I was recently in Southern California and took the occasion to play a round of golf with a good friend and client.
“Clyde” (real name protected for obvious reasons) is new to the game of golf, and has never had a lesson. Miraculously, we were paired with Asa, a professional golfer from Tonga. He is playing on the nationwide tour, trying to get his card. He is a really wonderful young man- and very humble. He had only been playing two years himself, prior to that he played center line backer for Arizona State. No arrogance or lack of patience with us was displayed by him as we hacked our way through the course. This was a busy day on a public course, with golfers both ahead of us (who would play well beyond and out of reach of our next shots) and behind us (which would back up like an LA freeway at rush hour). Clyde would spray a shot, and look at Asa and say, “What did I do wrong?” Asa would give him a tip, and Clyde would ponder slowly the new tip and walk in amazement that he had a new personal tutor. This happened several times and each time the pro would take the time to teach Clyde; all the while, the groups behind us steaming like fresh dog doo on a winter morning. Keep in mind that at home in Colorado, I like to play golf quickly and it is not uncommon for me to play 9 holes in 1 hour and 15 minutes… sometimes playing two balls.
So I am caught with the conundrum of trying to display patience which is not natural to me, and show kindness and empathy for Clyde’s situation of having a pro captive and getting free lessons while playing golf, all the while anticipating what I thought would be pent up frustration and unbelief from the pro as Clyde would act as if no one else was on the course. This is such a thing you know as “golf etiquette.”
This round of golf took 6 hours! I’m surprised they didn’t throw us off the course. Clyde had the day of his life, and as the day progressed, he did indeed get better and gained appreciation and love for the game of golf.
When we made the turn (half way point), Clyde got a hot dog. Starting the back nine, his tee shot went into a parallel fairway with golfers coming the opposite direction toward us. We drove over into the fairway. This is a time that a golfer rushes to get out of someone else’s fairway, and observes the etiquette of allowing them the right of way (it’s their fairway after all) and strives to get out of their fairway quickly. Clyde was enjoying his dog, and took three or four minutes after we were parked in the oncoming fairway traffic, to squeeze some mustard and relish out of packets on to his dog, and prepare it for the next bite.
I stood on my tongue till it was blue, and while my head exploded with anxiety, we eventually found our way back into our own fairway and finished the hole. It was at that moment that the pro received a text. I really don’t think he received a text, but he said “gentlemen, I just received a text and I will be leaving now to go teach a lesson.”
I thought Clyde would cry to see his personal tutor leave. We were on our own now. We almost had a gallery as the crowd behind us swelled, and each T-Box had at least three foursomes stacked up watching us hit. When we finished, we sipped a coke in victory; having subdued a golf course with a thousand hacks and having left behind a few boxes of balls and about 10 yards of divots.
I did learn a couple of valuable lessons from this event. One is that friendship is more important than etiquette. Sometimes we should just let the world around us revolve while we focus on the people we are with. Another lesson I learned is that graciousness is contagious. The golf pro could have been very frustrated and impatient with Clyde’s requests for constant lessons and tips during a round of golf. What I saw was a young golfer who so appreciated the gifts he was given and developing, that he wanted to share what he knew in a way that would allow someone else to enjoy a game he loved; irrespective of the watching crowd.
So take your time and doctor up the dog. Live in the moment and enjoy it; and don’t be so darned concerned about what the world thinks. Yes, we should be courteous to those around us, but not at the exclusion or detriment of those we are with.