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Sunday, June 24, 2012

"No, please - you first..." Golf Etiquette

Golfed yesterday in Phoenix. It was a hundred-ten degrees and a test of will. No breeze, unforgiving greens and unreliable hardware made things even worse. To top this off, we had a very slow, apparently inexperienced threesome ahead of us the entire day that kept us waiting at every turn.

Now, I am not one to mind the occasional wait and usually take the opportunity to enjoy the view of the beautiful green strips of grass laced through the hellish desert. Until, that is, the impatient foursome behind us started firing shots into our delightful tour around the links.

"What the hell," I said, the first time a ball landed softly, twenty yards behind me. "That seems close..." I was golfing with Taggart, who is my age and of equal disposition for the most part, save for his explosive temper and tendency to punish his clubs for their wrong-doing, and two younger lads, both in their early thirties, one mostly quiet and even-keeled, the other an inked-up, pseudo-Apache thrill-seeker.Excellent golf companions all.

We ordered beer - personally, I prefer the Bud-Light lime-flavored variety, which gives me the illusion that I am somewhere more promising and festive than the next hole, which will most likely leave me disappointed disillusioned and disheartened - just like the last hole. Jae, the Apache, also ordered the Lime-Bud and Taggart his usual Miller Lite. Eric, the sensible quarter of our foursome, chose to abstain from the alcohol and to instead concentrate on maintaining his hydration.

I am not completely certain that alcohol consumption has a greater effect when the alcohol is consumed in a golf cart under blistering heat conditions, but I am relatively positive that this is fact. When the next ball plopped to a finish - in the rough, off to the right; a devilish slice - not fifteen yards behind us, I suggested that we allow the Impatients to play through at the next opportunity. My thinking was that they could then mortar-blast the inexperienced threesome rather than us - good sound logic in my opinion. Obviously, their crowding was affecting my concentration - my game had gone off the rails and this was the best excuse at-hand.

"There's no reason to let them play through," Taggart said, pointing a nine-iron at the dawdling threesome, who were in the middle of the fairway ahead of us, performing what looked like a barn-dance, well within our driving range. "I know there's no reason," I sighed. "Letting them play through would allow them to see that we are not lollygagging and they can shoot at those guys while they doe-si-doe in the fairway..."

"Fuck those guys," Taggart said. We played on, as soon as the threesome had packed up their caravan and moved toward the green, one cart breaking hard to the left, the other to the right, as if they were flanking a Nazi bunker. We teed up and let loose just as the Impatients pulled up behind us. They were made up of a group of 50-somethings, one, an enormous fat guy wearing a shirt so pink it burned the retina of my left eye, which was not as quick to close as the wily right eye. "Hey," I shouted. "You know that we're playing as quickly as we can, right?" All four gave me a thumbs-up gesture and we moved along. I waited for my companions to thank me for settling down the skittish Impatients, but the thanks were not forthcoming. That's okay, though - I will be rewarded in heaven, I thought, popping the top of another delightful lime-ish beverage.

On most days, with most foursomes, that would have been the end of our story. Etiquette is a funny thing and nowhere is etiquette more esteemed than on the golf course. The entire game is based on sportsmanship and doing the right thing. Hitting into the foursome in front of you has been frowned upon since the days of the mashie and the niblick, so a gentle reminder that we were doing our best to set a solid, jaunty pace should have been enough to stop the bombing.

But today, this was not the case.

A couple of holes later, while I was still relishing my ambassador-like handling of the situation, a ball - this one a clear duck-hook - rattled in the desert behind us. Jae, who had consumed his share of the Lime-Bud, had apparently had enough. He waited for the foursome to wander into hailing distance and called out to them. "HEY!" Jae shouted. "WHY DON'T YOU GUYS STOP BEING ASSHOLES!" We giggled just a bit and I said, "That would be a lifestyle change and I don't think it's fair to ask on the 14th hole of a golf course..." "True," Jae said. We prepared to go off in search of our balls when one of the men - the fat guy wearing the pink shirt - saw fit to shout back.

"IT'S A PAR FIVE AND WE WERE LAYING UP!" Pink Shirt yelled.

"SHOOTING INTO US DOES YOU NO FAVORS!" Jae shouted back. "YOU'RE NOT GOING TO GET THERE ANY GODDAMN QUICKER!"

"THERE'S NO NEED FOR YOU TO USE THAT KIND OF LANGUAGE!" Pink Shirt reprimanded. The entire exchange was taking place from forty yards - the shouting echoed over the course.

"THEN STOP BEING ASSHOLES - KNOCK THE SHIT OFF!" Jae shouted.

"WE'RE NOT CURSING!" Pink Shirt reminded us, as if we were breaching another well-known etiquette and they were now up 40-love.

"FUCK YOU GUYS!" Jae announced to all in attendance. I went through a mental check list of the clubs in my bag and which I could afford to lose in a fracas. I settled on the hybrid - I had never hit it well. It didn't suit my stance, somehow.

We finished the day and by the time we reached the eighteenth green, I had decided that there was not a single club in my bag that I would not be willing to sacrifice in a brouhaha. Apparently, none of them suited my stance and they could all be wrapped around the neck of aggressive golfers, if the occasion arose. I was almost disappointed that the foursome behind us never came within a hundred yards for the rest of the day, at one point preferring to sit on a hill in the sun rather than venturing down into the tee-box area where we were parked. They were probably afraid that we would bury them in another carpet bomb of expletives.

The round finally came to a merciful end and I asked the attendant if I could drive my clubs to the car, as I had earlier broken the carrying handle and had to carry the bag like a groom carrying his bride over the threshold. I normally wouldn't mind coddling the bag in such an intimate fashion, but at this point was not in love with the clubs; in fact, didn't even like them and would have preferred to leave them in the cart and walk away altogether. "No," the kid shrugged.

"But my handle is broken," I explained. "I have to carry them out like Oswald carrying his 'curtain rods' and my back is dealing me fits."

"Only employees can drive the carts into the parking lot," he patiently explained.

"So there is a way..." I observed.

"But you're not an employee," he stated.

"Then you do it," I said.

Again the shrug. "Can't..." he said.

I thought for a moment about pulling out the hybrid and giving it the stylish send-off it deserved. Instead, I unbuckled the bag from the cart and gathered it up like a huge, ungainly infant and began tromping off toward the car. "Fuck you guys," I muttered.

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