Let me start out by admitting I'm not very good at golf. Man, it hurts to admit that.
Try as I might, I'm very rarely able to hold a round together for 18 holes. I might have the occasional round in the mid-to-high 70s when everything comes together, but more likely than not I'm in the 85-90 range.
But, like many of you, I just absolutely, positively, 100 percent love the game. When I finish out on the 18th green, I can't wait to play my next round. It's the best, isn't it?
Well, it's mostly the best. Here's a list of nine things that absolutely drive me bonkers in my playing partners:
9. Stepping in my putting line. Yes, it's a casual round. No, it's not to win a major. But I've got enough problems with my game. I don't need to have you stepping in my line while I'm preparing to strike a rare, fairly makeable birdie putt.
I've tried as nicely as possible to mention this to playing partners many times. The typical response is either, "It's OK, I'm wearing spikeless shoes," or, "Seriously? You're worried about that?"
It's not a worry. It's about being courteous. And even though your shoes are spikeless, I have enough of a problem trying to negotiate a left-to-right breaker without an impression of your foot in the way.
8. Excessive practice swings. This is especially annoying when playing with a high-handicapper. There's nothing worse than watching someone take 10 practice swings only to hit the ball 15 yards. Golf's slow enough. Be ready to hit when it's your turn.
7. Waggles. A couple of them are fine. More than three? Figure it out, dude. Unless you can hit it like famous-waggler Jason Dufner, there's no reason for excessive waggles.
6. Not carrying an extra ball in your pocket. Unless you're a low single-digit handicapper, there's a good chance you're going to lose at least one golf ball over the course of a round.
Rather than making the rest of the group wait as you walk back to your cart and shuffle through your bag, would it be so difficult to simply have another ball at the ready in your pocket so we can keep things moving along?
Even worse, when said no-golf-ball-in-the-pocket-violator doesn't feel like walking back to the cart and asks, "Do you have another ball on you?"
No offense, man, but I really don't want to give you my $4 apiece Pro V1 that you're no doubt going to lose on the next shot. I don't say that to be rude, it's just that those nuggets aren't cheap!
5. Spending more than five minutes looking for a lost ball. Ugh. You ever play with someone who actually enjoys when someone loses a golf ball? Not because their playing partner is going to have to take a penalty stroke, but because it means we're about to start a golf-ball hunting expedition?
It's an excuse to pull out the ball hawker's 15th club -- the golf-ball retriever. You know what I'm talking about? That thing that extends about 15 feet so you can pull balls out of the water, out of tight spots in the woods and rough?
Drives me crazy. Don't get me wrong -- I'm happy to help on a ball search... for the allowable five minutes. And I'm also appreciative of my playing partners who help search for my ball. And if you find golf balls during that five-minute search, way to go! But, after five-minutes, for the sake of my sanity and the sanity of the golfers playing behind us, it's time to take a drop and move on.
4. People who don't follow their ball flight and then ask, "where did my ball go?" OK. Just to be clear here -- I'm not talking about when you're teeing off into the sun and become temporarily blinded as soon as you look up to see where your shot went.
I'm talking about the player who isn't nearly as good as he thinks he is and -- displeased with the contact he's just made -- drops his head in disgust and doesn't follow his ball... and then expects his playing companions to tell him where it went and help him find it. That's what caddies are for. I'm not your caddie. Sure, I like to keep an eye on where my playing partner's golf balls go so I can help them find it and keep things moving along. But, when you're acting like a lunatic, don't be surprised if your totally unnecessary, embarrassing actions take my attention away from your shot.
Don't like the shot? Fine. Whine about it after you've followed where it landed.
3. People who mysteriously forget how to do simple math. No matter how bad you are at golf, chances are you're rarely going to be tallying a score over "10" right? At that point, you've probably picked up and taken the dreaded "X" anyway.
What drives me crazier than a plugged lie in the lip of a steep bunker is when you're the group's scorer and, upon completion of a hole, you ask the simple question, "What was the damage, guys?"
Inevitably, there's always one person -- let's call him "Joe" -- who either stands there in the middle of the green (holding up the group behind), points a finger out zig-zagging it across the fairway in front of him trying to replay and count up each stroke he took. Or, even worse, when Joe has the worst case of short-term memory loss you've ever seen. You know what I'm talking about here?
You: "What did you get there, Joe?" (knowing you saw at least six shots BEFORE he reached the green)
Joe: "Let me think... Yup. I had a five there."
I've never understood cheating one's self on the golf course. Weird.
2. People who spit on the green or ash out their cigarettes/cigars on the green. Disgusting. Do you think I want to putt my golf ball through a puddle of your expectorate? Nobody playing after you wants to do that either. Same goes for ash or sunflower seeds.
1. Cell phones when I'm hitting a shot or while you're supposed to be hitting your shot. I get it. We live in a world that has an incredible dependency on smartphones. Maybe you're playing hooky from work and need to be able to respond quickly to an email or text. It's annoying, but hey, I get it.
What I don't get, however, is when you're showing such little courtesy to me and your other playing companions that you can't even halt your conversation while we're trying to hit our shots. Newsflash: We're their to enjoy a round of golf. We didn't just drop 80 bucks to listen to you on your phone all afternoon. If it's all that important, you probably shouldn't be on the golf course in the first place.
And when it's your turn to hit, put the damn thing down! Why do the rest of us have to wait for you to wrap up the conversation and hit before we can proceed to the next green or tee.
I had this happen in a course-opening event last year. One person in the foursome was from the PR agency running the event -- you know, the kind of person you'd expect to be the most respectful, accommodating and "let's make this a great day" guy in the group.
He did not put the phone down ALL. DAY. It was miserable for the other three guys in the group. We never said anything. So, probably our fault that it lasted as long as it did. I guess we were thinking commonsense had to take over eventually. It never did.
I occasionally see this same guy on the local news promoting events in the area. Whenever I see his face, I'm immediately reminded of the least enjoyable round of golf I've ever played.