“Get a good picture of this birdie I’m about to make,” Zane Cobb said confidently from the green on the fifth hole of L.A. Nickell Golf Course on Friday. His wife and teammate, Jessica Cobb, laughed and shook her head. While they sometimes oppose each other on the fairways, for the past two years they’ve been playing as partners on one Friday a month in the spring and summer.
The couples tournament that the Cobbs play in is called “Whiff and Giggle Golf,” but with golf balls narrowly missing carts and other golfers, it very well could be called “Duck and Cover Golf.” The location alternates between L.A. Nickell and Lake of the Woods Golf Course, but the rules remain the same. For a $30 entry fee, each team is assigned a cart, a scorecard and a hole to begin their evening on the greens. It is a scramble tournament, which means that each couple hits from the spot of the best ball on each shot. Because of that element to the tournament, scores are generally low, despite a low skill level by most of the golfers.
Dave Stone, the course manager at L.A. Nickell, said couples tournaments are a staple in mid-Missouri. The Boonville Country Club calls its version “Jack and Jill Golf,” and at Eagle Knoll it’s called “Bucks and Does Golf.” Stone said Columbia’s “Whiff and Giggle Golf” has become a large draw since its inception in 2005.
“We’ll get as many as 40 couples each Friday,” Stone said in his office, just after the couples sped off from the clubhouse to start the tournament. “Tonight, we have 26 teams, and somewhere around 28 to 30 is normal.”
With the couples coming from varying golfing backgrounds, each tournament is divided into three flights once the scorecards are turned in.
“What we end up doing is cutting it,” Stone said. “Say we have 28 teams. When the scorecards are in, we go sort them from best to worst. After the first nine scorecards, you cut it. Then after the next 9, another cut. The flights make sure that everyone is competing against other teams in their own skill level.”
The sorting system means that even beginners have a chance to walk home with a prize: a Hy-Vee gift certificate.
Stone said that the name of the tournament helps draw a bigger crowd.
“That’s why we call it a Whiff and Giggle, instead of a couples’ scramble,” Stone said, “because whiff is a term used when you swing and miss a golf shot. It makes it look like more of a fun golf outing, instead of something competitive, so the beginners will come out and play.”
On these Fridays, the competitive nature of most of the golfers is quelled, making the tournament a social gathering. That competitive streak for the Cobbs isn’t hidden well, however. They make side bets with the other couples in their group, with the winning team of each hole receiving $5 from the other two teams.
“It’s a good way to have fun and get away from the house,” Zane Cobb said after his birdie putt on the fifth hole.
“We play with friends, so it’s a good way to spend time with them,” Jessica Cobb said.
On the third hole, Brenda McClelland sizes up a shot from the rough, with the green easily reachable. She takes in the evening sun, at her back in a brilliant blue sky. She settles, pauses and begins her stoke.
“Oh, no,” she mutters as her ball slices badly and hits a tree.
No worries, though. With the tournament being a scramble, her husband, Jim McClelland hits from his wife’s spot and sticks his shot on the green.
“It’s a fun, social thing,” Brenda McClelland said about the tournament. “It’s just relaxing.”
Cisco Trigo, and his girlfriend Jill Hamilton, brought out two of their friends for their first tournament. Trigo said they had entered the tournament before, but looked forward to playing with their friends for the first time.
“It’s just a real fun, low-keyed time,” Trigo said. “Drinking and playing golf leisurely.”
The next Whiff and Giggle couples scramble is scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17, at Lake of the Woods golf course.