Don’t Be That Golf Guy

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“That Guy” and Golf

Let’s be honest with each other for a second.  We all know “That Guy,” right?  That Guy who walks up, homes in on you like a cruise missile, and has you pegged as “Hey! Another Golf Guy!” before you can slip out the side door.  That Guy loves shop talk, I mean loooooves it.  He feeds off it.  If you’re not careful, he will drown you in detailed reenactments of how he “fires his right side on the follow through” or how his “reverse hip rotation gets in the way of his optimal shoulder rotation release.*”

I’ve always struggled with the right way to handle That Guys, especially when they’re someone I encounter regularly.  How do you break it to him when he’s your best friend? A family member?  Or worse yet, your boss?  Frankly, I don’t have the answers.

Instead of analyzing difficult exit strategies, let’s make sure you know who That Guy is, make sure you aren’t That Guy, and make sure you understand why no one wants you to be That Guy.

As you may have realized by now, this is a rant.  But as I’ve gathered through encounters with That Guys across the continental U.S., many of you (and your friends and family members) can feel my pain.  But damnit, That Guys are an issue, and if they go unchecked, they can really get in the way of enjoying this game we all love.

*I have no idea if this makes any sense – that’s the point.

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The Address: No One Cares About Your Game as Much as You Do

I learned this lesson at a very young age, and it still holds water to this day. A family friend gave me some advice when I was around 11 years old: “Bill, 98% of people don’t care, and never will care, about how bad of a round you had on the course today. The other 2% will wish you did worse. If you’re so bad with your three iron, break it over your knee, throw it in that lake over there, and never speak of a 3 iron again.”

This sage advice led to two things: 1) I learned how to hit the stupid 3-iron 2) I learned to keep my personal golf game to myself.

Because he’s right: No one cares! As I’ve gotten older and become the seasoned golf veteran that I am, I’ve realized this to be more and more true. Of course, we ask each other how we played this weekend, or how that new putter is, but all of that chit-chat is just light mutual interest fare. If someone asks how you’ve been hitting them, just give them the basics. Go with some old guy-isms, like “Tryin’ to keep it in the short stuff!” or “Whatever gets me outta the house!” Don’t take this as an opportunity to open the therapeutic flood gates.

Admittedly, there’s a grey area. It’s okay for golf dorks like us to talk golf dorkery with each other, but there’s a line. If you find yourself 30 minutes into a dissection of your swing thoughts or why scratch status eludes you, you’re doing it wrong.

Let’s be realistic here, all of us want to be better golfers and have enough of our own demons to fight without worrying about someone else’s. Let’s keep our swing thoughts, struggles, changes, yips, blocks, drills, and lifelong nemeses to ourselves. People will find us much more enjoyable to be around in general.

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My last request: PLEASE leave the imaginary golf clubs in the trunk of the car or in your locker at the club. Don’t be the guy in the middle of the social situation either demonstrating his new swing action, or just getting some reps in between conversations. Not only do you look like the weirdo in the room when you do this, it’s putting a target on your back as the person in the room to avoid.

As Hunter Mahan’s college coach put it:

Fewer people care about your golf than you think. You care. Your parents care. I care a little, but I’ll survive without you. Your teammates care, but deep down they all want to beat you. That’s it. So stop playing like everybody cares, and just go out and play golf.

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The Backswing: Golf is a FUN Game – Don’t Ruin It

Golf is supposed to be fun! Take my brother-in-law for instance. He loves golf, he loves to work at it, and he loves to get better. He also loves to compete. For the past five years or so, every time I play him, he destroys my soul.

But you know what? I enjoy playing with him because our primary purpose is to just have fun. We talk about all sorts of things — work, music, kids, houses, guitars, craft beer, whatever. We’ll play side games on different holes, and do all sorts of stuff to have a good time. We’re both focused on the golf at hand, but we don’t beat each other over the head with it.

The players in your foursome don’t need an in-depth explication of why your ball didn’t zip back 20 yards like you planned and how it just doesn’t make sense that you’re not 5-under. By all means, take your game seriously, just don’t take all the fun out it.

