Are You Compatible With the Individuals You Play Golf With? A Litmus Test…

308 1
308 1
Register for a free webinar

Growing up as a caddie in Huntingdon Valley, PA, at the Philmont Country Club, a really good, tree-lined 1906 Willie Park–designed 36–hole facility, I saw a lot of golf—both really good and really awful.

It is amazing how golf has shaped my life. The caddie master, Joseph Kendrick, would put me out on the first loop on Saturdays and Sundays, admonishing me that if he didn’t see me in 3 hours and 30 minutes, my days of being a caddie were done. I learned to walk very fast.

I would get to the player’s ball, usually, a standard foursome of Steve Cohen (a car dealership owner), Joseph Strauss (a lawyer for Sears), Richard Blumenthal (an RCA executive), and Michael Daroff (Botany 500 clothing manufacturer), have the two clubs moved to the side of the bag near their ball suggesting what I thought they should hit.

Those days were with the big red and white Wilson golf bags or the preferable green MacGregor bags. The straps on the MacGregor bags were far more padded and preferred for my 5 foot, 4 inches, and 105 pounds at 15 years of age.

The fee for carrying double was $4 per bag, and a meal ticket for $0.25 allowed you to buy a hamburger and coke at the Caddie Shack.

After the round, I would be dispensed to clean clubs with Jake, a disabled military veteran with a short fuse hoping to carry 36 holes that day. It instilled me a work ethic of long hours.

I also learned as a caddie the art of speaking in euphemisms and being politically correct – a trait that I have subsequently abandoned on occasion to my detriment.

Near where we cleaned clubs was a glass jar filled with gasoline used to change grips. Because the big golf bags did not fit in the normal racks where most clubs were stored, they were put into the corner near the workbench where the grips were replaced.

One day, Jake, after cleaning Teddy Brunswick’s clubs, heaved the bag to the corner. Unfortunately, he missed and hit the work bench. The glass with gasoline fell to the floor, and Mr. Brunswick’s clubs fell to the concrete floor, creating a spark that set a fire in the entire bag store facility.

As I was running out of the club cleaning area, Mr. Brunswick asked what had happened. I indicated that a fire had started in the back corner where the clubs were stored. He chuckled and walked into the golf shop to buy a new set of clubs as the club storage was ablaze, knowing his clubs were toast.

I was dispatched to find the PGA Professional who was playing a round with the Club’s Lady Champion: Elsie Behrens. I was given a dozen Titleist golf balls to forget what I saw. Fortunately, I was never asked by the insurance company what happened. Had I been asked, as an Eagle Scout, I would probably have said, “I am not really sure.”  Perhaps I learned the art of spin.

I also learned to follow instructions. One day, Joseph Strauss, an eight handicap, had a miserable front nine and shot 47. He stood in front of me on the 10th tee, took a couple of swings, and asked what I thought. I indicated the swing looked stiff and rigid and that he was overthinking his mechanics. Just swing at it, I advised. He shot two under on the back 9. Unbeknownst to me, he was taking lessons from the Head Golf Professional. After the round, he walked into the golf shop to inform the PGA Pro he was no longer taking lessons. Within moments, the PGA Pro stormed out to the caddy area and yelled at me that if I gave suggestions to any member, he would run me out of the place. Only gave distances and read putts from that day forward.

I learned to very respectful and well-behaved, except on one occasion on a very hot summer day when a lady, after 15 holes and more than 100 strokes, asked me what she should hit from 150 yards. I commented, “It didn’t matter.” She only paid me $4.00, no meal ticket, and rated me “F” on the caddie evaluation form. I heard from the Caddiemaster.

Every Monday morning, before I could tee off on Caddies Day, my mom required that she take me to Western Savings Fund at 9 a.m., where I would deposit my earnings for the week from caddying and a paper route, less my spending, usually for a Turkish taffy bar or ice cream. I kept a detailed ledger of my earnings, noting that a goal was a 75% savings rate.  Perhaps a precursor to becoming a CPA.

