Can We Settle This “Dormie” Thing Once and For All?!

This is going to be the sort of post that only golf nerds care about. Don’t attempt to discuss this topic with someone who couldn’t give two eff’s about golf.

So, I’m watching the US Amateur on Saturday when I notice Paul Azinger use the term “dormie” to describe the status of the match between Nick Carlson and Curtis Luck. Joe Buck would later use the term for the match between Brad Dalke and Jonah Texeria.

I had been lead to believe that the term “dormie” could only apply to matches where a halve was guaranteed. The term is used constantly at events like the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup and Solheim Cup. In these matches, the maximum amount of holes played per match is 18. Therefore, if player A is 2up on player B after 16 holes, player A is guaranteed at least 1/2 point for their team. If player A wins or ties holes 17 or 18, they win the match.

In elimination match play, such as that seen at the U.S. Amateur and the WGC World Match Play, matches are either won or lost. If the match is tied after 18 holes, the match goes to a sudden death playoff, taking as many holes as needed to complete the match.

The term “dormie” originates from the Latin conjugate dormire, or “to sleep”. See also the French verb dormir, which also means “to sleep”. That is, being “dormie” in a match gives a player/team a match status wherein that they could figuratively “go to sleep” because they were in a position where they could NOT lose.

My interpretation of this is matches that end on 18 can go “dormie” because there can be a state of a match where one player/team will receive at least 1/2, if not 1 point for the match. That is, there can be a guaranteed state of not being able to lose the match. On the other hand, matches that don’t necessary end on 18 don’t have that guarantee, and hence cannot go “dormie”.

It seems not everyone agrees on this.

Confident of my view point, I mentioned Fox’s Joe Buck on Twitter, noting his usage of the term “dormie”:

Much to my surprise, Joe (or, more likely based on the response, someone handling his Twitter account) provided a response. Since it didn’t really answer anything, I replied back:

Much to my surprise, Buck’s Twitter account responded to me again. This one might have actually been him, since apparently he conferred with former USGA rules czar David Fay on the question. He appeared to see my argument, but David Fay didn’t agree with it.

Of course, I also don’t agree with David Fay and his cronies’ that Dustin Johnson moved his ball at Oakmont in the U.S. Open, but that’s another story. That movement could have easily come from someone blaring their subwoofers on the PA turnpike, sound waves reverberating against the 15 stimped greens.

Indeed, if you listen to the scorers at a USGA event, like at this year’s U.S. Amateur, you would hear them use the term “dormie”.

I’m not the first person to call the usage of dormie at an elimination match play event on Twitter. This guy made the same comment last year.

Searching for “dormie” in the rules book, once quickly comes upon Rule 2-1 of the USGA Rules of Golf states, “A side is ‘dormie’ when it is as many holes up as there are holes remaining to be played.”

Even PGA pros differ on the interpretation. When I asked the head professional of my club, he sided with the USGA’s interpretation. However, when I asked another pro friend of mine, he sided with me.

At the end of the day, it appears the USGA party line is that any match that is X up with X to play is considered dormie. However, I still don’t agree with that. Nick Carlson was 1up with 1 to play in his semi-final match against Curtis Luck. As Nick found out, he couldn’t really afford to “go to sleep” in his match as he wasn’t guaranteed anything. In fact, after losing the hole with a double bogey, he would later go on to lose the match in 21 holes.

It was fascinating to see the exchange and variance of opinions on the term “dormie”. What do you think? Is the USGA right? Is my interpretation, and others, more accurate?

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5 comments on “Can We Settle This “Dormie” Thing Once and For All?!
  1. Interesting stuff. I think you two are both basically saying the same thing but coming to different conclusions. What I mean to say is I see your point, but also the USGA’s. They are saying a match is dormie when it gets to that point, but ignoring the fact of extra holes. It would make sense not to say it, but I see why they do. Good post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I found it quite fascinating the differences of opinions across the spectrum of the golf world; even amongst PGA Pros. I won’t call anyone out on it anymore, but I’ll choose to use it only during where I feel it appropriate. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jim Wilson says:

    It seems that the one who is dormie is the played who is the same number of holes up as are left in the match…the golfer who is down certainly cannot “relax” – so it isn’t the match that is dormie….what do we think?


    • John Bell says:

      Dear Mr.Titschinger,I have wondered about this for sometime as I have heard commentators use the term “dormie” at the US Amateur Champioships,which I am watching right now and just heard the term misused again.I agree with you 100 % and disagree with both the USGA’s and Mr.Fay’s somewhat literal position.A match cannot go “dormie” if it can go past 18 holes,in which case any player can win.”Dormie” therefore applies to Ryder Cup but not to USGA Anateur Championship match play situations.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Steve says:

    I agree. The number of holes left to play is indeterminable. In theory, there could be an infinite number of holes left to play. So to say for example, 2 up with 2 to play isn’t accurate because we don’t know that there are only 2 left to play!


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