The Games We Play- Fantasy Golf

One of the more fun nights (and there were a lot) from my years of college was fantasy football draft night. Not that I ever really participated, being Australian I had about as much knowledge of the NFL as your average Under-12 Indian cricket team. But once a year all the guys from the golf course where our team practiced came over to our house and brought with them Fantasy draft guides, flip sheets, stat charts and booze – but not necessarily in that order of course.

These nights would inevitably dissolve into drunken arguments, taunts and rants on the upcoming fantasy football season, everybody deciding one way or another that they were the John Madden, the alpha-drafter, of this particular competition. Nowadays it seems every time I log onto, or one of the other major golf sights there is a new fantasy in the golfing world. Surprisingly, this golf fantasy does not involve Natalie Gulbis.

Fantasy golf has taken off over the last few years, growing in leaps and bounds to where it has now established itself alongside football and basketball as a legitimate fantasy sport. Golfweek features a “Fantasy Aces” article early every week with several writers providing their “expert” picks for the week. features a similar segment every week, as does Golf Channel on their “Inside the PGA Tour” show, while’s Fantasy League is one of the largest in the fantasy sports.

Like football and basketball, there are several ways these competitions can be run. The way that and run there competitions is thus – each week the individual picks one or more players (depending on the format) from the A, B or C player categories. For example, this week at the Northern Trust Open I might select Phil Mickelson in the A player category, Charlie Hoffman from the B player category, and Charles Howell III from the C player category. The players can move up or down in categories depending on their current money list and world ranking, or they can just remain in those categories for the entire year depending on how the contest is run. Most fantasy leagues have limits to how many times a player can be selected per season, and the contestants earn points depending on how their selection/s perform during that particular tournament.

Another way to run a fantasy league is the way we do it at my home course in Australia. My father sends out an email to all the “tippers” each week with a list of all the competitors on the PGA Tour in whatever tournament is being played that week. Each competitor can pick one player every week from the field, however that player may not be chosen again for the rest of the year. This format poses a particular challenge in that you can’t continually pick the same player every week when they appear to be in form. After running the competition for three or four years, our tippers have learned to “save” players like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or Padraig Harrington for the big money events like the majors or WGC Championships. About half the field missed out on picking Tiger last year when he only played 6 events before his season ending knee surgery.

This local competition has just about overtaken the club’s rugby tipping competition for fun as well as entrants. We now have guys competing via the magic of the Internet from the United States, Australia, the UK and India. There are several wives and girlfriends competing, and the camaraderie and trash talk is now coming thick and fast via email to each and every tipper. One of the locals, who shall remain nameless, has even gone so far as to bring spreadsheets to the club every Saturday morning with each competitor’s pick highlighted for all to follow.

In the first year for the competition I selected Camilo Villegas early in his rookie season. He performed well and he got me a tie for 3rd. One of the tippers wrote me an email, “Who the HELL is Camilo Villegas!” is all it said. I thought I was pretty smart back then. Unfortunately, after a few years the competition has caught up to me, in fact, it has blown by me withincreasing speed each year. With a vast amount of research going into the selections from almost all of the tippers I managed to finish 57th in a 60 person competition last season. At one stage in the season Kenny Perry went 1st, T24, T6, 1st, 1st, 6th, T66. I decided to wait until the T66 to pick him because it was a big-money event. Smart huh?

But my favourite fantasy golf story involves a well known pro – Englishman Luke Donald. One of the guys I play with on The Hooters Tour went to Northwestern with Luke and is a good friend of his. It turns out they had their own fantasy golf league going and Luke was a part of it. Their competition stipulated a player could only be chosen four times in the season. Luke managed to pick himself the first four weeks of the year. His reasoning? “I thought I was going to win every week.” Is Luke Donald in your tipping competition? It might not be Natalie Gulbis, but that’s some pretty cool fantasy golf.

One Response to “The Games We Play- Fantasy Golf”

  1. Rammy says:

    Spreadsheets are very important Nick, more important than sex.

    Have you ever gone a day without a spreadsheet!

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