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The Downswing: Golf is a Personal and Individual Game

This right here is the crux of it. Golf is a game built around individual performance, individual goals, and individual accomplishments. Don’t take that away from people. Everyone has different goals and dreams in golf — that’s the best part about it.

Not every player out there is worried about being a single digit handicap or hitting the ball 330 yards off the tee. Not every player is worried about playing the top 1,000 golf courses in the world or getting guested on the most exclusive club in the area. A lot of players are perfectly happy just shaving off a couple strokes at their local goat track, and that’s great.

That Guys, I beg of you, please don’t belittle anyone’s game, courses, or equipment because it’s not up to your lofty standards. I just saw a friend post on Facebook that he had five pars and a birdie in his round and he was on Cloud 9. That’s amazing. Some of you might instantly scoff and say, “Way to tear it up from the Junior tees, brah!” But that’s this guy’s relationship with the game, and it makes him happy, so let him have it.

If you aren’t impressed by someone else’s golf pride, don’t rain on their parade. Let them have the same joy that you’re entitled to yourself. A little friendly encouragement ain’t gonna kill ya!

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The Follow-through: Golf Etiquette – Not Just for the Course

In closing, I think it’s worth noting that there are certainly plenty of exceptions here. There are going to be settings where it’s perfectly okay for these rules to be broken. But, please, make your best effort to represent the golf world well by not beating everyone over the head with your swing thoughts. Instead, let’s make a social pact to do the world a favor and not be That Guy. Let’s show the uninitiated that there’s more to golf and those who play it than ghost swings and chasing a silly little white ball around a field.

Bill Bush
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6 Comments

  1. Great article!!!
    I hate That Guy as well!
    There are two exceptions I find though. The first is golfer to golfer asking for advice or reviewing on the mental approach to the game, since this is one part that I find needs to be discussed out loud because most of us listen the to devil on our shoulder (mine is a +5 HCP) and take terrible risks on course. Sometimes I need to say it out loud after my round to hear how ridiculous it actually sounds, and eventually it sinks into my head lol!
    The other is another golf nerd who is at the same level and with the same goals. We have an mutual understanding and we bank our weekly rounds off of each other as we try to shave that extra strokes off our handicap. It started as a race to break 80, then it began a race to a single digit handicap and now it is a race to par. So far it has been a pretty successful tool. But I still care more about my game than his! :)

    • I’ve thought about this one a bit before replying and hopefully you take what I’m saying in the right spirit.

      First, as I mentioned, I do think there are exceptions and golf will be discussed amongst people. I’m good with that. The first scenario you mentioned though is dangerous territory in my mind. To my “98% don’t care, 2% wish you did worse” point, very few people are going to be interested in working through this struggle. So tread lightly and look for signs of people not wanting to talk about it. If they’re golfers, they likely have their own internal battle to settle.

      In your second point, just be careful to keep it to competitive play, not belittling each others efforts/accomplishments.

  2. Bill, what a great article. And I love your website. I’m new to the game, only been to a country club to see the Barclays, don’t know all the etiquette or even the rules, but my 9 year old had been taking lessons so I see this as a father son thing for years to come. As a kid, winning was everything. In my 20’s I calmed down and realized I was going to be a 9 to 5er, not the next Willie Mays, and from now on sports was all about exercise and fun. Learning a new sport at an advanced age is a blast, and I can’t wait to see my little guy out hit me in a couple of years. You nailed it with this article, thanks. Mike

  3. Bruce MacRae

    Bill:

    A cautionary tale for the golf obseesed – Don’t be That Guy! Great article, great website.

    Now, about this new putter I just picked up…

  4. I am not a golfer. I have no interest in golf or learning about golf. I appreciate the fact that many people enjoy it and it offers exercise, focus and a great social opportunity. But why do golfers insist on giving me a play by play account of their most recent game? They describe in detail the par and under par and the swing and the green and the hole and honestly I don’t care. I pretend to listen and respond with the “I see” and “Sounds like it was a lot of fun” responses but truthfully I have no idea what they are talking about and nor do I care!

    If we could simply get this down to “I had a great/terrible game today” explanation , that would be awesome! I could simply respond with a “That’s great!” or “Oh, that’s too bad.” response. We could all move on to more interesting conversations and save everyone the agony of the play by play.

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