I was in a golf confrontation.
I handled myself poorly.
If you’re just joining our discussion, that’s how I started things, along with asking for your incidents. In mine, earlier this summer, I rolled a tee shot 10 or so yards short of the group in front of me, one of the players hit my ball 150 yards into the woods, and we exchanged pleasantries. Your stories were of that vein, but much, much more colorful.
And much, much more wise.
In addition to describing what went down, you offered advice. It wasn’t mundane, either. And so like the stories, I’m going to share. I’ve divided the discussion into two parts — what to do if you’re the offender, and what to do if you’re the offended.
Let’s be honest: You and I will probably be in another dust-up some day. We’re not naive: Bad shots happen. And foul tempers. But below are some thoughts on what to do when a ball, a player or both come screaming your way.
(If you’re interested in the full story of my “incident,” you can find it here. And if you would like to read reader dust-ups, you can find part one here and part two here.)
What to do if you’re the offender in a golf confrontation?
Take the quiz
You know how you have to get a driver’s license to be able to drive? How about a golfer’s test to allow you to play on a course. It wouldn’t have anything to do with your golfing capabilities. It’d be only a written test you’d do once, and you’d get a license to play, a card to show before you pay up. It’d be all about protocol and etiquette.
Here are a few thoughts for questions:
1. Are you supposed to stay ahead of the group following you or keep up with the group ahead of you?
2. Where should you leave your cart when going to putt?
a) Where you hit your last shot?
b) In front of the green?
c) Behind the green, on the path to the next tee?
3. After hitting out of a bunker, you should:
a) Put on some sun tan lotion and lie on a towel?
b) Slam your club into the ground, making huge holes, because it’s your third shot out of the bunker?
c) See rake, use rake to make the bunker nicer than it was before you entered?
4. After hitting your best wedge onto the green, you should:
a) Stand over your ball mark and make your partners admire it?
b) Bang your putter into your ball mark in an attempt to fix it, but damage the green even more?
c) Use the tool they gave you in the pro shop, with the little note showing you the proper way to repair a ball mark?
5. After smoking an iron into the green and taking a beautiful divot, you should:
a) Stand there and admire it, then walk away?
b) Take the divot and replace it as best as possible?
c) Use the grass seed bottle provided to fill the divot?
d) Both b and c
6. How do you play ready golf?
a) Hit the ball when you’re damn good and ready?
b) When you’re ready to hit, so long as it is safe to do so?
c) Count all the tees in your bag before proceeding?
7. When getting a drink from the drink cart, you should:
a) Stand in the middle of the fairway chatting the server up for five minutes?
b) Get out a calculator to figure out how much to tip?
c) Direct the server to your next tee box and do your business there, once out of the way?
8. When on the green, you should:
a) Argue with your playing partners whose turn it is to putt?
b) Plum-bob for an extended period of time, even though you have no idea what you’re doing?
c) Read the 1-foot 4th putt from every angle?
d) Putt when ready and putt out the short one you just left?
He hit a guy, the guy went to the hospital — and the guy joked about it
My story is a roller coaster. I was a sophomore in dental school, and I was paired with three older gentlemen. I was going to walk because I was broke and couldn’t spare the $20 for a ride, but they had an extra spot in their second cart and I gladly jumped on. We played the first hole, and everything was fine. Then on the second hole, a long-ish par-5, I shanked my drive into long fescue about 50 yards off the tee. All the carts pulled up, I grabbed a 3-wood, and hit it about 5 yards in front of me. I walked up, took no practice swings and then flushed it. I looked up and saw my ball rocketing into the back of the cart driven by the other two in our party.
I heard a loud “SMACK” and thought, “Thank god it hit the plastic roof.” Then the passenger stumbled out, his hand on the back of his head yelling, “Oh my god!” over and over. The driver got out, put his golf towel on the guy’s head, and they proceeded to get back into the cart and took off for the parking lot. I still hadn’t moved, stunned at how that cart drove out in front of me.
I then walked back to the cart, shocked, hoping I didn’t just kill one of my playing mates. Then I feared what the remaining fellow, a friend of the group, was going to say or do. I plopped myself down into the cart in complete silence. I was probably white as a sheet. The words wouldn’t come out, but I forced a “I don’t know what just happened.” The older fellow replied, “They’re the ones that drove out in front of you! Not your fault. Let’s play.”
