On a randomly warm, sunny Sunday afternoon in January, I snuck out with two friends for nine holes of winter golf. And something happened that utterly ruined a perfectly nice round that, frankly, I’m still mad about two months later. So I’m hoping that committing the episode to writing will provide some cathartic relief.
My rage has nothing to do with the way I played, anything my friends did, the wintry conditions of the course, or the pace of play. It has to do with almost getting seriously injured, or worse, because of some Idiot did something that we all contemplate but rarely ever are dumb enough to actually do.
This Idiot hit into us from the tee. His drive landed three feet left of me and two feet in front of me…with me facing the opposite direction.
The home course has been undergoing some changes (that have more to do with storm water runoff management and less about golf course design) that have required the back two tee boxes on the sixth hole to be closed for the entire winter, forcing everyone to play from the forward tees.
For those of us that normally play the blue tees, it’s quite a change, as moving up shortens the 430 yard par four to 290 yards, changing one of the toughest, angular tee shots with water right and trees left at the landing area into a straight-forward, short par four that is almost driveable.
If we had been out of sight, hidden by the crest of a hill, off in the forest hacking it out of the tall stuff, or playing back to the sixth green from an adjacent fairway, I could almost understand that we were hit into. But none of those things were in play in this instance.
The fairway that the three of us were standing in is dead flat. We were in plain sight. And this Idiot just hit into us anyway, guessing (hoping) that we were out of his range.
He violated the one universal, unbreakable etiquette rule in golf: If there is ANY chance that your shot could hit the player(s) in front of you, you do not hit your ball into the group in front of you. Instead, you wait. You never, ever, ever it into other people if there is even the remotest possibility that your shot could reach them.
No matter how long you’ve been waiting to hit that shot. No matter how angry you are. No matter how poorly you’ve been hitting the ball that day. No matter that you usually don’t hit the ball that far. You simply do not do it.
It doesn’t matter that it was an unusual tee box for this Idiot to be hitting from. It doesn’t matter that he didn’t know how far away we were. You simply cannot tee the ball up and hit into us if there’s any chance the ball could reach us. And he did it anyway.
It’s incredibly selfish, undeniably dumb, and unbelievably dangerous.
I was very lucky that the ball did not hit me. The series of emotions that swept me up and overwhelmed me for the rest of the day are sort of interesting now, in retrospect.
At first, when I heard the ball land so close to me, and see it rolling in front of me without having heard “Fore” from anyone, there was momentary confusion until I turned around 180° and see some Idiot with his hand raised on the tee behind us.
From that split second on, for roughly the next 36 hours, my emotions vacillated between fear for the potentially serious or even life-threatening injuries that I narrowly avoided and a complete and utter rage that stifled any possibility of rational thought.
I was so incredibly furious because not only had he hit into us, he hadn’t bothered yelling “Fore” when it should have been apparent that his shot was going to get close to us.
In that initial split second, my honest reaction was simply, “Should I tee this Idiot’s ball up and hit it back at him?” If I’m truly honest, if I had been playing by myself, I would have done exactly that.
However, my better angels reminded me that I shouldn’t put my playing partners in the awkward position of having to witness my complete meltdown and the sure to be ensuing fisticuffs.
Instead I resigned myself to kicking that Idiot’s ball towards the gigantic Foot Golf hole a few feet from where his shot had come to rest. I held my tongue, though ALL that I could think about for the next 3 or 4 hours was what I wanted to say to do to the Idiot.
The remote possibility of hitting good golf shots for the remaining three and a half holes was completely negated by the constant stream of ideas of how I wanted to dress the Idiot down.
As we were walking off of the 7th tee box five or so minutes later, the Idiot and his playing partner finally drove within speaking distance of us near the sixth green. I’m pretty sure I heard, but couldn’t swear to hearing predictably stupid, “I’m sorry, guys” from the Idiot.
This was my chance to unload on him. Do I walk angrily right up to him and scream at him right in his face, fists clenched? Do I guilt trip him about the Wife he almost widowed and the two children aged four months and 3 years that he almost took me away from?
Do I get witty and condescendingly point out all the ways that what he just did was stupid and that he was, in fact, stupid? Do I go Bad News Bears and tell him to take his apology and shove it up his ass?
Despite all of the truly awful things I wanted to do and say to this Idiot, I, again, remembered that I wasn’t alone, and that Mark and Bryan didn’t deserve to be drawn into a “developing situation” against their will.
So, without breaking stride, in my best pissed off, disappointed dad voice, I bellowed, “SAY FORE! NOT SORRY!” and walked on up the hill to the 7th green. If I tried to spit out anything more, the dam of restraint would’ve given way to the damn of volcanic anger.
I lack the self-awareness to know what I might have sounded and looked like in such a state of rage, but a few seconds later, Mark was kind enough to whisper to me to remind him to never piss me off, which I took as a compliment of the highest order under the circumstances.
I never got a good look at the guy; I was too disgusted, and probably a little worried that he’d do something to push me over the edge of restraint if I made direct eye contact. Hopefully, I’m never on a golf course with him again.
And hopefully the whole episode was enough to scare the Idiot straight so that he never, ever hits into a group in front of him again. That, I suppose, would be the one truly redeeming result of this fiasco.
So, friends, let this be your early season reminder that you never, ever hit into the group in front of you. Ever. There’s no upside and too many terrible things can happen.
Plus, in addition to the inherent physical danger it puts the unwitting players in front of you in, you don’t know exactly how crazy the person you almost hit or kill may be and what the blowback might be.