Introduction to Match Play Madness

Dave Tutelman -- September 23, 2005

Match Play Madness (MPM) is a variation of golf invented by David "Thor" Collard and intended to be the bare-bones essentials of the game (or the "gemme", as he insists on calling it). It is golf as he imagines it was in the beginning, before the golf-lawyers started putting in rules to cover every eventuality. His views are expressed in more detail in his own article on the subject.

Here are....
I was about to say, "Here are the basics," but the whole thing is so basic that this short article contains everything you need to know about MPM.

There is only one rule. Well, one rule in two parts, as follows:
The "decisions" are equally simple. There is one decision:
At this point, you should know everything there is about MPM. But I'm sure the implications haven't sunk in yet. So let me review some of the consequences of these simple rules.
  1. No relief. Not from anything! Your ball came to rest on a paved cart path? Hit it from the cart path. Think you get the idea? Think again, there's more.
  2. "No relief" applies to water hazards as well. Hit it in the lake? You're out of the hole, unless you can see the ball and hit it where it lies in the lake. (This has been done in MPM events, with varying degrees of success.)
  3. "Out of the hole" is not the same as "lost the hole". It is OK to insist that your opponent finish out the hole. This situation usually results in a concession once your opponent has passed all the "sticky" places where he/she is likely to lose a ball.
  4. Out of bounds? There is no such rule as OB in MPM; just "play the course as you find it." If you can find the ball OB, you can play it with no penalty. MPM is the only format where I have ever heard, "He is not only in the parking lot, he has a bad lie in the parking lot."
  5. You can't mark the ball on the green. Consider the ball a "third rail" until it is holed; touch it and you're dead -- or at least out of the hole.
  6. You cannot improve your lie by any of the normally legal means. That's what "play the course as you find it" and "No you can't" mean. For instance, you can't remove twigs or leaves around your ball. You can't clear leaves -- or anything -- from the line of your putt. You can't repair ball marks on the green until you've finished the hole. If you suffer a mental lapse and do any of these, you're out of the hole.
  7. In fact, you can't ask for a cart to be moved if the cart was there when your ball arrived. (No, your opponent can't deliberately park the cart between your ball and the hole after your ball got there. You can ask for the cart to be moved in this case, to return the course to the way it was when you finished your last shot.)
  8. If your ball in or near a sand trap is tangled in a rake, you have to hit it from the rake. You can't remove the rake. We have some pretty cool photos of exactly that situation from real MPM competition.
  9. In case of a conflict, see the Decision. For instance... "My approach shot landed on the green. My opponent's shot, made after I hit mine, created a ball mark between my ball and the hole. May I fix the ball mark to restore the course to the way it was when my ball arrived?" See the Decision! Basically, you can paraphrase it, "If you have to ask, the answer is 'no'."
I believe you get the idea now.

BTW, it is considered really bad form to keep your stroke score for the round. This is match play, not stroke play; you count strokes only until the hole is decided; then the state of the match is all that matters. Some MPM events make it a DQ offense to be caught writing strokes on a scorecard.

Memorable MPM Moments

At RSG-Ohio, we play nine holes of Match Play Madness as the Saturday afternoon round. Since there are roughly as many locals as those who traveled from out-of-state, we play "Ohio vs the Rest of the World" as if it were the Ryder Cup singles matches. Here are some Saturday afternoon accounts, some with photos or videos, that have quintessential Match Play Madness moments.