Have you ever been playing a round of golf when you see a pin location and think, “Was the greenskeeper mad when he cut the hole? Does he even like golfers or is he just out there to torture everyone?”
Sometimes, a difficult pin position happens accidentally and part of playing golf. Other times, it’s something you can willingly sign up for in what’s referred to as a greenskeeper revenge tournament. Which is a superintendent’s dream where they get to do pretty much whatever they want to golfers.
These tournaments are not like your normal round of golf. It is pure torture in some instances, but it’s also one of the most entertaining rounds you will ever have. Luckily, it’s a team event so you and your favorite golfing buddies can go through war on the golf course together.
Keep reading to learn more about a greenskeeper revenge tournament and why you should sign up for one as soon as possible.
Greenskeeper Revenge Golf Tournament
Golf is hard enough, but if you want to make it even harder, find yourself a greenskeeper revenge tournament. This type of event is also known as an impossible scramble or superintendent’s revenge, which describes the event perfectly.
Let me start by saying, this is not your average tournament or normal round of golf by any means. This is where the greenskeeper and their staff get to make the golf course as hard as humanly possible. In some cases, it’s beyond hard and just ridiculous or silly, but that’s the point.
They will pull out every trick in the book to make the golf course feel like a major championship venue is for the professionals. They want you to earn every stroke and walk away feeling exhausted (which I’m sure you will). Luckily, they’re usually only one day events because that’s all golfers and the course can usually handle.
I’ve had the “honor” of playing in several events and can say they’re a ton of fun. Sure, they’re diabolically hard, but they’re actually very funny as well. You and your team will need to play your best golf in order to stand any chance against the course.
Before getting into how the course is set up 10X harder than an average day, let’s talk about the format.
Superintendent Revenge Format
One of the many reasons golf is so much fun is because there are tons of formats to compete. Sure, traditional stroke play is fun, but you can also play events like:
- Match play
- Alternate Shot (or Worst ball which is the harder version)
For greenskeeper revenge tournaments, the format is generally a scramble. Additionally, some golf courses might require 3-4 tee shots from each player, so one person doesn’t carry the team off the tees. This makes things interesting so recruit each golfer wisely.
I’ve played in 2-man scrambles, 4-man scrambles, and a best ball with a partner. I’ll say the best-ball with a partner was not fun, as you have to see your individual score after 18 holes which is humbling to say the least.
But the scramble format is much more enjoyable and depending on how hard they make the course, the only way to make it reasonably fair. Preferably, try to find a 4-man event as I think they’re the most fun and take a lot of pressure off individual scores.
Even though it’s a scramble format, don’t expect scramble scores you tend to see at your local golf course. For example, if a 4-man scramble winner is -20 in 18 holes, expect it to be about half (or less) in these types of events.
Plus, mulligans aren’t something you can usually purchase in the pro shop like a lot of other scrambles. These events don’t have a bogey max rule either so scores can get pretty high, pretty quick (even with a team of four good golfers). They might also have long drive holes, closest to the pins, or longest putts on certain holes as well.
So, what makes these tournaments so much more difficult than a normal setup?
Playing the Tips
The first defense a golf course has is distance.
If you play the white tees normally, simply moving back to the blue or tips will make a huge difference in your approach shots to the green. Instead of hitting a wedge or short iron into an average length par 4, now you have a mid to long iron.
In this type of event, they usually make the course as long as possible by playing the tips. Expect your back foot to be in the rough because the tee markers are so far on the back of the box to make each hole as long as possible. But to make it even more impossible, they might even do one of two things:
- Create a new tee box by mowing the grass down short and making it longer or giving you a tough angle.
- Additionally, they might use a different tee box from a separate hole to also make it longer or force a long carry off the tee box. Usually, more trees, water, and other obstacles will come into play as well.
This is why it’s a good idea to always have at least one bomber off the tee in your group. Even if they don’t have the best accuracy with a driver, having someone who can carry it over hazards or other trouble is key to scoring decently in these events.
Expect the course to play every yard of the tip distance and then some. Also, make sure to double-check where the boxes are aimed. A lot of times the superintendent will aim them into the trees or rough without you realizing it.
Rock Hard Greens
One of the times these tournaments occur is directly before the course is shutting down for maintenance or overseed. For example, in Arizona, all courses close 2-4 weeks in October for overseed season.
But the final round is usually a tournament like this, with names like “Rock Hard Open” and more. Since the course is shutting down for some time, they can dry it out and make the greens feel like Shinnecock Hills in a US Open. Even if you live in a location that isn’t overseed, expect the greens to be faster than normal.
