Who knew being bad could be so much fun? And profitable.

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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