I was fearing the worst, and his own buddy just gave me the “Get out of Jail Free” card. I was stunned and yet still afraid of the consequences. We played two holes when the second cart returned, with the original driver having dropped off the injured golfer at his car. He had insisted on driving to the emergency room himself. The newly returned driver admitted to me that they thought they saw my ball, after the first swing, go rolling down the fairway and that they took off in chase of their tee shots. He was polite, but he did take my personal information down. I thought, “Great, I’m about to get sued too.”
Then, everything changed. After the front nine, I was just about to say that I couldn’t continue my round, in good faith and because mentally I was not in any shape to concentrate. Then, from the parking lot, we hear, “Hey!” And the previously injured player came half-running down the embankment with his clubs saying, “Let’s finish the round!”
I don’t know if there has been a happier moment in my life. The guy came up to me, and I began apologizing profusely, almost in tears, and he patted me on the back a couple times and said it wasn’t my fault and that they should have paid more attention. He was right, but I wasn’t about to agree. He said the doctors told him he was OK. I kept apologizing throughout the round, and we finished out a couple hours later, never to see each other again.
I’ve also thought about how that could have escalated into a physical altercation, a verbal altercation, a legal altercation — or all of the above. But those older gentlemen were absolutely the definition of generous and level-headed.
I’ve thought about that day often, sometimes laughing with my buddies about it, but always realizing how small that margin was between him being OK and him being not. I’ve also thought about how that could have escalated into a physical altercation, a verbal altercation, a legal altercation — or all of the above. But those older gentlemen were absolutely the definition of generous and level-headed.
The injured golfer did say the doctor at the ER could stick his entire thumb into the indentation in the back of his head. He said they laughed about it for a long time in the ER and figured I must have scorched that fairway wood from close range. I certainly did.
The big man taught him a lesson
I was playing a local municipal course and hit my ball left of the fairway. Another golfer was playing a hole that was coming back toward us. I see this guy looking for his ball right where my ball landed. He hit a ball, and I’m pretty sure it was mine. Let me add that I’m a 17-handicap so I really kinda suck and don’t generally get too upset. But this day, I was playing well and wanted to keep things going.
As I approached the spot where my ball was, I saw another ball and it was not mine, so I’m sure it was his. At this point, the guy was in the adjacent fairway, his back toward me as he waited for his partner to hit. I took a swing at the ball I found to hit it in his direction and said something about how he hit my ball. I made solid contact, and it hit the guy square in the middle of his back.
He turned and started walking toward me and he was big. Like 6-foot-5 and probably 250. He got closer and I was clutching my club for self defense.
He then said, “I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have hit your ball.”
I felt immediately relieved because this guy could have snapped me like a chicken bone.
I haven’t hit someone else’s ball ever since.
‘Karma can be a b***h’
My regular playing partner secured us a tee time at a nice member’s only course. By the fourth hole, we caught up with two older couples who were slowly plodding their way around the course. We patiently hung behind for a couple holes, then approached them about playing through. They said they did not recognize us, we were not members after all, and as members, it was their right to say no, and off they went tracking down their 140-yard drives.
My playing partner and I talked about skipping a hole or two and passing them but decided it would be more fun to push them at every opportunity. So as soon as they cleared a green and settled into their carts, we hit our approach shots. We rushed through putting and drove up to the next tee box before they finished teeing off. Their level of frustration grew — it was a wonderful sight.
At that point of the course, there was a down-and-back loop that the group ahead skipped, leaving a two-hole gap between us. Feeling quite proud of ourselves, we approached the next tee box, where a course ranger drove up to tell us we were playing too slowly and had fallen seriously behind a foursome of senior players. He didn’t want any excuses and just told us to pick up the pace or he would insist we skip a few holes to put us back in proper position.
Karma can be a b***h.
I hit a man — and he made fun of the ball that hit him
To set up my story, the closing hole on this nine-hole course is about 100 yards, and to the left of the green is the practice green and clubhouse. I teed off and pulled it left. Sure enough, it hits some dude on the practice green. We go over there, and he is rubbing his head.
We apologized profusely, and he said, “Do I have Titleist stamped on my forehead now?” I laughed and said, “I was playing a [less-expensive ball]” — to which he responded, “Well, that’s your first f*****g problem!”
We died laughing, but we were definitely embarrassed.
‘This is a sport designed for people of character’
When I hit into someone by mistake, I just roll over, apologize and tell them that I’ll try to be more careful. Everyone smiles, says no problem and it’s done.