When greens are super firm, it makes it nearly impossible to spin the golf ball and have to play for bounce. Plus, they’re superfast (usually an 11 or more on the stimpmeter) to make putting a lot more challenging than normal.
Additionally, greenskeepers can also mess with players by only mowing certain parts of the green. On some holes, they might only mow every other section, resulting in different speeds which is a nightmare for players to navigate. Or, “forget” to mow around the cup, so the greens are slow as putts get closer to the hole.
While the greens are challenging, don’t forget about the pin positions either.
Insane Pin Positions
The final defense to make the event feel as grueling as Sunday in a major championship is the pin locations. Normally, in a tournament they set the pins with the 6-6-6 rule.
Meaning, six easy pin locations, six moderate pins, and six hard pins. But all bets are off in a greenskeeper revenge tournament and no mercy is given.
Expect all 18 holes to be in the absolute worst places imaginable and better hope your putting is on that day. This is the time when the superintendent gets out all his frustration on golfers who forget to fill divots or repair ball marks on the greens.
The pins are usually located:
- Directly behind bunkers or water hazards.
- 2-3 paces off the edge of the green (basically the fringe).
- Directly below a large slope or tier making a downhill putt impossible.
- One pace on top of a huge hill, false front, or tier. If you miss the putt, expect them to go 10-12 feet past the hole (or more) depending on the severity of the slope.
Or, sometimes they will leave the flag out completely on some greens. This will force you and your partners to hit different parts of the green and hope to find one close to the cup.
More Greenskeeper Revenge Ideas
While you should expect the course to play long, the greens to play fast, and the pins nearly impossible, they can make it even harder. This is where it gets borderline fun vs. silly and depends on your greenskeeper’s sense of humor.
Here are some of the other things I’ve heard about from fellow golfers who compete in these sadistic events:
- Miniature holes. Another way they can make the course even more challenging is with non-regulation cups. I’m sure you’ve seen these on some courses as a practice aid where the hole is barely bigger than a golf ball. This makes putting nearly impossible as you will need the perfect speed to find the bottom of the cup.
- Huge holes. While miniature holes are challenging, sometimes they’ll make them 2-3x the size of a normal cup… which you think would make the hole easy. But when they make the hole larger than normal, they will usually cut the pin on a slope or ridge. When they cut holes like this, you will be glad it’s a scramble format.
- Multiple holes on the green. This is pretty funny but sometimes greenskeepers will cut four more holes around the original hole. This will make players putt around those four in order to find the original pin and penalized if they find one of the four others. Or, they might conveniently leave bushes, branches, and other obstacles on the green too.
- Tee off from fairway bunkers. Golf is too easy when you get to tee it up from a nice, plush tee box with three other partners, right? Sometimes, they’ll move the markers into the absolute worst fairway bunker on the hole and make you play from there.
- One club rule. Grab your favorite club from the bag and play it from tee to green. I like a mid-iron or hybrid in these scenarios as you can hit it pretty long and it’s versatile around the greens.
- No clubs until the greens. If you can’t use one of your 14 weapons, it’s time to throw it to the green before you get to use your putter on the greens. This might happen on short par 3’s so hopefully someone has a baseball past and a cannon of an arm. Don’t injure your shoulder trying to throw too hard.
- Mini-golf like greens. In some instances, I’ve seen the greens change from a normal golf course to one that looks like you’re at a family fun center. Greenskeepers can mess with players even more by adding hoses, rakes, and other obstacles in the way. There’s usually no direct shot for the cup and requires some serious imagination from players to find the bottom of the hole.
- Obstacles on your drive or approach shot. Finally, I’ve seen greenskeepers leave their mowers, tractors, and other equipment in the way to affect your tee shot or approach to the green. Or, they might “accidentally” leave a loud leaf blower on for a par 3 or other challenging shot to distract players. If you try to move an obstacle, it’s an automatic DQ.
While not all tournaments will be this silly, you just never know what the staff will put together. If the greenskeepers could get bad weather to make it harder, I’m sure they would. As I mentioned in the beginning, this is not your normal 4-man scramble.
If you enjoy a good challenge on the links, this is the type of golf format / tournament for you and your buddies. While the great players who invented this game might not approve, I can say they’re pretty fun and worth the money.
Greenskeepers revenge tournaments are truly unique to golf and another reason that we love this sport so much. Plus, they’re usually for charities and other good causes too.
Most of the time these events are for a good cause so don’t get too frustrated with the results and have some fun with your buddies. Take your patience pills (or bring some beer) to laugh off the inevitable bad shots and make the most of the brutal day of golf.
Finally, don’t forget to tip your cap and compliment the greenskeeping team on the challenge they set up.