From when I was 12 until I graduated from TCU (BBA in Accounting) and the University of Michigan (MBA), I caddied during the summer. I received a $400 per annual stipend as a J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholar.

Those days formed my love for golf, and I believe I have now seen over 6,000 golf courses in 42 countries of the 64 I have visited. Of the countless people I have played golf with, there are less than ten individuals I would not care to play with again.

Regretfully, three of them occurred this past week – a self-indulgent spoiled kid of 35 living with his parents in their $2 million house, a couple – an absorbed retired corporate executive basking in the belief he was important and his wife whose three-hitch swing makes Charles Barkley’s swing look like Jordan Spieth’s. Only one of them perhaps could break 100 if they fully complied with the Rules of Golf.

In playing with them I pondered whether I am too inflexible in adhering to the traditions and etiquette on a golf course or has our respect for the game and our playing companions been lost?

What would you think about golfers, particularly those who can’t break 100 who:

  1. Are late for the tee time, drive to the second tee and hit while you remain on the first green putting.
  2. Are not ready to hit when it is their turn prefer to incessantly talk about their lives, i.e., how many days they have to go to the office, the number of days they skied this past winter, their winter retreat, etc.
  3. Take more than 60 seconds to hit their shot.
  4. Use a laser device to measure the green standing next to a cart that has GPS.
  5. Use a laser device to measure the distance inside 40 yards.
  6. Mark their ball inside 12 inches, saying they are part of a league and must practice putting out rather than adopt continuous putting.
  7. Confuse the golf course for the range and hits an extra ball after every shot they don’t like.
  8. Have a special putting ball that has a 1/4 inch bold line around the ball, especially when they forgot to take it out of the cart and have to retrieve it before putting.
  9. Meticulously clean the club’s grooves, taking over 1 minute to get back into the cart after every shot.
  10. Asks the beverage cart attendant, who was sitting by the green upon the group’s arrival, to wait until they putt out rather than ordering the drink/food prior to putting out by giving the attendant a credit card and indicating their desired tip to charge while they putt.
  11. Insist everyone remain on the fringe of game watching them putt when, as a group, you are out of position on the course. The lady refused to putt standing indignantly until we all returned to the putting surface to watch her miss a 4-foot putt for what was for a 6 on a par 3.
  12. Maintains that you must be more than 20 yards from them in the fairway so as not to distract them.
  13. Believe they are entitled to a leisurely round and are not mindful of the pace of play.
  14. Get annoyed that you won’t help them find their lost ball for the third consecutive hole that they have hit out of bounds, into the trees or into 3 foot high grass.

Each one of these was observed this past week when playing 9 holes with the three listed above. All of these have a central theme – pace of play, which was ingrained in me as a caddie during my formative years.  Can you become too focused on playing in an appropriate amount of time?  How much of the enjoyment of one’s round is predicated on the habits of your playing partners?

While having a standard foursome of golfers one is comfortable playing with would be one answer to enjoying one’s round of golf, adding the name of the golfer, their GHIN index or average score, the number of rounds they played this year and there average length of a round displayed on the web-based tee time booking engine would be informative to know in advance who you were going to spend 4 1/2 hours of your life with.  A fast player could select playing partners more suitable to their style and the players with many of the habits listed above might find more enjoyment playing with individuals who have the same tendencies.

Just curious. What are your thoughts that enhance the enjoyment of your round of golf and how important is the behavior of your playing partners? I think who you play with may benefit or cost you several shots every round regardless of how focused and disciplined you might be. 

Join the Conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 comment

  1.    Reply

    Agree with you on all counts.
    One rule of etiquette, either unknown or ignored is to not disturb anyone on the course(includes adjoining holes).
    When I play with new groups, I’m dumbfounded how many narcissistic people there are who delay play. Your description captures many of them.
    Incessant talking, not preparing for the next shot ahead of time, several practice swings, etc.