If someone hits up on me multiple times, I ask them kindly not to up to two times. The third time, I call the pro shop. If the pro shop doesn’t have time or doesn’t want to come out, I play slower, don’t let them play through and pick up any balls that they hit close to me or hit them back so they can re-tee or shoot.
If I’m in a slow group or there’s no one in front of me, I’m happy to let faster players play through as long as they just ask graciously. If the pace is quick and I’m waiting every shot, I tell the players behind me so they know there’s no advantage to playing through.
This is a sport designed for people of character, people who are looking to enjoy a walk in the park. If you’re in a hurry or impatient, get up earlier — the early times always go ahead of pace.
What to do if you’re the offended in a golf confrontation?
Narrator voice: The man did not win the bet
My story is a little different, as the confrontation was elicited by me and my playing partner waiting until the group in front of us was out of range.
We are both women and single-digit handicappers. No. 3 is a par-5, and after hitting our drives, we were waiting for the group in front of us to exit the green, as we were both capable of hitting it in two, when the two guys behind us roared up in their cart, and one of the fellows began yelling at us, claiming that it was just like women to be talking and not paying attention instead of hitting. I calmly explained that we were waiting because we could reach the green and did not want to endanger anyone. He continued to scream that we should hit or let them through.
Well, that ticked me off, so I said to him, “Here is what we will do: You get out your wood and I’ll get out mine and whoever hits it the farthest gets to go, and I’m hitting first.” I pulled out my 4-wood, hit it solid and landed the ball in the middle of the green. Before I could turn around to clear for him to hit, he was back in his cart, pulling away, and as he did so, his playing partner was telling him, “Don’t ever embarrass me like that again!” Needless to say, we did not see them behind us for the rest of the round.
This is just one of many circumstances I have found myself in over the years, as some men just make unfounded assumptions about women golfers.
‘Just knowing his buddies never believed him seemed like justice’
I have a story about a group hitting into us. We had a group behind us that hit into us two times on the front nine. The first ball just rolled up, and the second landed near us. We gave them a look and possibly a gesture. We got to the 9th, which is a dogleg-right par-5. We were putting when I saw a ball land about 50 yards short of the green. It was very dry, and this ball kept moving toward the green. I put the pin back in, and it rolled into the cup for an albatross.
We putt out and head to the next tee, which is hidden from the 9th green. The guy came up to us on the tee and apologized for hitting into us. He asked where the ball ended up. We told him in the cup, which was where we left it. He said, “I know, but really, where did it end up?” We assured him that it went in! He turned to his buddies and yelled, “It was in the cup for a two!” We heard them yell back, “Ya, right,” and they began to argue. He looked back at us to confirm, and we bolted off in the cart and never saw them again.
Just knowing his buddies never believed him seemed like justice.
A 10-year-old’s words of wisdom
My 10-year-old son, my wife and I were playing at a course that’s pretty open and has some doglegs with dips where you’re pretty blind to someone’s second shot. For this reason, I intentionally leave carts at the top of the hills so people can see someone is there. On this day, it was cart-path only and, even with the wet course, I had flown past the top of a hill and into a dip and was hitting two on the par-5 15th. Groups start to stack up here, so I was waiting for the group in front of me to clear the green before I tried to reach in two.
While waiting, a ball landed at the top of the hill and started to roll down about 20 yards to my left. Understandable, right? They couldn’t see me, and I was waiting. No harm, no foul. People learn to have a head on a swivel in situations like this on 15. The twosome pulled to where we were, and we exchanged the usual type of banter: “My bad, didn’t see you, all good, I should have left the cart visible, we’re backed up.” One of the guys said, “You should probably go ahead and hit so we can be ready.” I showed him my 3-wood, and he said, “Ha, OK,” and walked back toward his ball.
The green cleared, and I leaned in to swing. You probably know what happens next. I caught the top of the ball and had a little chuckle as it went 40 yards or so. My son was hitting four, so after my failed 3-wood, we were pretty close to one another. Some quick background. When he was playing, we were somewhat slower, though my wife and I wanted him to have every opportunity to play a full round, so he was encouraged to play at a reasonable pace. We would always let groups through unless we were finishing up and it was backed up in front of us. Exactly the conditions on this soggy day.
