Lead, follow or get out of the way
When I was getting an early start to my season a couple of weeks ago in Myrtle Beach, at a lovely course called Caledonia, I was part of a foursome that caught up to another foursome, somewhere around the fifth hole. The foursome ahead had teed off at least 30 minutes before we had. There was no one behind us, and no one ahead of them. Our group was not playing particularly quickly, and we were in no rush.
At the fifth, we waited for the four guys ahead to putt out. I was hoping and assuming that these guys would have noticed that we’d caught up, and would either let us through, or pick up their pace.
They did neither.
We proceeded to wait on every shot for the next six holes. From the fairway, it was excruciating to stand and watch as these guys (all in their 20s or 30s, I would’ve guessed), lined up their putts from every angle, and gave or took no gimmes, like it was the final round of the US Open. They couldn’t possibly have failed to notice us waiting, but it had no effect on their actions.
Finally, a course marshal drove by. I called him over and told him the situation. He said he’d go talk to them, which he did. I suspect he said no more than “how ya doin’, guys?” and then drove on, because the guys did not pick up their pace or let us through. We never saw the marshal again. (We finally made our own gap by deliberately taking our time to look for one of our balls on the twelfth.)
A few days earlier, on a different course in Myrtle Beach, I was playing in a twosome, and we caught up to a foursome – two couples, who were, frankly, dreadful players. They also refused to let us through, and we waited and waited. I could see that they were deliberately not looking back to see if we were still behind them. On a par three, where they were looking for their balls in a bog, I finally called up and asked if we could go through. They rather sneeringly said, “Fine”.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE??!
Here’s a statement of fact – indeed, a law of physics — for everyone on a golf course to consider: If a group or a person catches up to you from behind, it means they are playing FASTER than you are.
Now, here’s a simple rule of courtesy: If they are playing FASTER than you are, you should either play faster yourself, or LET THEM PLAY THROUGH.
What is so difficult about this to understand?
If you’re driving your car in the left lane of a highway, and someone comes up behind you, don’t you pull over to the right to let them pass? If you don’t, you’re a selfish idiot, and a menace on the road.
But my goodness, the number of people who seem to think the same principle doesn’t apply on green grass is far too high, and it seems, getting higher. It’s as if letting people through, or being expected to play faster, is some kind of negative statement on your manhood or worth as a person. Trust me, I don’t care what your testosterone or pride level is, just move out of the way and let me and my group pass, if and when you’re making me wait… and if and when there’s a clear hole ahead of you.
And even if there isn’t a clear hole ahead of you… if someone in your group has lost a ball, and you all decide to look for it, WAVE US THROUGH while you look! It takes approximately five minutes for four of us to hit shots and get out of your way… but it may make half-an-hour of difference to us if you continue to make us wait for you. It will also ruin the rhythm and enjoyment of our game, as you make us wait. Not to mention your enjoyment, as you constantly look back and see us standing there, waiting.
When I’m playing golf, I am always conscious of who’s behind, how many there are, and whether the group I’m in is keeping pace with those ahead. If there’s no one ahead, and people behind have caught up to my group, I will always suggest we let them play through. Otherwise, I will be very conscious of possibly ruining their day… or ruining my own by feeling pushed. Usually, the people behind will be very appreciative, and will be long gone by the time we tee off on the next hole. Sometimes, they decline the invitation to play through, and that works out just fine, too. At least we made the offer.
But one group playing through another almost always makes both groups happy, and respectful of each other. The flipside is not nearly so pleasant.
And golf is, above all, supposed to be a pleasant game.