What Kind of Golfer are You?
One of the great truths of golf is that people’s true personalities come out on the course. Although you can hide your deficiencies in your workplace or around the house with relative ease, this game has a way of demanding one’s concentration so fully, self consciousness seems to vanish in the process. Like it or not, on the course, we revert to the essence of our primordial selves. I’ve been studiously taking notes for the last thirty years on the different manifestations of golfer out there, I know which one I am, the question is, which one are you?
This guy never met a par four he didn’t want to drive or a water carry he couldn’t make. You usually spot him taking full cuts with a fifty inch driver next to the first tee, maniacally destroying the local dandelion population before teeing off. As you’re wondering whether he’s in your group or just a serial weed killer he introduces himself with a bone crushing handshake, “the name’s Mick” he states flatly, holding your gaze uncomfortably long. As the group in front gets about two fifty out, without enquiring what you play off, he’ll inevitably say, “You hit champ, they’re still in range for me.” Once, in 1974, downhill, on a country course with fairways the texture of a WACA pitch on day one, and a cyclone behind him, he carried a drive 230 and it rolled another 50 meters, since then he’s told everyone he hits it “around three hundred.” “I’m playing a Nuclear Velocity four,” he announces smugly as he tees up, followed by a little giggle and a wink, “got ‘em off the in-ter-net.” As he hits his first drive and snap hooks it into the rough on the far side of the next fairway he exclaims “That felt #$%@@# great, wait till I get my timing you little white @!$%#.” You’re not sure whether he’s referring to you or the ball.
The score for this guy is some incidental anomaly the pros have to think about. The real score is the test of manhood, between you and him. Every time you hit from the same distance and on every par three, the challenge comes, “What club d’ya hit?”, then the incredulous “really.” He’s always hit two less, sometimes three. The fact that he plays every iron off his right foot, and hoods it so his pitching wedge comes out hotter than Tigers two iron stinger, is of course irrelevant. Looking in his bag you also notice he’s crudely changed the six on his six iron to an eight with a black marker pen, and his seven to a nine.
Aggressor is always a ‘charge’ putter, “never up never in” he choruses as he clocks up his sixth four putt of the round. He’s never chipped out sideways from the trees in his life, living by the adage that they’re 90% air. From bunkers he takes the phrase ‘sand blast’ literally, success being measured by how much sand he can remove and deposit on the green.
Aggressor is delusional, and a mild irritant to play with but he’s unlikely to inflict permanent damage on your game. That role is reserved for the Lucifer of the golfing world, he whose name should not be spoken. Yes you’ve guessed it, it’s Mr Free Advice, “The Coach.”
This guy is always on his own, gee I wonder why….. “I usually just put my name down on the time sheet, I like to meet new members” he says innocuously. Guess what? No one ever plays with this guy twice. You introduce yourself and he introduces himself with his self appointed nickname, “I’m Coach.” That’s nice you think, probably coaches the local under fifteens footy team, looks like a nice old bloke to spend an afternoon with. No such luck, in four hours time the ridiculous grin on the assistant pro’s face as he took your comp fee, is going to make perfect sense.
“That’s a nice natural looking action,” Coach says cheerfully as you take a few looseners. “Thanks, I’m only off twenty” you answer, a bit embarrassed. Coach is already moving in for the kill. He hits off first. If you’ve ever wondered what a swing sequence from a magazine might look like if you connected the positions then played them in slow motion, well wonder no more, this is coach’s swing. The ball sounds like it’s been hit with a feather duster, it carries all of a 120, gives up and falls straight down. You’ve never seen a trajectory like it. Good shot? you venture, unsure. The ball’s stopped rolling but Coach is still poised in the most perfectly balanced follow through you’ve ever seen, time stands still. “Thanks” he finally says, without a hint of irony.
Probably hard of hearing you think as you tee up and wrap your hands into the gnarled mess you euphemistically refer to as your grip, silently repeating your tried and tested one successful swing thought, ‘Hit Ball’, you swing and almost miss. Hang on a minute, was that a voice in your head or did someone say “nice and easy” at the top of your swing? You look around but coach is just smiling benevolently. Must have read it in a golf book somewhere, somehow lodged in the cerebellum, weird, first time for everything you think as you trudge towards the flower garden just short of the ladies tee.
Over the next four hours Coach manages to force-feed you more golf tips than Leadbetter on speed. He’s got you setting it early, holding a waiters tray, separating your knees, and shifting weight to places you didn’t know existed. As you come up the last, you need to make a bogey for 131, your highest score ever. You make nine, after double hitting a chip when coach told you to imagine you were flipping pancakes out of a pan. You turn to Coach, seething, nothing comes out but silence. “You’ll get the hang of it” he says casually, “Let’s play a few more”. “NO” is all you can get out, between teeth clenched so tightly you could strain electrons through them.
