Rules of Engagement

5 ways you're secretly annoying your playing partners

October 24, 2022

Golf partnerships are tricky. A game that presents such a broad swath of physical, emotional and existential challenges becomes a minefield knowing everyone else is sifting through their own baggage as well. Is it possible you’re not helping? Of course you’re not helping! The number of ways we can be irritating to other players counts so high, it’s a wonder the foursome is still a thing. But rather than focus on the obvious infractions—talking in backswings, walking on putting lines, all of which we’ve chronicled in detail—better to identify those subtle annoyances you might not have ever considered but should steer clear of next time around. Here are a few:

We have time for a tweet, not a novel

Storytelling is an art form, and in golf, timing plays an even more integral role. That golf joke about the priest, the rabbi and the gorilla might be OK for a prolonged wait at the turn. It is decidedly not OK when someone is about to hit, or worse, after everyone hits and you’re still holding court like Jimmy Fallon and not budging. Short of you delivering the nuclear codes, nothing you will say in that moment justifies hanging everyone back, particularly if there’s a group behind hot on your trail.

Relax, it’s just a lag putt

As opposed to the alternative of clear indifference, golfers tend to think providing feedback on others’ shots is a harmless bit of small talk. Maybe, but striking the wrong note can be insulting to the point of infuriating. Consider both extremes: a marginally decent shot by your partner that you suggest they should be disappointed with (“Not your best”); or even worse, gushing over a middling shot because you hold them to such a meager standard (“Hey, it’s in the air!”). All of golf is subjective. Unless you’re certain they share your opinion, your commentary is best kept to yourself.

There’s a reason no one asked you

A variation of the above extends beyond shot-by-shot minutia into unsolicited broad analysis. Most golfers already know they shouldn’t give swing advice unless they’re asked, but they also shouldn’t create a narrative they’re not licensed to make. Example 1: “I’ve never seen you play this well!” Example 2: “You’re distracted.” At this point we direct you back to the original premise of this story: Golfers are already being held together by the thinnest of threads. Your job as a partner is to not introduce anything that will lead to them unraveling altogether.

It’s possible your game is not as interesting to everyone else

If we can agree golfers don’t want to hear all your thoughts on their games, that doesn’t mean they want to hear anymore about yours, either. That a golfer sees himself as the protagonist of every round is understandable. Just remember, everyone you’re playing with is doing the same thing. So all those little insights—why you choked down on a 6, why that chip checked more than you thought and that you rarely hit a fade—might seem fascinating to you. But it’s not quite the page turner to everyone else.

We want you to care, just not too much

Cheating belongs in its own category, so anything that brings the competitive integrity of a partner into question is well past “annoying.” But even the best-intentioned golfers can strike the wrong balance in competition. Again, we cite the two ends of the spectrum: on one end, there’s the player who never knows where the match stands and practically requires a subpoena to report his score after every hole. On the other is the player so hyperaware of every element of the match—who strokes where, who lies what and where you should drop after crossing into the hazard—you kind of wish they would calm the f$&k down over a $3 nassau.