Acceptable frustration outlets on the golf course

And here comes the club toss...

And here comes the club toss…

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.

One of the unfortunate side effects of the Tiger Woods Effect is that golfers of all ages learned that they can get away with acting like an ass on the golf course.

One of the unfortunate side effects of the Tiger Woods Effect is that golfers of all ages learned that they can get away with acting like an ass on the golf course.

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.

In fairness, it's actually not all Tiger's fault; men have been swearing on the golf course as long as the game has existed.  Don't believe me? PGA Tour player Steve Pate was nicknamed

In fairness, it’s actually not all Tiger’s fault. PGA Tour player Steve Pate was nicknamed “Volcano.” When someone asked David Duval if he ever lost his temper on the golf course, he quipped, “regular mad, or Steve Pate mad?”

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.

Matt Every probably should have just gone ahead and taken a dip in the ocean rather than continue his round.

Matt Every probably should have just gone ahead and taken a dip in the ocean rather than continue his round.

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.

That boy's got a lot of Yosemite Sam in him.

That boy’s got a lot of Yosemite Sam in him.

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.

6 thoughts on “Acceptable frustration outlets on the golf course

  1. BeardedGolfer- very reasonable – everything in moderation and golf is hard enough as it is and we should be allowed the occasionally meltdown.

    What really got me to stop is when I saw my buddy throw a club across the fairway at full speed at his bag. No one was injured or anything but he was playing bad all day to start with and that one move made him look like a complete imbecile. I felt really embarrassed for him (he was still fuming) and had to apologize on his behalf to our playing partners after I told him to stop it. Also, in today’s age of youtube and social media, you have to be careful about how you behaviour everywhere- you never know if you’re going to be the next viral sensation as The Angry Bearded or Crunchy Golfer!

    I read a couple of Bob Rotella’s great books on golf psychology- that golf is a process, you can’t control everything, to stay in the moment and focus on the current shot at hand. To walk up to a ball on the green excited about the possibility of getting up and down versus fear of 3 putting. He has examples of players he’s coached who would get mad, let it out, but to completely forget about after a few steps. (hm, I think the player might have been Tiger? If so, then that is not a very good example of staying calm!)

  2. Dave, I gave up throwing clubs about 30 years ago after I helicoptered a 4-iron into tall fescue and my playing partners and I had to search for 10 minutes to recover – total embarrassment. I think you are right on track with your approach and I have no problem with a couple salty four letter bombs being dropped when the need fits. Get it out; get over it; move on. Thanks! Brian

  3. I threw a club off the tee box during a scramble once when a moron on the fairway over yelled during my backswing…my shoulder came out of socket (no joke) and it ended my round! The ol’ Heartland course down in BG, I believe now known as Crosswinds. I usually rip the velcro strap off my glove quickly to show my utter disguist without actually removing the glove, then I walk straight to the cart while mumbling harsh comments to myself about myself….I then violently rip the zipper on my bag open to grab another Rock Flite…I wait my turn, and then I proceed to inflict some more pain on myself and all others with the next attempt. If the 2nd shot is as bad or worse as the first, I walk to the cart without saying a word to anyone, give myself a snowman on the scorecard, and then wait it out for my partner to get back in the cart before finally slamming my foot down on the brake as hard as possible. juju is gone at that point & I can resume the round. Its magic.

  4. Gentlemen

    I completely understand! We all have experienced the frustration of hitting a ball poorly. Although I have never thrown a club, I have seen it first hand many times. Personally, I gave up swearing years ago on the golf course, I found that it did not work. Instead, I replace it with a quick, louder than normal “Ah Jim” Then I quietly walk to my ball or bag (which ever is closer) and carry on. Personally, I can tolerate a couple F bombs, but definitely not tossing of the clubs or constant complaining….I enjoy golf too much for that. Regardless, get it out and move on is a great strategy. Great topic Dave!


Leave a Reply

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