If Coach is super positive, our next sub-species plums the depths of the golfer’s soul, for he is The Complainer.
This guy was born holding a glass half empty. Nothing’s ever quite right. His new glove’s too tight, his ball’s unbalanced, your swing rhythm’s putting him off. For the Complainer there are no velvet green fairways, soft caressing breezes, or warming sunrays. Golf is just another chore to get through before he can get home and start complaining about something else. Every green you hit or putt you hole is another irritant. “Wish I had some weirdo stroke that could hole putts on these greens” he says with an absolute straight face as you walk of the sixth. “They’re a bit slow, but they’re pretty true,” you reply trying to be positive. “Yeah right…. what-ev-er” he says, looking to the heavens.
The trouble with the Complainer is he never got past base camp in understanding the true essence of golf. Golf is inherently unfair. Of course that perfectly struck three wood headed for the heart of the green is going to catch the smallest of mounds, and finish under the lip of the bunker, that’s what’s supposed to happen. The physical laws in the golfing world are almost the exact opposite of what happens in the rest of life. What should fall down, stays up. Pitched marginally short of a green, your white spherical object, ordinarily designed to roll, inexplicably doesn’t. Unless of course, it lands short of a water hazard, then gaily fleet footed, it skips on like a dehydrated rabbit. We all understand this, it’s why we play. Once you’ve successfully dealt with the unfairness of golf, the unfairness of life is a small inconvenience. Complainer can ruin your day, in fact he can ruin the whole field’s day if he puts his mind to it, but at least you can ignore him.
Our next guest gives you no such option, you know him, and you hate him, that’s right it’s The Talker.
If one of the base elements of golf is its unfairness, another must surely be that it requires some moments of solitude. Generally from the time someone approaches their ball to the time they hit it, you watch but don’t talk. It’s one of the great enjoyments of the game that, for a small portion of the round, however bad we are, the focus of attention is solely on us. Right through to the top of the game it’s a great leveler that even guys like Tiger are at the same time player and spectator.
All of which you could explain to motor mouth if he’d just let you get a word in. But right from the first it’s been like he’s on some kind of sporting speed date. After four holes you know everything about the mundane 34 years of his life. You know that he got a great deal on his clubs, his car, his house, his boat, his wife and his Whipper Snipper. By this stage you’re six over and haven’t had a swing thought inhabit your head for longer than a nano second. How could you, Talkie doesn’t shut up until you pull the trigger and he starts up again as soon as you make contact. The only time he leaves your side is to play his shot, and then he’s still sprouting meaningless unanswerable mind fodder across the fairway, “Hey, did anyone see that movie on Fox last night, don’t worry, you didn’t miss much, it wasn’t that great”.
Coming up the eighteenth you have visions of grabbing him by the neck and removing his tongue with your divot tool. But settle instead for making a whispered deal with the rest of your group to meet them at the pub down the road, rather than endure more verbal pain in the clubhouse. As you drive past the clubhouse you see Talkie happily engaged in conversation, with a deaf, octogenarian life member who fell asleep on the verandah.
N.B. An even eviler relative of the Talker, is the Close Talker, whose tongue people have been known to attempt to remove with a divot tool.
These are the main irritants among the golfing population, but like species of slugs, more are being discovered everyday. With the explosion in golf technology we’ve recently seen the emergence of Tech Head, “Hey buddy, how much bounce have you got on your four iron?” And of course the Tour Pro Impersonator, complete with monogrammed bag, he’s apt to drop phrases like, “Sorry, I can’t make next week’s game, I’ve got an appointment with my Sports Psychologist.”
If you recognise yourself in any of these snapshots, please leave the game graciously, apparently bowls is great fun. If any of the aforementioned are in your regular group, I’m happy to pass on the details of a Columbian death squad who might be able to help you out…….
Which personalities do our tour pros have?
If he’d known when to back off the throttle he might have a few more majors under his belt.
Pros don’t give lessons unless they’re getting paid. I once played in a pro-am where our assigned pro said two words, “Hi” and “Bye”.
Nice guy, great player, but most of his caddies turn to Hari-Kari to relax. He’s also the only person in history to be sacked by his coach (Steve Bann), for having a bad attitude.
Wayne ‘Radar’ Riley.
Thankfully on the course ‘Radar’ knew when to shut up. When his talking got better than his playing, he parlayed it into a career---commentating!