Fast-forward to the 18th tee, where we were waiting for the group in front of us to clear. No. 18 is the second-hardest hole on the course, so it takes some time to play given all of the issues presented to errant shots. My son and wife had pulled up to the front tees so he was ready to hit, and I was standing back at the gold tees ready to hit. We had been waiting roughly 10 or so minutes when the same group from before pulled up behind us and said, very loudly, “What the f**k! How the f**k have you not teed off yet?”
I’m fairly low maintenance for emotions, so I proceeded with my swing without engaging. It was a terrible slice and proceeded to find the lake to the right. Normally, I do my best to move up rather than re-tee, but this hole plays significantly harder if you drop near the lake. I re-teed and hit another. As I’m addressing the ball, I heard, “Jesus, you’re hitting another?” I put it in the middle of the fairway, about 270, then turned and waved as if to say I’m not bothered by you or anything you said. We eventually finished the hole out.
As we were taking our hats off to shake hands on the green, my son said, “Well, we can’t control how people act, but I guess we can control how we react.”
‘We were going to stand there and watch him putt for eagle’
My incident started out ugly but wound up giving us all a few laughs and a good time. We were on the green of a short par-4. As we were getting ready to putt, a ball landed on the green and scared the crap out of our threesome. The guy who hit it was in a twosome who had been following us the entire round. The pace of play was quick so we never held them up.
After the ball landed, one of our guys screamed back at the twosome, “What the f***?” The two guys jumped in their cart and drove up to us. The gent who hit the ball jumped out and apologized profusely. He said it was the first time they played the course, and they didn’t think they could reach the green.
I immediately took pity on the guy, congratulated him on a great shot — and then I said that for his punishment, we were going to stand there and watch him putt for eagle. We all cracked up laughing, and we did stand there while he putted.
He rimmed the cup for a tap-in birdie.
A different kind of golf clap
I’m a plus-handicap and play with single- to low-double-digit players, all capable of high 70s to low 80s during our matches. We also believe in playing ready golf from tee to green unless honors can affect a hole outcome.
So we always — ALWAYS — find ourselves pushing the group in front of us and are a hole-plus ahead of the group behind us. The frustrating part of this is the groups in front of us — EVERY group in front of us — is a hole or more BEHIND their next group. Maybe it’s luck of the draw, maybe we are too fast. So here’s what I do: I’ll clap loud enough for the group ahead of us to become aware of us behind them.
Sometimes we speed them up. Sometimes they slow down. Sometimes they let us play through. Other times, I have to colorfully explain why I’m clapping at them and how being a hole or more behind the group ahead isn’t acceptable, especially when we tee off at 6 a.m., 6:08 a.m., etc.
Whatever the case may be, clapping gets the frustration out.
As a last resort, use a Jedi mind trick
My home course gets pretty busy especially on weekends, and I usually play early, but on this Saturday, I changed my schedule to play with a dear friend. The starter suggested we tee off on 10 because there were a few open holes and the front was packed. So we started on 10 and the pace was great, but as we get closer to the end of our first nine, I can see the pace of play on the front nine will not be the same.
On our approach shot on 1, a twosome drove past us toward the second hole. I assumed they wanted to skip 1 and play 2, but I knew there was nowhere to go. Oddly, as we were putting, the same twosome started to drive back to the first tee and then made a U-turn about 100 yards out and headed back to 2.
At this point, we started to go to 2, and the twosome was on the box with a ball teed up and they were waiting for the fairway to clear. These guys were in their mid-20s to early 30s. Here was our conversation, as I can remember it:
Me: “I suppose you two want to join us?”
Punk: “Actually, we are waiting for a buddy.”
Me: “Until he shows up, we can play because it is technically our box because we made the turn on 18. This is our second nine.”
Punk: “Are you asking me or telling me?”
Punk: “Well, I’m just gonna go ahead and tee off right now.”
My buddy thought it was gonna be a brawl — and said I had used a Jedi mind trick.
He teed off while I was standing there.
Me: “Now if I just did that to you, would you be OK with that?”
Punk: “Yes, I would.”
Me: “No, you wouldn’t because it’s disrespectful and you know it.”
Punk: “You’re right. I sincerely apologize. We just want to play.”
Me: “We all do, but there’s a right way and a wrong way, young man.”
They gave us the box. We teed off, and I still offered them to play with us, but they decided not to and apologized again.
My buddy thought it was gonna be a brawl — and said I had used a Jedi mind trick.
Never ceases to amaze me how a person’s true character is exposed on the golf course.