Neal Shipley’s putt slid past the hole, the large gallery gathered on the 14th
green at Cherry Hills Country Club gasped.
His opponent, Nick Dunlap was now four holes up with four holes to
play. As the players made their way to
the 15th tee the crowd was abuzz with anticipation to see just how
the country’s oldest championship would be decided.
As I eavesdropped on the whispered conversations, the word
“dormie” spread throughout the crowd. As
I listened more intently, it became clear that most of those in attendance
assumed that Shipley, not Dunlap was now “dormie.”
Despite the USGA and R&A’s best efforts, golfers have
never quite grasped the concept that the word “dormie” is actually a good
thing. A quick Google search tells us
that the term “dormie” comes from the French verb—“dormir” meaning “to
sleep”—the idea being that a player who is dormie (as many holes up as there
are remaining in the match) can now relax and “sleep” their way to a win.
As part of the 2019 Rules of Golf modernization, the word
dormie was expunged from the Rules of Golf.
Today, a search for “dormie” in the Rules of Golf App returns a message,
“we couldn’t find anything for your request.”
The loss of dormie saddens me. I
miss dormie, partly due to its misuse.
Without dormie in play, watching the Ryder Cup is much less
interesting. Television commentators no
longer need to dance around the word with the fear of facing a slippery
downhiller for par. Without dormie,
rules purists can no longer watch televised match play with the hope of seeing
a Nascar-like crash where a commentator misuses “dormie” at a critical point in
the competition. Throughout the world,
spirited arguments over the word’s meaning will be replaced with far less
interesting discussions of whether a match is “tied” or “all square.”
If the topic of “dormie” interests you, you might check out
one of golf’s great literary short stories entitled “Dormie One” by Holworthy
Hall. The story chronicles the final
hole of a match written from the point of view of the player who is “Dormie
One” – one hole up with one to play. The
story artfully describes the nuance of match play and the layered intrigue that
comes with the mano-a-mano experience that only match play affords.
Finally, if your interest here extends beyond dormie to the
larger subject of golf terms and usage, tune into this month’s Spirit of the
Game Podcast where Lewis Harry and I go deep and share our views and opinions
on why words matter when it comes to the Rules of Golf.
P.S. One of my most memorable days on the golf course was
playing a match where I was “dormie five” and eked out a “one-up” win…my hands
still shake when I think about it!
P.P.S. If you have a “dormie” story…please drop
me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. Believe it or not, I don’t get much feedback
on my monthly messages and it is starting to affect my self-esteem!