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Of oozlers and other games
As if golf wasn't hard enough with trying to make birdies, pars and bogeys, mankind has found a few ways to make the game even more complicated

I have to admit that I have been playing golf for more years than I care to remember, and although it has been a fabulous journey, during that time I think I have heard most of the golfing expressions and pretty well all of the jokes from around the world – and more often than once.

Anyway, I had a letter the other day about the terms used in everyday golf at club level, and for what it’s worth, I pass these little gems on to you. I’m sure you will have heard, and indeed played, some of them, but perhaps not all.

* Oozlum (plural: oozlers). That’s for the nearest shot to the pin on a short hole, but you must get down in one or two putts for a birdie or a par to claim it: three-putting gives a unit to the opposition. A unit can vary from 10p pence to £1,000, the latter figure probably arising years ago at Sunningdale Golf Club, then (and now!?) renowned for its high-stakes gambling.

* Press. Well, I’d heard of a ‘press’, but in other parts of the golfing world it’s also known as a ‘push’, ‘bump’, ‘roll’ or ‘roll the drums’. It singles out a bet made during a match, in addition to the original wager, by the current player or side who are down at the time. The press can run for only the number of holes remaining to be played – for example, if you’re two down and three to play, you can press, win the last three holes and maybe you’ll get your money back or even make a profit.

Some people think a press must be made immediately on going two down, but that isn’t necessarily so. On the other hand, some games have automatic presses. That happens when either side or competitor is two down. It sounds innocent enough but it can be very dangerous.

* Sandies. Here a unit can be won by getting up and down in two shots for a par or better from a bunker. In teamor fourball play, an individual wins the sandy for his side. An interesting variation is played at the Lakeside Club in North Hollywood, where a regular ‘sandy’ froma greenside bunker is worth one unit and an up and down froma fairway bunker is called a ‘super-sandy’, worth two units. Making a par on a hole when you’ve been in both a fairway and a greenside bunker is an ‘exotic sandy’, worth five units. (On the other hand, a ‘gritty’ is failure to get out with your shot.)

And there are plenty more where those came from.

A ‘golden sandy’ is holing out from a greenside bunker. Another name for that is a ‘golden ferret’. ‘Nitby’ stands for ‘not in the bunker yet’ – that’s when you're faced with one of those horrid pitch shots from a bare downhill lie with a bunker right in front of you.

A ‘ferret’ means holing out from off the green for a par or better, but using a putter does not qualify you for this accolade.

‘Woodies’ in the UK, ‘barkies’ in the US, are a side bet where a player hits a tree during the play of a hole but still ends up making a par or better. Your fellow competitors must hear it hit timber. Just seeing leaves falling doesn’t count. ‘Double barkies’, worth two units, are when two trees are hit with two different shots on the same hole and you still make a par or better.

‘Hissing Sid’ or ‘snake’ is a game between individuals in a group, with a wager on every hole or in nine-hole increments. The first player who three-putts gets the snake. If the betting is on every hole, he owes each player a unit and he holds the snake until someone else three-putts, whereupon he passes it on. Although it’s not etiquettely correct, when a player is faced with an awkward second putt, villainous players have been known to hiss gently.

A ‘reject’, also known as a ‘wipe-out’, is a stipulation made on the first tee whereby each player has the right to make his opponent replay four shots during a round. Now that can be very interesting!

So there you have it. I’m sure there are many other forms of betting on golf going on under various names around the UK and overseas, and I hope we’ll get some correspondence over the coming months from golfers who have their own terminology for these various and fun forms of wagering on this wonderful and crusty old game.

It’s all good, harmless, enjoyment – so long as it doesn’t get too serious, of course…

June 2009

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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