A brief discussion with The Wife this evening about a prior Blog post and my StoneCrest Golf Course experience provoked an interesting discussion, within my own head, about the modern bounds of propriety for expressing anger or disgust on the golf course.
Most sensible golfers know what is absolutely out-of-bounds behavior on one end of the spectrum and what is model golf course etiquette that we all should strive for at the other end. The Rules of Golf have even gone so far as to codify the etiquette standards as a preface to actual text of the Rules.
Players should avoid causing damage to the course by removing divots when taking practice swings or by hitting the head of a club into the ground, whether in anger or for any other reason. – Excerpt from the Etiquette preface to The Rules of Golf.
However, in this post-Tiger Woods era of golf, I would argue that the great grey middle ground is far wider than at any other time in the history of golf. We all know, Dear Readers, that throwing a golf club, kicking your golf bag, and hacking out a shovel-sized patch of earth in response to a botched or shanked shot are absolutely taboo.
Any incidence of Human Volcano activity ought to be relegated to someplace far removed from a friendly or even a competitive golf round. But beyond the obvious anathema behavior, I don’t know that I have articulable standards for the lines of demarcation differentiating 1) acceptable, 2) shouldn’t, 3) frowned upon, 4) oh, grow up, and 5) get off my golf course behaviors.
On perhaps all but three or four strokes a round, I’m generally a model golfing citizen. I try to remember that courtesy, respect, and fun should guide my behavior and attitude on the golf course. And under no circumstances should I act in a way that endangers or offends my playing partners or competitors, much less anyone else on the golf course. That is the basic the precept for golf etiquette, and good manners in general.
Nonetheless, I know that I will occasionally hit terrible golf shots. Those shots that I know before my swing is complete that something awful is about to happen. Before I’m even into my follow through, I’m disappointed in my performance and angry with my effort and lack of focus that allowed such a travesty to occur.
And when this happens, I admit, I curse…instantly, audibly, and without concern for whomever may hear me at that moment Usually, it only takes one expletive exclamation to encapsulate my rage and release it from my mind.
I feel better having released my momentary anger out via a simple spoken phrase, cleansing my mind and body from the negativity associated with that horrible golf shot. In a flash, I’m better, and the golf course and my equipment is no worse off from my venting.
However, I realize this exact behavior will offend some golfers, perhaps even some of you, my Dear Readers. Obviously, if women or children are within earshot, I fully support a ban on foul language.
At the same time, I laughed a little inside each time I heard some sanctimonious, starched little do-gooder shake their lily-white fingers at Tiger Woods because an on-course microphone caught him swearing after a missed shot. Like he was the first angry golfer.
The history of the PGA tour is littered with infamous tempers and losses of emotion, so this is not a new phenomenon. Heck, even steely, cool, former Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III once burst a water pipe at Bay Hill with his sand wedge as a sign of his disgust.
However, I don’t know what on-course conduct I should rightly even say I’m sorry for anymore. In absolute terms, any utterance or action that disturbs another golfer on the course is a breach of etiquette. But I’ve seen and heard so much poor behavior the last few years, I wonder if the line of acceptable conduct, especially at public courses, hasn’t shifted permanently.
Ultimately, golfers are a lot that are expected to police themselves. I know that if you can hear me three holes away, then I’ve been an ass, ought to pipe down, and offer an apology. If I slam an iron into the ground, damaging a fairway or collar, I know I’d better darn well repair any resulting damage and pull myself together.
I wish I was jovial, respectful, and light-hearted at all times on the golf course. But that’s not reality, and I am learning to accept my own shortcomings. Still, a quick excited utterance of (expletive deleted) makes me feel better in the moment, like it’s a trigger to returning to some kind of equilibrium.
I find that if I don’t get the bad juju out right away, it only builds and boils until I suffer a complete psychic breakdown. So I ask you, what are the alternatives? What are the acceptable ways to get the negative energy out on the golf course without stepping over the line?
All strategies, suggestions, thoughts, and funny anecdotes are welcome. But, the first person that responds, “Just don’t get so angry” or “Calm down, it’s just a game” gets the #@!* beat out of them with a 9-iron.
God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom not to try the hero shot every time.