3:51 PM, Sunday, February 21st, 2016:
This will probably be a dry entry... wait, no, it will clearly bore most of you to tears, but it has to be written. It's the crux of what allows GolfKon to work year after year. And while some of the strategy and layout of GolfKon was indeed just good fortune after things were complete, the majority of what makes it "work" is hours upon hours of testing and angles and problem-solving.
Now of course, we have it. The balance is right, we have 3 1/2 years of stats and even the tiniest change could upset that. To understand THAT, you must understand what par truly means:
Par for GolfKon is the way you should hit every shot. Each hole is designed with relatively easy shots to make "par". The Par 2s and Par 3s have an area where you should aim for in order to complete the hole in 2 or 3 shots. Every hole also has a very makeable birdie shot with skill. That is important. It has to be skill and not luck to get a birdie, otherwise no one will want to play. Even the GolfKo hole... with skill you should get it over to the right side of the board and get a birdie.
Eagles on Par 3s however do and should require luck or have an equal risk of an off-course or extreme negative to attempting them. For our Par 3s, Holes 5, 6 & 7 require the skill to get a birdie with the chance of luck making it turn into an Eagle, and Holes 3 & 8 have a huge risk of an off-course to getting an eagle. Which is why there's rarely any eagles on 3 or 8... it's a better play to go for a birdie. The set-up and balance is perfect. It's why no mattter how many times we've played, we've only maxed out at (-9). Someday someone will get a (-10) but I've said it again and again, getting better than that defies all statistics. An (-11) would require 7 birdies and 2 eagles in one game... and Hole 9's birdie is statistically harder than some eagles... so, the chances of all that happening in one game? Astronomical. (-10) can happen though. No doubt. That's 6 birdies, 2 eagles and a par on 9. That will happen... just gonna probably take 1000 more games. To date, no one has ever gotten 3 eagles in one round. Ever.
So I tell you all of that to explain why this new Superman Tee idea is awfully risky from a competitive and statistical standpoint. What we're balancing is kind of the foundation of why we keep playing. If you make a mistake and add something that suddenly allows people to get more birdies on Hole 4 (a Par 2) than ever before? You've just changedthe competitiveness of the course. Early on? I actually did this: The infamous Hole 2/8 ramp:
This used to just be a straight shot under the Hole 3 tee. Leaves and shit got stuck in there and the real problem was that it was a dead spot and no matter how you hit the ball? It was either a 1 or a 2... nearly every time. The ball would just STOP there. It was also too much like Hole 1 and needed something more. Well I turned it into an absolutel tragedy for the unskilled players. However on the stats it had a strange effect: both birdies AND double bogeys went WAY up. It was now easier to get a birdie, but also a LOT easier to get a bogey or worse. In that sense, it was balanced... The risk/reward was OK and actually I did it in 2013 after only 2 tournaments. We can't make those kind of changes anymore...
...but then that tree came down, and we all started getting goofy:
Clearly dangerous, never would be part of regulation... butttttttt - it was in our brain. Then Don brought Marc McClure by the course last summer and we started talking about Jimmy Olsen themed hole. Since he was in Back to the Future as Marty McFly's brother Dave as WELL as Jimmy Olsen in Superman - it would make sense to make the Superman/Jimmy Olsen theme on Hole 4 since it's connected (literally) to Hole 7. I looked up at that tree stump and thought: Well there ya go... the option of taking off from a SUPER height (assuming you make it safe) would be pretty cool.
But why would you do that? It's clearly far more difficult than the normal Hole 4 tee... what's the incentive after awhile? I couldn't just get rid of the original tee because of the stats - the balance was already there. It's already the most difficult par 2 on the course... I didn't want to make it a Par 3 - then suddenly all the records have a massive asterisk. Gotta keep par for the course at 23 and have to somehow come up with an actual dilemma for players to choose between the two. Enter, the ZERO SHOT.
Whaaaaaaaaaat if, the enticement to go up to the Superman Tee is that your first shot is 0. Your second shot is now 1, your third shot is now 2, etc. It's still a Par 2, you're welcome to hit it from the normal tee which gives you a great chance at a birdie 1 and a par 2... but if you're really willing to take a risk you can walk up 4 steps and hit it from 4 feet higher than the green (risking an off-course that would bring you RIGHT BACK to that SAME tee) but you start at 0. There's a dilemma. However it's a dilemma that takes an extreme amount of planning because the second someone masters the Superman shot (not making it per se, just setting up for your second shot of 1) we've destroyed the original tee and the whole point of the "dilemma". What you want from a competitive standpoint is everyone going "AWWWWWWW SHIT" when the player takes the risk. It has to be a big risk otherwise we'll all take it. I believed I could make this happen and just said fuck it:  and built the stairs and safety wall. I'll throw in the video here that goes right into the beta testing, and then get into all the crazy issues and problem-solving that came up in the 3 hours 5 of us spent testing it...
