How to Handle Angry Playing Partners
EVERY one of us who has ever been lucky enough to have played golf will at some stage in their lives have had to endure the company of a fellow player in meltdown, somebody who loses their temper, who blames everybody but himself (or herself) for bad shots.
It is one of golf’s greatest challenges. You are out there for an enjoyable experience, to take in your surroundings, breathe in the fresh air, hit some golf shots and maybe see some wildlife. But the wildlife you want to see is of the natural kind, not the humankind. There are all sorts of explosive characters on the golf course. There are those who erupt after the first bad shot they play, setting the tone for the 18 holes that follow. And there are those who seem to be going along quietly until a particular shot lights the fuse. You can see them change. It’s a bit like playing with the Incredible Hulk. You watch them change before your very eyes. “You won’t like me when I’m angry. Don’t make me angry."
So how do you deal with it?
The easiest option is to refuse to play with some individuals but that is not always possible. There will be times when you are drawn alongside them in competition. Worse, there will be times when you are drawn to play with them in foursomes, greensomes or four ball competitions.
So do you just shrug your shoulders and accept the inevitable? We don’t believe you should. Before you partner such a golfer (and every club has them) you need to set out some ground rules - tell them you are not a perfect player and that there are going to be times during a foursomes event that you might hit his perfect drive into a bunker or a lake. Tell him it is only a game and that you play it to enjoy it and that you will not sit idly by and accept verbal abuse or stony silence if you don’t get things quite right.
Tell him you should be rooting for each other. When things go right, offer praise. When things go wrong just say: “Bad luck.” We all miss two-feet putts. It is not the end of the world.
And explain to him that if his behaviour goes beyond the bounds of reasonable conduct that you will walk off the course. We repeat - club golf is meant to be fun.
It is a rather different matter if you are partnering the guy with the volcanic temper in an individual competition, but they key is not to let his performance affect yours. If he decides to go off on one, just head off to your ball and play your own shot. Try to blank out his antics - or draw on them to make you play better. Watching people implode can actually be quite funny so instead of letting it wind you up, take a few moments to smile at his behaviour and thank your lucky stars that it is not you who is making a complete fool of himself. However, be careful not to let him see you smiling at him - especially if he has a golf club in his hand!
When he complains about bad breaks, it might just be best to agree with him. Telling him “it’s the same for everybody” might not be the best tactic if he has reached the point where there is steam coming out of his ears and his cheeks are bright red. How close is he to picking up his clubs and throwing them in the nearest pond?
The chances are that when he gets into a blind fury he will not help you when you are looking for your golf ball. When the boot is on the other foot - as it surely will be - and he disappears into the jungle to search for his ball, ensure that you and the others in your group are happily engaged in conversation 50 yards away. He will get the message.
When he is digging his club into the ground and walking off without repairing the damage, go and fix it, but make sure he sees you do so. When he takes a huge divot that you know he is not going to replace, pick it up and toss it in his direction. He will feel that he has no option but to put it back.
There will some point in the round when he is at his worst. Do NOT ever say: ‘Oh, what rotten luck,” at this point in the process.
When you get back into the clubhouse, sit him down and tell him that his behaviour has been unacceptable, and explain why, but make sure you do it in the company of other people, individuals who are going to support you and back you up. Most people are reasonable and if enough of his fellow players are telling him the same thing then hopefully the penny will finally drop. If all else fails, go and have a quiet word with the secretary or report him to the committee. The chances are that you won’t be the first to have complained about him.
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