Don has to make an entrance doesn't he... lol.
Alright, so even in that video we haven't shown the final layout but here's everything we ran into and had to work out:
1) Right off the bat, before anyone got there, I realized that if you hit the ball slowly and bounce it off the original tee? The speed is perfect and you can easily get it down to the hole for a possible hole-in-one 0 or a second shot 1. That can't happen.
2) Made a rule that you HAVE to hit it past the tee box... that the old tee is "kryptonite". We liked this rule, but it was still too easy to keep it on the green.
3) We moved the ramp off the stump higher to make the bounce more random, but then found that there's a point where the higher it goes? The closer it lands and strangely the easier it is to control. Ugh.
4) Toyed with having it be a 0 shot ONLY if you make it, but becoming your 2nd shot once it hits the green so as to avoid a constant string of birdies which would make everyone skip the original tee. Ended up feeling too contrived.
5) We zerored in on a solution to cut off the angle so you had NO CHOICE but to smack that fucker harder than you want in order to keep it on the green. If you have no choice but to hit it halfway down the hole in order for it even to be in play? The bounce will inevitably be more dangerous and even if you get it on the green the ball will be going so fast your chance of a hole-in-one is extremely low. You could still feasibly do it, but it would require the skill of keeping it on the green and then the luck of it hitting the wood in a random way as to pinball it in. So what we're left with is this:
You walk to Hole 4 and you can stand on the original Jimmy Olsen Tee and have your normal shot. Or if you're a gambler and think you can play the angle, you can certainly get the ball further down the hole with a zero attempt off the Superman Tee leaving you with a nice 1 shot or if you're super lucky, you MAKE the 0 shot...
...but you might end up really fucking yourself if you go off-course a couple times. Which thankfully means if you have a good game going? You're not taking the risk. If you do however? ALLLLL eyes are on you because you're taking a massive risk that will be awesome if it pays off.
After 3 hours of playing, Freddy did end up getting a hole-in-one, but it was before we nailed down the angle. Since that? It hasn't happened. It's hard. I mean, really hard. It's a total optical illusion. So much so Steven came up with a great idea: during the 4 round Labor Day tournament, we force you to have to choose it in ONE of your rounds, you decide when. I upped that by throwing the same challenge down for our 2 Match-Play events: you have to do it at least once. The interesting thing there is that for Labor Day, most players will probably choose to do it immediately to get it out of the way - but on Match-Play? There's no guarantee you get OUT of the first round, so players will probably put it off leaving the two final players with the burden in the championship round. NOW we have something. A legitimate, frightening prospect that will make or break a round, but won't change the scoring or the value of the records we have because the original Hole 4 tee is still the smarter shot. Especially after completing only 3 holes. I'd argue that the regular top players will start going for Hole 3 eagles before taking the Superman Shot when trying to get a great score in qualifying... but time will tell.
Whew. How long and dry was this entry?!!?!  LOL. But it was great fun to have the guys go through that with me because they got some insight into what I do with the course. They also really helped because they all play different. Steven doesn't take risks and was able to neutralize the height of the Superman Tee playing it safe almost immediately. Jimmy however just couldn't resist knocking that fucker out of the stratosphere and routinely got an off-course. Balancing those two extremes allowed me to find the middle ground needed. Listen, it's gonna be enticing no matter what. Walking up those steps is awesome. It feels epic. As the guy putting the story together of these tournaments we DESPERATELY needed a "choice" hole. There will most likely be one more for Hole 9... not a "0" hole, but a dark side (in front of the bar to the left of the green) and a light side (where the cup is already). Just haven't figured out the balance for that and have a ton of logistics to nail down as well on the dedication, etc.
So now I can go about the business of finishing off the Superman Tee, making the Jimmy Olsen Tee and of course retrofitting Hole 4 to have nice little nods to Superman. I have to be careful to avoid all copyrights, etc. but there's plenty of symbols that represent the franchise without being copyrighted. Diamond is cool without the S, etc.
Alright, had to get this entry done for future geeks that ever wondered about shit like this. Thanks to everyone who came out to help!